What to expect after a C-section

December 22, 2015 Providence Health Team

Your doctor may decide that a cesarean birth, or C-section, is best for you and your baby. Whether you have a planned or unscheduled C-section, here’s what to expect afterwards.

At the hospital: Taking care of you

Immediately after surgery, you may feel groggy from the medications, nauseated for several hours or itchy. A nurse will move you to a recovery area where the hospital staff can monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, vaginal bleeding and the firmness of your uterus. Expect to stick with a light diet for the first eight hours.

You’ll stay in a hospital room for a couple of days until you’re stable and ready to go home. Pain is typical for the first couple days. Don’t worry … it will dramatically improve. If you received an epidural catheter, it can stay in for up to 24 hours to help relieve pain. Negative emotions are also completely natural after a C-section. If you feel guilty, disappointed or even shocked, talk with your doctor and partner about your feelings.

At the hospital: Taking care of baby

You can start breastfeeding soon after surgery. The anesthetic may cause numbness and restrict your movement. Also, pain from your incision may make breastfeeding uncomfortable. Don’t be shy about asking a nurse to help you find the right position for holding the baby without applying pressure to your abdomen.

At home

  • Speed up your recovery by getting out of bed and walking around the house. This will decrease the risk of blood clots and improve bowel movement.
  • Breastfeed if you can. Not only is breastfeeding beneficial for the baby, but it will help your uterus contract. These contractions may hurt a little, but they are necessary to return your uterus to its normal size and to prevent heavy bleeding.
  • While pain should decrease a few days after delivery, the incision may remain tender for several weeks. The incision scar will get thinner and flatter, eventually turning white or the color of your skin.
  • Expect bleeding from the vagina for up to six weeks. The blood will turn from red to pink to yellowish-white.
  • If you left the hospital with a bandage, change it daily or as soon as it gets wet or dirty.
  • Stick with smaller meals and snacks. Fill up on produce, and drink lots of water to prevent constipation.
  • Avoid baths, hot tubs and swimming pools until your provider says it’s safe.
  • Do not lift anything heavier than your baby for the first six to eight weeks.
  • Abstain from sex for six weeks. After that, don’t forget about contraception.
  • Schedule a check-up with your doctor in four to six weeks.

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