14 Ways To Recover From a Cesarean Delivery

Jan 10, 2011 No Comments by
Recovery from a C-section is similar to recovery from any abdominal surgery, with a delightful difference:
Instead of losing an old gallbladder or appendix, you gain a brand-new baby.
Of course, there’s another difference, arguably less delightful. In addition to recovering from surgery, you’ll also be recovering from childbirth. Expect for a nearly intact perineum, you’ll experience all the same postpartum discomforts over the next weeks (lucky you!) that you would have had if you’d delivered vaginally: afterpains, lochia, perineal discomfort (if you went through a lengthy labor before the surgery), breast engorgement, fatigue, hormonal changes, and excessive perspiration, to name a few.
As for your surgical recovery, you can expect the following in the recovery room:

1.Pain Around Your Incision.

Once the anesthesia wears off, your wound, like any wound, is going to hurt – though just how much depends on many factors, including your personal pain threshold and how many cesarean deliveries you’ve had (the first is usually the most uncomfortable). You will probably be given pain relief medication as needed, which may make you feel woozy or drugged. It will also allow you to get some needed sleep. You don’t have to be concerned if you’re nursing; the medication won’t pass into your colostrum, and by the time your milk comes in, you probably won’t need any heavy painkillers. If the pain continues for weeks, as it sometimes does, you can safely rely on over-the-counter pain relief. Ask your practitioner for a recommendation and dosing. To encourage healing, also try to avoid heavy lifting for the first few weeks after the surgery.

2.Possible Nausea, With Or Without Vomiting.

This isn’t always an aftereffect of the surgery, but if it is, may be given an anti-nausea medication.


You’re likely to feel somewhat weak after surgery, partly due to blood loss, partly due to the anesthetic. If you went through some hours of labor before the surgery, you’ll feel even more beat. You might also feel emotionally spent (after all, you did just have a baby-and surgery), especially if the C-section wasn’t planned.

4.Regular Evaluations Of Your Condition.

A nurse will periodically check your vital signs( temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiration), your urinary output and vaginal bleeding, the dressing on your incision, and the firmness and level of your uterus (as it shrinks in size and makes its way back into pelvis). She will also check your IV and urinary catheter.
Once you have been moved to your room, you can expect:

5.More Checking.

The nurse will continue to monitor your condition.

6.Removal Of The Urinary Catheter.

This will probably take place shortly after surgery.Urination may be difficult. If they don’t work, the catheter may be reinserted until you can pee by yourself.

7.Encouragement To Excercise.

Before you’re out of bed, you’ll be encouraged to wiggle your toes, flex your feet to stretch your calf muscles, push against the end of the bed with your feet, and turn from side to side. They’re intended to improve circulation, especially in your legs, and prevent the development of blood clots. (But be prepared for some of them to be quite uncomfortable, at least for the first 24 hours or so.)

8.To Get Up Between 8 And 24 Hours After Surgery.

With the help of a nurse, you’ll sit up first, supported by the raised head of the bed. Then, using your hands for support, you’ll slide your legs over the side of the bed and dangle them for a few minute. Then, slowly, you’ll be helped to step down on the floor, your hands still on the bed. If you feel dizzy (which is normally), sit right back down. Steady yourself for a few more minutes before taking a couple of steps, and then take them slowly; the first few may be extremely painful. Though you may need help the first few times you get up, this difficulty in getting around is temporary. In fact, you may soon find yourself more mobile than the vaginal deliveree next door – and you will probably have the edge when it comes to sitting.

9.A Slow Return To A Normal Diet.

While it used to be routine (and still is in some hospitals and with some physicians) to keep women on IV fluids for the first 24 hours after a cesarean delivery and limit them to clear liquids for a day or two  after that, starting up on solids much sooner may be a better bet. Research has shown that women who start back on solids earlier (gradually, but beginning as early as four to eight hours post-op) have that first bowel movement earlier and are generally ready to be released from the hospital 24 hours sooner than those kept on fluids only. Procedures may vary from hospital to hospital and from physician to physician; your condition after the surgery may also play a part in deciding when to pull the plug on the IV and when to pull out the silverware. Keep in mind, too, that reintroduction of solids will come in stages. You’ll start with fluids by mouth, moving on next to something soft and easily tolerated (like Jell-O), and on (slowly) from there. But your diet will have to stag on the bland and easily digested side for at least a few day; don’t even think about having someone smuggle in a burger yet. Once you’re back on solids, don’t forgot to push the fluids, too – especially if you’re breastfeeding.

10.Referred Shoulder Pain.

Irritation of the diaphragm, caused by small amounts of blood in your belly, can cause a few hours of sharp shoulder pain following surgery. A pain reliver may help.

11.Probably Constipation.

Since the anesthesia and the surgery (plus your limited diet) may slow your bowels  down, it may be a few days until you pass that first movement, and that’s normal. You may also experience some painful gassiness because of the constipation. A stool softener, suppository, or other mild laxative may be prescribed to help move things along, especially if you’re uncomfortable.

12.Abdominal discomfort.

As your digestive tract (temporarilly put out of commission by surgery) begins to function again, trapped gas can cause considerable pain, especially when it presses against your incision line. The discomfort may be worse when you laugh , cough, or sneeze. Ask the nurse or doctor to suggest some possible remedies. A suppository may help release the gas, as may strolling up and down the hall. Lying on your side or on your back, your knees drawn up, taking deep breaths while holding your incision can also bring some relief.

13.To spend time with your baby.

You’ll be encouraged to cuddle and feed your baby as soon as possible (if you’re nursing, place the baby on a pillow over your incision or lie on your side while nursing). And yes, you can even lift your baby. Hospital regulations and your condition permitting, you’ll probably be able to have modified or full rooming-in; having your spouse bunking with you, too, will be a big help. Don’t push the rooming-in agenda, though, if you’re not up to it – or just want some rest.

14.Removal of stitches.

If your stitches or staples aren’t self-absorbing, they will be removed about four or five days after delivery. The procedure isn’t very painful, although you may have some discomfort. When the dressing is off, take a good look at the incision with the nurse or doctor; ask how soon you can expect the area to heal, which changes will be normal, and which might require medical attention.
In most cases, you can expect to go home about two to four days postpartum. But you’ll still have to take it easy and you’ll continue to need help both with baby care and self-care. Try to have someone with you at all times during the first couple of weeks.

After The Baby Is Born, Postpartum:The First Week
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