What to Expect After Your C-Section

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Learn what to expect after your cesarean section—whether the surgery was expected or not.

Your child’s birth is a time of joy, adjustment and discovery. When you’ve undergone a cesarean section (C-section) delivery, however, additional challenges can present themselves.

Remember That It’s Surgery

After any delivery, it is important to allow your body to rest and recover. Because a C-section is open surgery, recovery will take longer than after a vaginal birth. Know your limitations and respect them. Make small movements and move slowly. Avoid all but light housework. While walking around—as often as comfortable—is a good idea to prevent blood clots and help the rest of your body return to functioning normally, it is recommended that you not lift anything that weighs more than your baby for approximately six to eight weeks. You should also not begin to exercise until given approval by your doctor.

You will experience bleeding, typically bright red in color, for up to six weeks post-delivery. Hospital staff should give you a few extra absorbent pads, but you’ll need to stock up for after your hospital release. Since the bleeding can increase with position changes or increased activity, it can be a good barometer for you to use to tell whether you’re doing too much.

Ask your doctor about what pain medications are best to take after your C-section, particularly if you plan to breastfeed. Use a heating pad to help with the pain, if needed. The pain should decrease after two to three days, but tenderness can last three weeks or more. Also, be sure to eat foods rich in fiber and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.

Caring for Your Incision

It will take between four and six weeks for your incision to heal. Support your abdomen with good posture, and hold your belly if you make any sudden movements, like sneezing or laughing. Wash your wound every day and pat it dry. Do not scrub or rub the incision. Consult your doctor if you see any signs of infection: pain near the incision, a fever of 100.4 degrees F or more, or if the incision is swollen, red or leaking.

Support for Healing

Wear loose clothing that won’t irritate the wound. Wear underwear that is a size larger or borrow your partner’s boxer shorts. If possible, have a support team of family or friends come help with the new baby and his or her siblings. Set up the things you need close at hand so you don’t have to move around as much. Find a comfortable holding position for your baby that does not irritate the incision area.

You will need to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor for a few weeks after your C-section to ensure you are healing as you should.

It’s almost time to bring your baby home! Take time to schedule birthing classes and a hospital tour.

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