Recovering from a Cesarean Section
During my pregnancy, I dreamed of my child’s birth with the kind of hopeful anticipation most women reserve for their wedding day. I envisioned the final push, and the nurse placing the plump bundle snuggly wrapped in a blue blanket into my arms.
But my vision was not to become a reality. After more than two hours of futile pushing, I was prepped for an emergency C-section.
After the Surgery
When my anesthesia wore off, I found myself with a beautiful new son and a lot of soreness. A C-section is major surgery, accompanied by all of the discomfort that major surgery entails.
If you, too, find that the birth you’d planned down to the tiniest detail unexpectedly deviates and takes off on a tangent of its own, and if delivery by surgery is the result of that deviation, you can arm yourself with prior knowledge of what to expect and an understanding of the things that can be done to make your recovery smoother.
Don’t feel bad about asking for pain medication if you get too uncomfortable, even if you plan to nurse. The medication you’ll be given is safe for you and for your baby.
While you are recovering, an IV in your arm will deliver antibiotics, fluids, and possibly pain medication. A urinary catheter will drain urine until the anesthesia wears off and you can urinate on your own. Both should be removed within a day or so after surgery.
Within 24 hours after your C-section, your nurse will ask you to get out of bed and walk around. Walking will reduce your risk of blood clots and get your bowels moving normally again. “The more active a woman is, the less likely she is to have post-operative complications,” says Rebecca Shiffman, MD, Director of Obstetrics at New York Methodist hospital. “Early ambulation is very helpful in terms of promoting healing.”
You should be able to eat within 12 hours after your C-section. Some hospitals give their patients only liquids (clear broth, jello, etc.) for the first day. Others start patients on solid foods right away. A 2001 study by researchers at Christus St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, Texas, found that allowing new mothers to start on solid foods within a few hours after surgery actually helps them leave the hospital earlier than average.
Within three to five days you’ll be ready to leave the hospital with your new baby. But before you’re allowed to go, you’ll be asked (strange as it sounds) to produce some gas. Passing gas is a sign that your bowels are functioning normally again. Your doctor will also check that your bladder is working properly and that your incision is healing well.
About a week after your C-section, your obstetrician will want to see you again to check your progress. Unless you have dissolving sutures, which are absorbed on their own within two to three weeks, your sutures will be removed at that visit.
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