Cesarean Section: Recovery Tips

After the surgeon closes, you will be wheeled into recovery where you will be observed as the anesthetic wears off. Depending upon the nature of your surgery and your doctor's assessment of your pain, you probably will be given a morphine self-medicator for the first few hours to address the pain. You will remain on the catheter for a while, as well.

You can breast feed any time you like, and may just want to ask a nurse or lactation consultant to help you. If you are concerned about medications and breastfeeding, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Most cesarean patients remain in the hospital for several days. About six-ten hours after surgery, nurses will arrive to help you get on your feet. Your catheter will be removed (painless) and you will be disconnected from the morphine and helped to undress for a shower. Your incision is stapled, so as long as you keep soap off it, showering is fine. Vaginal bleeding will be the same as if you had delivered vaginally.

You will still continue to receive pain medications at your doctor's discretion in order to help you through those first days. It is major abdominal surgery so it is important to rest and not to strain your stitches.

Most patients who have been catheterized experience difficulty urinating afterward. Urinary tract infections are also common after catheters. Both problems are mild and will pass in time. Give yourself lots of time in the bathroom and relax -- your body has just been through a major trauma and needs a little time to recover. Be sure to keep drinking water and eating whatever the doctors and nurses suggest. Report any itching or burning sensations to your nurses so they can check for infection.

Most women experience some anxiety over their first bowel movements following delivery. It is wise to eat lots of high-fiber dried fruits and keep hydrated. The first bowel movement may be painful, even for cesarean patients, but it will vastly improve after that.

How Will I Feel?

FIRST DAY: Usually not the most painful because most women are on epidural or IV anesthesia and non-functional intestinal track. Some common discomforts are:

  • Sore shoulders
  • Nausea
  • After-pains
  • Itching/skin eruptions if sensitive to the pain killer
  • Phlegm
  • Sore throat (if you had oxygen or were intubated for general anesthesia.)

FORTY EIGHT HOURS POST-OP: This is usually the time the patient experiences the most soreness. Keep taking your pain medications on the schedule prescribed and report pain to your doctor for more help. By the third day, the pain should be significantly diminished.

Moving Comfortably

If you anticipate a C-section, it is good to plan and prepare your bed room for it. It is very hard to sit up and get out of bed for several weeks post-op. The best alternative is to have something to pull up on so that the arms and not the stomach muscles are strained. Even just a strap wrapped around the foot board that you can pull up on will make a tremendous difference.

C-section patients cannot carry infant carriers up and down stairs for a few weeks. If you anticipate a C-section, figure out where you and the baby will spend your day so that you don't have to go up and down stairs. Bring diapers down stairs to the living room so you don't even have to get off the couch. Or bring everything the baby needs into your bed room with you so that you and baby can sleep and recover together.

Lifting the baby in and our of the car also is a very bad idea for C-section patients. Be sure that someone helps you with this task so you are not threatening to pull out stitches.

For information on nursing your baby after a cesarean section, please read Nursing Tips for after a Cesarean and Nursing after a C-section.

Taking Care of the Incision

Your C-section scar will look initially like something Frankenstein wore on his head. But the staples closing the skin are only part of the story. There are layers of muscle and fat, and a uterus, which all have been cut during surgery, and there are layers of stitches inside you. It is very important that you do not strain your incisions by lifting heavy objects or exercising until your doctor approves.