What to Expect After a Cesarean

Pregnancy doctors and surgeons at Gainesville's All About Women discuss what to expect following a C-Section

When you are a new mother, your thoughts are likely with the child you've just brought into the world. Everything else seems trivial. The fact is, though, that if your child was born by cesarean section, you've just had major surgery.

While caring for your baby is paramount, you also need to care for yourself in some very specific ways.

Cesarean section is a delivery method that has been used by obstetricians since almost the beginning of recorded history, and advancements in medical science continue to offer improved techniques and minimize the impact of this procedure. You are still, however, undergoing major surgery.

The First 24-48 Hours after a C-Section

Again, you've just had major surgery, so fatigue and pain are to be expected. Many women also report experiencing nausea for the first few hours. Depending on the composition of your epidural, you may also have some itching. Be sure to let your OB/GYN or attending nurses know about these symptoms, so that they can give you medications to help alleviate some of your discomfort.

Many women also experience constipation following a cesarean due to the medications included in the epidural. You will likely be given a stool softener to help combat this, as straining with a fresh abdominal incision is to be avoided. Don't be squeamish when talking about this and other bodily functions. Your nurses will likely ask you very detailed questions about your urination, abdominal gas, and every other aspect of your digestive health.

A few hours after your surgery, your nurses will begin encouraging you to get up and walk around a bit. This may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it's important to follow their instructions. Movement might be painful, and you will of course need to take care with your incision site, but lying in bed longer than necessary can cause your body to have far more difficulty once you actually do start moving around.

You will also be able to start eating within a few hours after delivery — it's vitally important you eat something nutritious as soon as you can.

In most cases, the bulk of your pain will subside within 48 hours at most. You will still need to limit activity and take care with your incision, but you should begin to feel a bit more like yourself again within the first couple of days.

Post Cesarean, Days 3-5

Most women remain in the hospital for three to five days following a c-section. During this time you will gradually regain your mobility, and your pain will begin to subside, but you still need to take precautions.

Strenuous movements, for example, can place undue strain on your incision site. Around day three you'll be ready to shower on your own and generally become more mobile overall, but any heavy lifting or sudden movement should still be avoided. If a sudden movement is unavoidable — for example, when you need to cough or sneeze — put your hand over your abdomen near the incision site and bend forward slightly to minimize the strain on your muscles. Many women find it helpful to keep a pillow handy for these times, to further cushion the area and reduce strain.

After Returning Home From the Hospital

It may be a month or more before you are able to resume your previous activity level. During this time, you should continue to avoid heavy lifting and sudden movements. It is not yet time to pick up your exercise routine, and you'll need help around the house during the first few weeks, as well.

You'll also experience vaginal bleeding for the first several days. Use sanitary napkins rather than tampons to deal with this issue. Frequent urination is another expected symptom, and it's important that you not try to ignore the urge to urinate or "hold it in." Emptying your bladder often can help prevent infection.

Wait at least six weeks before resuming sexual activity, and only do so once you are physically comfortable with sex and with your OB/GYNs approval.

Post-Cesarean Incision Care

After your c-section you'll have an incision across your abdomen. Your OB/GYN and nurses will give you specific instructions on caring for the incision site, however in general, you should be prepared to:

Long-Term Considerations

You will likely have a permanent scar after undergoing a cesarean; however in most cases these scars are quite small and placed below the bikini line so that they may be easily concealed.

Beyond scarring, the only other significant long-term consideration relates to any future pregnancy. Your doctor will discuss options for future deliveries, which largely depend on the type of uterine scar and your specific plans. For example, your OB/GYN may recommend that any future children be delivered by cesarean to minimize risk of the original incision reopening during labor (vaginal birth).

Cesarean section is a delivery method that has been used by obstetricians since almost the beginning of recorded history, and advancements in medical science continue to offer improved techniques and minimize the impact of this procedure. You are still, however, undergoing major surgery.

Take care to follow your medical care providers' instructions to the letter, and if you have any questions or concerns regarding the procedure or your recovery, don't hesitate to contact your OB/GYN.

Florida pregnancy doctors and midwives at All About Women, M.D. provide the most comprehensive, and compassionate, pregnancy care in Gainesville, Lake City and surrounding areas.

Drs. Anthony B. Agrios and Joseph S. lobst, along with Certified Nurse Midwives Shelley Russell, Julie Rischar and support nurses and staff work tirelessly to ensure the health and comfort of both you and your child — we're here for you every step of the way, and want you to be comfortable discussing any issue with us.

To schedule an appointment at our Gainesville or Lake City clinic, or to just ask a question, please contact us today.

And if you're just looking for information, please feel free to browse around our knowledge center and blog to learn more about our clinic, pregnancy care, general women's health, and so much more.

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