Have you just found out you're going to have a C-section—or maybe you've just had one—and you're wondering what your recovery will be like? While there's no such thing as a typical C-section, or a typical C-section patient, there are a few points that many have in common. Here's a look at what you may be feeling in the hours, days, weeks, and months after a Cesarean birth.
Post-Op: Moments after Surgery
Once your baby is born, you'll be moved to a post-op recovery room where you'll be closely monitored, usually for the next one to three hours.
A lot of what you'll experience is based on the type of anesthesia you had, says Khalil Tabsh, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA School of Medicine and chief of obstetrics at UCLA Medical Center. Women who've had general anesthesia will feel more groggy and sleepy than women who've had a spinal or epidural for pain relief, notes Dr. Tabsh. Pain and nausea are also more common in women who've had general anesthesia.
If you've had a spinal or epidural, you may be experiencing "the shakes." According to Jennifer Hamm, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida, this uncontrollable shivering is harmless and is caused by a combination of the birth process and the medications you received in your spinal or epidural. If you received morphine through your spinal or epidural towards the end of surgery, you may also have an all-over itchy feeling—a common side effect. There are medicines which will help control the itching, should it become unbearable.
If all is going well, you'll be moved to your postpartum room. At this point, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything that has happened, especially if your C-section wasn't planned. "It kind of takes you by surprise," says Maureen Connolly, co-author of The Essential C-Section Guide.
Dr. Hamm notes that it's important for new C-section moms to be reassured that they did everything they could for their babies, and that they didn't do anything to cause the C-section. If you're feeling sad, ask for the extra support you need.
You'll still be closely monitored by nurses. Throughout your first day after delivery, you can expect checks of your vital signs, your incision, and your vaginal discharge. Your nurse will check the amount of urine you're passing and will use a stethoscope to listen for bowel sounds. If you went through labor in addition to your Cesarean, she'll need to examine your perineum for tears and bleeding. Your nurse will also assess your pain and help with pain management.