Your C-Section: A 5-Step Recovery Guide
Whether you're planning a C-section or want to prepare for a surgical delivery "just in case," knowing what to expect during recovery—both physically and emotionally—can help you through the postpartum period.
Your IV and a catheter will still be in place; however, according to Dr. Tabsh, many patients are encouraged to be out of bed within six hours of surgery. “The more patients ambulate, the faster they recover,” says Dr. Tabsh. “So move. Get out of bed as soon as possible.”
“I was up the afternoon after my surgery,” says Krissi Brakefield, who had a C-section for the birth of her second child and admits that getting out of bed the first time took some bravery. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, it feels like my guts are going to fall out!’” But Brakefield, of Dallas, Texas, notes that slow deliberate movement helped her recover more quickly.
What about breastfeeding? If you had a Cesarean due to a complicated pregnancy or delivery, or if you or your newborn are ill, it may take longer to begin nursing, says Dr. Hamm. But if you and baby are both feeling well, you may have started nursing in the recovery room. Expect to need help with breastfeeding, especially at first. Your hospital’s lactation nurse can help you find nursing positions—such as the football hold—that don’t put pressure on your tender abdomen.
On Your Feet: Day Two
You’ll probably be free of the catheter on your second day after delivery. And if you (and your bowels) are feeling well enough, you’ll begin eating and drinking again. “There are different schools of thought on this,” says Dr. Tabsh. “Usually patients can begin eating within 24 hours if they are passing gas.” Don’t expect big, heavy dinners from the hospital staff. You may start out with a “liquid” diet—with foods such as broth and gelatin—as your body recovers.
It’s best to start slowly, says Laura Muller. Muller, of Anchorage, Alaska, was feeling so good after her second C-section that she had the diet soda she’d been craving for months. “Bad move!” says Muller. “Carbonated beverages before the bowels start moving? Bad, bad, bad.” Muller was already troubled by gas pains, and her fizzy drink “propelled the pain into the stratosphere!”
Around this time, your nurse may also help you take those first post-op steps and will encourage you to stroll the halls to gain strength. (These first steps should only be done with a nurse present; and for the days following surgery, be sure to have a walking companion with you anytime you get out of bed.)
About this time, you may catch the first glimpse of your incision. Chances are, you’ll be surprised. “[I thought], where are the stitches?”, says Robin Folette of Talmadge, Maine. Folette notes that her incision was neat and tidy, and the stitches were internal. “I had no idea you could pull an eight-and-a-half pound baby out of a six-inch incision.”
It’s important to look at your incision so that you can recognize any changes that may indicate infection or other problems, says Dr. Hamm. Most women will have side-to-side incisions, known as Pfannenstiel incisions. Your incision will probably be between four and six inches long and may have staples or stitches, depending on your physician’s preference, and there may be some bruising and redness around it.
Pain control may be switched to oral medicine around this time. Everyone from professionals to patients has the same advice about pain meds: take them! It’s important to stay ahead of your pain, says Dr. Hamm. If you wait until one dose has completely worn off, it may take longer for the next dose to become effective.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN