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If you had a Cesarean birth

  • Recovery from a Cesarean birth is generally more uncomfortable and takes longer than recovery from a vaginal birth. Along with having a baby, you've had major surgery. That means you will need to balance moving around, which helps speed recovery, with resting. You will tire easily in the first few weeks.

    After surgery

    • You will be moved from the operating room to the recovery area. You will be there for one to two hours or until the anesthesia wears off and you are fully recovered.
    • You will still have an intravenous (IV) line and urinary catheter. You will also have a blood pressure cuff, a finger clip to measure your body's oxygen level, and possibly an oxygen mask.
    • About every 15 minutes, a nurse will check the bandage over your incision; your heart rate, blood pressure and temperature; how the anesthesia is wearing off; and your pain relief needs.
      • She will also check the firmness of your uterus and massage it if needed to help decrease vaginal bleeding. This massage can be uncomfortable. If it is, use relaxation or breathing techniques while it is being done.
    • Except for your support person, visitors are normally not allowed in the recovery area with you. They can be with you once you are settled in your room. 
      If you and your baby can be together, hold you baby skin-to skin as much as possible. You can also start breastfeeding.
    • When you are ready, you will be moved to your room.
    • You may be dizzy when you first sit up. This is normal after surgery. Ask for help.
    • Use your hands or hold a pillow over your incision to support it when you cough, laugh, move in bed, stand up or walk.
    • Your catheter and IV will be removed as soon as you are able to be up and walk well.
    • It is common to have some pain or spasms the first few times you go to the bathroom after surgery.

    Muscle spasms

    Right after a Cesarean birth, you will find it hard to move. When you do, you may feel muscle spasms or painful abdominal contractions. Relaxing those muscles is important for your comfort. To focus on relaxing these muscles:

    • Close your eyes and think about breathing slowly and gently into the painful area.
    • Place your hand gently over the incision and bring your breath down to your hands.
    • Focus on your breathing until the spasm eases.
    • Use the relaxation music that the hospital provides to help.

    Staying comfortable

    Gas pains are common after abdominal surgery. They peak on the second or third day after surgery.

    Moving around and putting gentle pressure on your abdomen can help relieve cramps and move gas out of your body. However, limit your activity right after surgery. Being too active can affect the healing of your uterus, increasing your bleeding.

    Try these things to reduce the gas pains:

    • Get up and walk around every two to four hours.
    • Rock in a rocking chair.
    • Put a warmed blanket on your abdomen.
    • Limit carbonated drinks, such as a soft drink, which can cause more gas.
    • Drink hot water with lemon juice in it, or mint tea.
    • Don't use straws.

    After surgery it's also common to have stiffness, soreness, a dry throat, incision pain and uterine contractions.

    Take pain medicine so you can walk, move, feed and care for your baby in comfort. You will recover much faster if you control the pain. Talk to your nurse if you have concerns about pain medicine and breastfeeding.

    Place a pillow over your incision when you hold or feed your baby.

    Tighten your abdominal muscles when standing or changing positions. That way you use your muscles as a "supportive splint." This will encourage healing as well as lessen pain.

    Tip

    Raise your hospital bed and use pillows to get into a semi-reclining position. A pillow placed under your thighs will prevent you from slipping too far down in bed.

    Walking

    Within eight hours after surgery, your nurse will help you get out of bed and walk around the room. The first few times are hard, but it gets easier. Walking is one of the most important things you can do to speed your recovery.

    You may want to lean forward or stoop to help protect your incision. Try not to. If you stand up straight, the weight of your abdominal organs will be off your incision. This will be less painful. Also, gently supporting your incision with your hands or a pillow will ease the pain.

    Getting in and out of bed

    • Have your nurse lower your bed as close to the floor as possible.
    • If you are lying flat, roll on your side and prop yourself up on one elbow.
    • Use both arms to push yourself up into a sitting position.
    • Edge toward the side of the bed.
    • Use your hands to help lift your upper thighs, one at a time, over the edge of the bed.
    • Dangle your legs over the side of the bed for a few moments.
    • As you stand, support your incision with a pillow or your hands.

    To get back into bed

    • Have your nurse raise your bed so you can easily sit on it.
    • Have her put the back of your bed in an upright position.
    • Sit on the side of the bed so the bed supports as much of your thighs as possible.
    • Use one hand to help lift your legs back onto the bed, one leg at a time.
    • At the same time, use a pillow or your other hand to support your incision.

    Incision care

    • Keep your incision site clean and dry.
    • If your doctor used staples, they will likely be removed before you leave the hospital. If they are not, follow the directions in your After Visit Summary.
    • You will then have Steri-Strips® (thin paper-like strips) over the incision.
      • You may shower with them on.
      • These strips will fall off in about 10 to 14 days.
      • If they don't fall off on their own, gently pull them off. (They do not need to be replaced.)
    • Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs: drainage, redness, swelling or odor.

    Recovery tips

    Along with being a new mother, you are recovering from major surgery.

    • You need a lot of rest. Sleep whenever you can.
    • Until you can move freely, ask for help when feeding and caring for your baby.
    • Having help at home is a good idea. You'll need to rest and continue your recovery.
      • Ask for help from family and friends.
      • Consider hiring a postpartum doula.
    • Talk with your health care provider about home health care options.
    • Ask your health care provider when you can resume normal activities like driving, climbing stairs, having sex.
    • Ask your health care provider when you can return to work.

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