How to Recover After a Caesarean Delivery - Care, Tips, and More

Recovering After a C-Section Delivery

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sanjana Sainani (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Vaginal delivery is the most common way to deliver a baby. However, if there are some complications that could prove dangerous to the baby or mother, the doctor may suggest a caesarean delivery for the safety of the mother and the child. A caesarean may be needed in the following cases:

  • If the baby is in a head-down position
  • If the baby is too large to pass through the pelvis
  • If the baby is in distress
  • If the mother has health complications and is on strong medications
  • If the mother is unable to go into labour
  • When the mother is carrying multiples

Besides these, there are several other situations in which a caesarean may be required, and the best judge of whether it is needed or not is your doctor.

Video: Recovering After a C Section Delivery

How is Caesarean Performed?

In a caesarean surgery, an incision is made in the mother’s belly and uterus, and the baby is delivered through it. The mother is given spinal anaesthesia and, in most cases, she is awake during the operation. 

How Does It Feel After Caesarean?

C-Section, like vaginal delivery, is a birthing process, and the joy and elation that the mother experiences when holding the baby is no different.

Some mothers may, however, feel disappointed for not having been able to deliver normally, especially mothers who had an unplanned C-Section for various reasons,

A caesarean procedure also affects your physical state. Some mothers may feel nauseated right after the surgery, and this nausea can last up to 48 hours. Many moms also feel itchy as a result of the medicines used for an epidural.

What Will I Get for Pain Relief?

It is normal to experience pain after surgery. If the pain is unbearable, anesthesiologists may suggest morphine, especially if an epidural or spinal was used during surgery. Morphine provides postpartum relief which lasts up to 24 hours. After that, pain killers like ibuprofen are administered to provide relief from pain.

If general anaesthesia has been administered, the mother is given systemic narcotics for immediate relief. The mother is also given pain medication every three or four hours.

It is important that the mother approaches the nurse in case she feels any further discomfort. A longer wait could only lead to the need for heavy dosages to relieve pain.

How Soon Can I Breastfeed My Baby?

To understand how soon you can nurse your baby after C-Section, you need to understand how your body gets ready for nursing. There is a hormonal shift that takes place when the placenta separates from the uterus. This separation is the signal that the milk has been produced. It is important to note that this signalling happens in the case of a normal as well as caesarean delivery.

In other words, technically speaking, you can feed your child immediately after the caesarean surgery. However, you may face some difficulty, and the incision may hurt when you nurse the baby. It is best to take the help of a nurse for guidance about nursing positions. The nurse may advise side-lying or the football position that helps avoid any pressure on the cuts.

In some cases, mothers also have sore nipples. If you face this issue, you need to consult a lactation consultant immediately.

The mother is given a lot of pain relief medication to help her heal faster. These medications are given taking care that it does not affect the quality of breast milk. Therefore, it is recommended that you take only the medicine prescribed by the doctor and adhere to the quantity prescribed.

Usually, the milk starts coming in within 2 to 6 days after the delivery. If it takes more time, experts recommend that the mother persists in her efforts to breastfeed. This is because, in the initial days, the mother’s breasts produce enough colostrum (first milk produced in late pregnancy) for the baby to feed on.

How Will My First Few Days After Caesarean Be?

Rest assured, you will get a lot of postoperative care after caesarean section. Your doctor will monitor you closely for 24 hours to look for any signs of discomfort or problems and to check if the wound is healing properly. You will be given some pain relief medicines and will be asked to start walking within 24 hours of the surgery to relieve the gas that builds up in the abdomen. Walking is a little difficult initially, but the pain gradually decreases in a few days. You can also start drinking fluids and follow a light diet within six to eight hours of the surgery.

The doctor removes the staples on the seventh or eighth day. Note that the procedure is not painful and it just feels like a small pinch. In most cases, this is done before the mother gets discharged.

The vaginal bleeding and discharge diminishes gradually but may last up to six weeks. The discharge turns from bright red to pink and then to yellow-white.

Physical Care After C-Section

It is important for the mother to take a lot of extra care after caesarean delivery. A new mother needs to go through a lot, both physically and emotionally. Thus, she needs care and support to heal fast.

You will be asked to urinate often because a full bladder makes it hard for the uterus to contract, which increases pressure on the wound.

It normally takes 4 weeks for the incision to heal. However, there may be an occasional pain in the area during the first year. The scar may feel numb and sore and will be slightly raised. It will be darker than the skin tone of the surrounding area. There may be a slight pain even when coughing and sneezing.

Health care after caesarean delivery is essential for the mother to help her heal rapidly. A C-Section is a complicated surgery and, thus, a mother needs lots of rest and care before she can start functioning normally.

Care Before You Leave the Hospital

  • You will be asked to get up and go to the bathroom within the first 24 hours of your delivery. This helps in healing. Make sure that you walk slowly because walking fast may cause dizziness
  • Once the catheter is removed, it can be painful to urinate. You may need help to use the washroom
  • After delivery, the uterus starts to shrink to its pre-pregnancy size. This leads to heavy bleeding which is called lochia and can continue until 6 weeks. The hospital provides extra-absorbent menstrual pads for the same
  • You may be asked to take small, slow walks around the hospital. These walks help in recovery and in relieving gas that tends to develop after the surgery

After Going Home

The care you get in the hospital must continue when you get discharged and go home:

  • Avoid all housework and refrain from lifting heavy objects
  • Vaginal bleeding can increase with changes in position and activity. In the normal course, it should change to a pale pink colour and then to yellow or a light colour. If that does not happen, it may be because you are exerting yourself. You need to consume plenty of fluids and eat healthy to get back your energy
  • It is important for you to rest
  • Any fever or pain can be a sign of infection and needs immediate medical help. Consult your doctor if there is any fever or pain

Emotional Care

New mothers who have had a C-Section may go through emotional stress. They may feel disappointed due to several reasons. This could be because of not be being able to deliver normally or because of some complications in the delivery. It is normal for them to go through mixed emotions and mood swings.

It is important to know that postpartum blues tend to affect most new mothers, irrespective of whether the delivery was a vaginal or a normal one. These mood swings usually start after a few days of delivery and last for a few days.

While postpartum blues are normal, postpartum depression should not be taken lightly. If the mood swings and blues persist even after a few weeks and start getting worse, you are probably experiencing postpartum depression. It is best to see a professional in such a case.

When Will I Get Out of Bed?

While you will be asked to start walking after 24 hours of delivery, you get discharged from the hospital typically after 3 days. While many C-Section moms are up and out of bed in a few days, it can take up to six weeks for your body to fully heal after a C-Section.

Doctors are sure to advise you a lot of physical care after C-Section, and the nurse will also share tips to recover faster. Post caesarean care at home is essential as it helps the mother direct her energies to the care of her newborn.

What Do I Do About My Caesarean Scars?

The caesarean scar will stay with the mother forever. It will become a little faint gradually but will never completely go away. The scar is initially puffy, raised, and darker than the rest of the skin. It, however, starts to shrink and tends to closely match the skin colour. It is normally itchy when it heals. The incision is very low on the abdomen – lower than the waistband of the underwear – and it gets hidden by the pubic hair.

The incision is just about four to six inches long and 1/8-inch wide. As it starts to heal, the scar shrinks to 1/16 inches.

The C-Section cut is normally done horizontally, but in rare cases also vertically. The incision is also prone to infections caused by bacteria. The common signs of an infection are:

  • Pain or redness
  • Swelling on the incision site and swelling on the legs
  • High fever
  • Discharge from the wound
  • Discomfort and unbearable abdominal pain
  • Unpleasant vaginal discharge and urinary problems
  • Clot discharge from the vagina

In the event of any of these symptoms, it is recommended that one should immediately rush to the hospital to seek medical help.

What Would My Level of Activeness After C-Section Be?

It is best to go slow and take care to avoid any complications. The doctor is likely to advise you on what precautions should be taken after C-Section delivery. Here are some precautions you should keep in mind:

  • Get rest and enough sleep to speed up recovery
  • Walk every day, gradually increasing the amount each day. Walking has many benefits, and it is best to start walking as soon as possible. However, care should be taken to not overexert the body
  • Activities like jogging, cycling and exercising should be avoided for at least 6-8 weeks. The mother should not do situps or other exercises that can strain the belly
  • It is important that the mother does not lift heavyweights
  • A pillow should be held over the cut when coughing and sneezing as it reduces pain
  • Sanitary pads are ideally recommended after a C-Section, and one should avoid tampons
  • You can consume food that constitutes a normal diet while ensuring that you eat fresh veggies and fruits. Take care also to consume plenty of fluids taken all through the day to help avoid constipation
  • Fibrous foods are recommended because it helps with the bowel movements

One can start exercising after six to eight weeks if there are no complications in the recovery. Sexual intercourse can also be done after six weeks if the mother feels comfortable and after checking with the doctor. One may, however, need to consult the doctor for the birth control methods that can be taken. This is because the ones that were taken before delivery may not be very effective now and some changes may be needed to control unwanted pregnancy. There are high chances of periods becoming irregular due to breastfeeding, so birth control methods need to be efficient as the fertile period can’t be predicted.

Tips to Recover Faster after Caesarean delivery

You can follow these recovery tips to heal faster:

  • Get Lots of Rest

Caesarean delivery is major surgery, and the body needs a lot of rest to recover faster. The body needs at least six weeks to heal completely to ensure a complete C-Section healing. Resting when the baby sleeps and asking for help with a diaper change and housework can give time to the mother to rest and heal faster

  • Take Care of Your Body

The body needs extra care now and should not be exerted. Avoid stairs as much as possible and do not lift anything heavy. You can start exercising only after the doctor gives permission. However, start with gentle exercises and do not strain too much

  • Take Pain Relief Medicines

It is okay to take some pain relieving medicines to reduce the pain. But it is important to consult the doctor before taking any medication. You also need to check if the medicine can be consumed while you are breastfeeding

  • Eat Healthy Food

It is important to eat nutritious food and include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet. This is not only nutritious for you but these nutrients will also get passed down to the baby through breast milk

  • Eat Fibrous food

Constipation is a big problem after a C-Section. This is uncomfortable and takes a lot of time to get back to normal. Eating lots of fibrous foods such as vegetables, oats, ragi, etc., and drinking plenty of fluids can help soften the stools

  • Caring for the Incision

The incision should be taken care of on a day to day basis. It can be washed with soap and water, but should not be scrubbed. The cut normally heals within a week, and in case there is any pus, or if the skin around the incision turns red, then it may be an infection which needs to be shown to the doctor

  • Get Emotional Help

It is common for many moms to feel sad and disappointed after a C-Section delivery. Postpartum depression is common but should not be suffered in silence. It is recommended to ask for help and support to help fight the depression

  • Take Help From Others

The new mother should ask for help without feeling shy because if she gets exhausted, it will take longer for her body to heal

  • Sexual Intercourse

Sexual intercourse can be very painful for C-Section moms, and one should have sex only after consulting the doctor

  • Take Care When Using Public restrooms

Using public bathrooms and toilets should be avoided as much as possible after a caesarean surgery. This can cause infections which make it difficult for the wound to heal

When to Consult a Doctor

It is important for all new mothers who have had a C-Section delivery to know how to recover from a C section quickly. It is also important to know about the signs that require an immediate doctor’s visit. A few indications could be:

  • Unconsciousness, trouble breathing, chest pain, blood in cough, and unbearable pain in the belly
  • Bright red bleeding and heavy flow that soaks one or more pads every hour for two hours or more
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or bright red bleeding even after four days
  • Blood clots as large as the size of a golf ball
  • A foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Loose stitches with the incision opening
  • Symptoms of an infection, like redness, pus draining from the incision, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or swelling
  • Trouble passing urine

C-Section delivery is a surgical procedure that involves incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. A typical C-Section operation lasts for three to four hours. Hence, recovery from it is tougher as well as slower than a vaginal delivery. After a C-Section, the mother needs to follow a lot of precautions before she heals completely. It is important that the mother takes a lot of rest, both physically and mentally, so that she can recover from the surgery soon.

Also Read: Exercises & Tips To Reduce Tummy Post caesarean Delivery

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