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C-Section Recovery

How is the c-section recovery?

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C-section recovery

This mother just had her first c-section six days before this photo was taken. Here you see her staples holding her skin incision together.

Photo © Desiree
C-section recovery is something that is done in stages. Right after your cesarean surgery is over you will be wheeled into a post-operative recovery room. Usually there are several beds in one room separated by curtains. You will remain in recovery for a varied amount of time, depending on the anesthesia that you had (general or regional), typically it's about a two to four hour period. If you had an epidural or spinal it's about the time you can wiggle your legs. If you've had general anesthesia you may fall asleep and wake up repeatedly, and possibly feel nauseated.

During this recovery period your vital signs will be monitored carefully and the firmness of your uterus will be periodically checked. As will the flow of blood. You may begin to feel after pains as your uterus contracts down.

The best advice for recovery is to begin to move as quickly as you can. Obviously you will want to start out with simple things like breathing. While breathing sounds like an easy thing, taking a deep breath is not that easy; remember to begin to do this early and frequently.

As you move to your regular room some of your equipment will be coming with you, including your catheter, blood pressure monitors and IVs. The catheter will usually be removed the day after your surgery. The IV will stay until your intestines begin working again, as evidenced by rumbling sounds in the intestines and possible gas pain for mom. Avoid carbonated, hot or cold drinks as they tend to cause gas pain to be worse.

You will feel pain from the surgery and it's important to deal with it early on, because the less pain you feel the more likely you are to be up and moving about, which is key to a speedy recovery. If you've had a regional anesthesia you may have been given Duramorph prior to the removal of the epidural catheter. This provides pain relief for up to 24 hours after surgery, without the use of IV, IM (intra-muscular) or oral drugs. After that period or if you've not had Duramorph, you may request medications for which your doctor has left an order. Some patients will also leave surgery with a special pump on their IV that allows them to dispense their own IV pain medications when it unlocks every so often. These are also used mostly for the initial 24 hour period. While medications will get to breast milk, some are better than others for nursing mothers, talk to your doctor and the baby's doctor about what is right for you and your baby.

One of the biggest milestones in the hospital will be your first walk. I've been there three times before and it's scary. Here's my advice:

  • Splint your incision by holding a pillow over it. Your insides will feel like they are falling out, but they are held in places by several layers of stitches and staples.
  • Avoid the tendency to lean forward, stand up straight.
  • Do not look down, but focus on an object as a goal: the chair, the bathroom, etc.
  • Always begin your walking with help.
  • Walk as frequently, even if only a few steps, as possible.

It is important to walk as soon after surgery as possible to help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Before you are able to walk or if it will be awhile before you are able to walk, it maybe suggested that you use compression boots to help prevent DVT.

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