Cesarean deliveries make up for an estimated 31.9 percent of all deliveries in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Recovery after cesarean delivery can take as long as one and a half months. You may need to stay for up to three to four days in the hospital after an uncomplicated cesarean delivery. The stay may be longer if there are any complications. Some women experience discomfort or pain at the site of the incision for several months. Others may suffer from leakage of urine (urinary incontinence) for a few to several years due to weakened pelvic floor muscles.
Practicing self-care and going for regular follow-ups with the doctor can make the recovery process faster and easier.
What happens in the first 24 hours after cesarean delivery?
You may be given any of the three types of anesthesia to make the cesarean delivery painless and comfortable for you.
An epidural or spinal block may only numb the part below the waist. You may need assistance with walking.
General anesthesia makes you sleep throughout the procedure. So, it may take a few hours before you recover from it. As you wake up, you may feel groggy or nauseated. There will be a catheter inserted in the bladder so that you can urinate inside the urinary bag.
You will need to stay in the hospital for three to four days. During this time, you may experience abdominal cramps that are similar to menstrual cramps, but more intense. It happens due to the uterus getting back to its normal shape by contracting itself.
Try to start walking around if you can. It will lower your risk of developing a blood clot in the leg. If you cannot walk, you may be given special cuffs to wrap around the legs. These cuffs are designed to keep the blood moving.
You may experience vaginal bleeding for four to six weeks after the cesarean delivery. A nurse will monitor the blood loss while you are in the hospital. It is high in the first few days and decreases gradually.
Your doctor will examine your wound to check for signs of infection.
What to expect in the first few weeks following cesarean delivery
You should not exercise (except for walking) or lift anything heavier than your baby for six to eight weeks after the cesarean delivery.
You should also avoid driving for at least six weeks or as recommended by the doctor.
According to studies, nearly six out of every ten women who had a cesarean delivery are likely to suffer from some wound pain even at 24 weeks after childbirth. Others get relief in two weeks. The doctor will prescribe pain medications to soothe the soreness. Ask about which ones are safe and how long you can take them.
The doctor may either use dissolvable or non-dissolvable sutures. In the case of non-dissolvable ones, you will need to visit the doctor a week after your discharge.
Contact the doctor if any unpleasant symptoms appear, such as fever, discharge from the wound and worsening of bleeding.
How to recover fast after cesarean delivery
Self-care, setting reasonable expectations and having a supportive medical team can make the recovery from a cesarean delivery easier.
Rest whenever you can
It is common to not get time for adequate rest while caring for babies. The best strategy is to get rest, sleep or nap whenever the baby rests. Another option is to get your family member or a friend to look after the baby while you are resting.
Relieve your pain
Your doctor might recommend safer NSAIDs for lactating mothers, such as Advil (ibuprofen), Motrin IB (ibuprofen), Tylenol (acetaminophen) or other medications to relieve pain due to the wound.
Take care of your body
Keep everything you need close to your bed to avoid getting up more often.
Get help from your partner or anyone around for lifting things that are heavier than the baby.
Take care of your wound while sneezing or coughing. Hold your abdomen gently while doing so.
Do not start exercising too early. Moderate to heavy exercises can put a strain on your stitches. Instead, go for something mild, such as gentle walking. Moving around can help prevent blood clots and constipation.
Improve your nutrition
Getting adequate nutrition is vital for wound healing, the overall recovery process and your baby. Include foods that are particularly rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C. Ask the doctor so you know which are the best food options for you.
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National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (UK): "Caesarean Section." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK115312/
Mayo Clinic: "Labor and Delivery, Postpartum Care: C-Section Recovery: What to Expect." https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/c-section-recovery/art-20047310
March of Dimes: "Having a C-Section." https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/having-a-c-section.aspx
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