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Your hospital stay: 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 room. You will be there for one to two hours or until the anesthesia wears off and you are stable.
  • 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 firmness of your uterus, the amount of vaginal bleeding, the bandage over your incision, your vital signs, how the anesthesia is wearing off, and your pain relief needs.
  • Your health care provider or a birth center nurse may press down on your belly to massage your uterus several times after your baby's birth. This is to ensure your uterus is sealing off the blood vessels where the placenta was attached. This massage can be uncomfortable. If it is, use your relaxation or breathing techniques while it is being done.
  • You may be able to have visitors. If your baby is doing well, your baby may be able to be with you. (Check with your hospital whether these are options.) If you and your baby can be together, try to hold your baby. You can also start breastfeeding.
  • When you are ready, you will be moved to a room for the rest of your stay.
  • 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 drinking fluids and eating. (If you have Duramorph®, your IV will stay in for 24 hours.)
  • 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.

Staying comfortable

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.

  • 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.
    • Avoid carbonated drinks, such as soda pop, which can cause more gas.
    • Drink hot water with lemon juice in it.
  • After surgery it's also common to have stiffness, soreness, a dry throat, incision pain and uterine contractions.
  • Even if you are breastfeeding, take pain medicine so that you can walk, move, feed and care for your baby in comfort. You will recover much faster if you control the pain.
  • 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.

Walking

Tip

If you have Duramorph®, your nurse will need to remove the Foley catheter before you can walk.

Within eight hours after surgery, your nurse will help you get out of bed and walk around the room. The next day, you will be up to go to the bathroom and walk in the hallways. 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

To make getting out of bed easier

  • 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 health care provider used staples, they will likely be removed before you leave the hospital.
  • 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

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.

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 01/23/2013

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts