Regardless of whether you deliver your baby vaginally or via a cesarean
section (C-section), your body will need time to recuperate. If you end up
having a C-section, there are important factors to consider.
One, this is a major surgery and may require longer for your body
to recover. Two, recovery requires caring for your body and listening to the
advice of your doctor. Finally, even with the best preparation, there may be
postpartum situations that require a doctor’s help. Here’s what you need to
1. Understanding the surgery
Leading up to the C-section, your care team will prep you like any
patient readying for surgery. For instance, you may get an IV line in your arm
or hand, to receive fluid during the procedure, or have a catheter tube
inserted to make sure your bladder remains empty. Just before surgery, you’ll
receive anesthesia. Certain types put you to sleep; others simply numb the area
During the procedure, the physician will make one cut, either up
and down or sideways, through the skin and abdomen wall, and then another
through the uterus. The baby will arrive via these incisions, and then
everything gets closed with stitches or staples. For more details about the
procedure, the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists website is a great resource.
Though C-sections are common—almost 32 percent of all deliveries in the U.S. occur by
this method, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—it’s
still a major surgery, stresses Sue Moreni, MD, a clinical associate professor
in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UW Medicine. “It is a large
incision and we do enter into the abdominal cavity,” she says. “We’re accessing
the internal organs.”
Immediately following the surgery, you’ll go to a recovery room or
hospital room to begin your recuperation.
2. Healing after surgery
Internal healing takes at least four to six weeks. So, even if you
feel better on the outside, there’s likely still more you can’t see that needs
to bounce back. Keep in mind there are certain absolute no-nos following a
C-section and some additional recommended precautions, explains Dr. Moreni.
“We instruct patients not to do any heavy lifting. We say nothing
over 10 pounds or nothing heavier than your baby for six weeks,” she says. In
addition, no intercourse, tampon use, or generally anything entering the
vagina, to avoid the possibility of introducing infection.
For the incision site itself, less is more, she adds. “We ask patients
not to scrub or soap their incision. The water can run over it and then they
can pat it dry. Nothing should cover the incision.”
Beyond that, don’t exercise until your doctor says it’s OK, and
even then, go light. Dr. Moreni recommends walking, and only until your body
tells you it’s enough.
3. Calling the doctor
Certain circumstances require calling your doctor. In general, pay
attention to your body.
“For any fever, you’d want to call the doctor. The origin can be
any number of things. It could just be a cold or something totally unrelated,
but for a fever in the postpartum period, we get concerned,” Dr. Moreni explains.
“A fever is a sign of infection.”
Heavy bleeding immediately following delivery is normal; continued
heavy bleeding, soaking through a pad every hour, is not—particularly if the
bleeding had slowed and then picked up again. The same goes for pain: Initially,
pain is expected at the incision site but it should lessen. If it increases at
any point, reach out to your care team.
For more information about when to call the doctor and other facts
about aftercare following a C-section, check out the American Pregnancy
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