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After a C-section - in the hospital

Cesarean section - in the hospital; Postpartum - cesarean

Most women will remain in the hospital for 2 to 3 days after a cesarean birth (C-section). Take advantage of the time to bond with your new baby, get some rest, and receive some help with breastfeeding and caring for your baby.

What to Expect after a C-section

Right after surgery you may feel:

  • Groggy from any medicines you received
  • Nausea for the first day or so
  • Itchy, if you received narcotics in your epidural

You will be brought to a recovery area right after surgery, where a nurse will:

  • Monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount of your vaginal bleeding
  • Check to make sure your uterus is becoming firmer
  • Bring you to a hospital room once you are stable, where you will spend the next few days

After the excitement of finally delivering and holding your baby, you may notice just how tired you are.

Your belly will be painful at first, but it will improve a lot over 1 to 2 days.

Some women feel sadness or an emotional letdown after delivery. These feelings are not uncommon. DO NOT feel ashamed. Talk with your health care providers and partner.

Seeing and Caring for Your Baby

Breastfeeding can often begin right after surgery. The nurses can help you find the right position. Numbness from your anesthetic can limit your movement for a while, and pain in your cut (incision) can make it a little harder to become comfortable, but do not give up. The nurses can show you how to hold your baby so there is no pressure on your cut (incision) or abdomen.

Holding and caring for your new infant is exciting, making up for the long journey of your pregnancy and the pain and discomfort of labor. Nurses and breastfeeding specialists are available to answer questions and help you.

Also take advantage of the babysitting and room service the hospital provides for you. You are going home to both the joys of being a mother and the demands of caring for a newborn infant.

Activity

Between feeling exhausted after labor and managing the pain from the surgery, getting out of bed may seem like too big of a task.

But getting out of bed at least once or twice a day at first can help speed your recovery. It also decreases your chance of having blood clots and helps your bowels move.

Make sure someone is around to help you in case you get dizzy or weak. Plan on taking your walks soon after you have received some pain medicine.

Contractions and Bleeding

Once you deliver, the heavy contractions are over. But your uterus still needs to contract to shrink back to its normal size and prevent heavy bleeding. Breastfeeding also helps your uterus contract. These contractions may be somewhat painful, but they are important.

As your uterus becomes firmer and smaller, you are less likely to have heavy bleeding. Blood flow should gradually become slower during your first day. You may notice a few smaller clots passing when the nurse presses on your uterus to check it.

Pain Relief

Your epidural, or spinal, catheter can also be used for pain relief after surgery. It may be left in for up to 24 hours after delivery.

If you did not have an epidural, you may receive pain medicines directly into your veins through an intravenous line (IV) after surgery.

  • This line runs through a pump that will be set to give you a certain amount of pain medicine.
  • Often, you can push a button to give yourself more pain relief when you need it.
  • This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA).

You will then be switched to pain pills that you take by mouth, or you may receive shots of medicine. It is OK to ask for pain medicine when you need it.

What Else?

You will have a urinary (Foley) catheter in place right after surgery, but this will be removed on the first day after surgery.

The area around your cut (incision) may be sore, numb, or both. Sutures or staples are often removed around the second day, just before you leave the hospital.

At first you may be asked to only eat ice chips or take sips of water, at least until your provider is certain you are not likely to have very heavy bleeding. Most likely, you will be able to eat a light diet 8 hours after your C-section.

References

Berghella V, Mackeen AD, Jauniaux ERM. Cesarean delivery. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 19.

Thorp JM, Grantz KL. Clinical aspects of normal and abnormal labor. In: Resnik R, Lockwood CJ, Moore TR, Greene MF, Copel JA, Silver RM, eds. Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 43.

  • C-section

    Animation

  •  

    C-section - Animation

    When it's not possible or safe for a woman to deliver a baby naturally through her vagina, she will need to have her baby delivered surgically, a procedure referred to as cesarean section, or C-section. I know this is a controversial topic recently, sometimes people talk C-sections being done too often. That may be true, but when it is necessary, it can be life saving for mother or baby. A C-section is the delivery of a baby through a surgical opening in the mother's lower belly area, usually around the bikini line. The procedure is most often done while the woman is awake. The body is numbed from the chest to the feet using epidural, or spinal, anesthesia. The surgeon usually makes a cut or incision across the belly just above the pubic area. The surgeon opens the womb, or uterus, and the amniotic sac, then delivers the baby. A woman may have a C-section if there are problems with the baby, such as an abnormal heart rate, abnormal positions of the baby in the womb, developmental problems in the baby, a multiple pregnancy like triplets, or when there are problems with the placenta or umbilical cord. A C-section may be necessary if the mother has medical problems, such as an active genital herpes infection, large uterine fibroids near the cervix, or if she is too weak to deliver due to severe illness. Sometimes a delivery that takes too long, caused by problems like getting the baby's head through the birth canal, or in the instance of a very large baby may make a C-section necessary. Having a C-section is a safe procedure. The rate of complications is very low. However, there are some risks, including infection of the bladder or uterus, injury to the urinary tract, and injury to the baby. A C-section may also cause problems in future pregnancies. The average hospital stay after a C-section is 2 to 4 days, and keep in mind recovery often takes longer than it would from a vaginal birth. Walking after the C-section is important to speed recovery and pain medication may be supplied too as recovery takes place. Most mothers and infants do well after a C-section, and often, a woman who has a C-section may have a vaginal delivery if she gets pregnant again.

  • Cesarean section

    Cesarean section - illustration

    There are many reasons to deliver a baby by Cesarean section, such as abnormal position of the baby, or abnormalities of the placenta and umbilical cord.

    Cesarean section

    illustration

  • Cesarean section

    Cesarean section - illustration

    There are many reasons to deliver a baby by Cesarean section, such as abnormal position of the baby, or abnormalities of the placenta and umbilical cord.

    Cesarean section

    illustration

  • C-section

    Animation

  •  

    C-section - Animation

    When it's not possible or safe for a woman to deliver a baby naturally through her vagina, she will need to have her baby delivered surgically, a procedure referred to as cesarean section, or C-section. I know this is a controversial topic recently, sometimes people talk C-sections being done too often. That may be true, but when it is necessary, it can be life saving for mother or baby. A C-section is the delivery of a baby through a surgical opening in the mother's lower belly area, usually around the bikini line. The procedure is most often done while the woman is awake. The body is numbed from the chest to the feet using epidural, or spinal, anesthesia. The surgeon usually makes a cut or incision across the belly just above the pubic area. The surgeon opens the womb, or uterus, and the amniotic sac, then delivers the baby. A woman may have a C-section if there are problems with the baby, such as an abnormal heart rate, abnormal positions of the baby in the womb, developmental problems in the baby, a multiple pregnancy like triplets, or when there are problems with the placenta or umbilical cord. A C-section may be necessary if the mother has medical problems, such as an active genital herpes infection, large uterine fibroids near the cervix, or if she is too weak to deliver due to severe illness. Sometimes a delivery that takes too long, caused by problems like getting the baby's head through the birth canal, or in the instance of a very large baby may make a C-section necessary. Having a C-section is a safe procedure. The rate of complications is very low. However, there are some risks, including infection of the bladder or uterus, injury to the urinary tract, and injury to the baby. A C-section may also cause problems in future pregnancies. The average hospital stay after a C-section is 2 to 4 days, and keep in mind recovery often takes longer than it would from a vaginal birth. Walking after the C-section is important to speed recovery and pain medication may be supplied too as recovery takes place. Most mothers and infants do well after a C-section, and often, a woman who has a C-section may have a vaginal delivery if she gets pregnant again.

  • Cesarean section

    Cesarean section - illustration

    There are many reasons to deliver a baby by Cesarean section, such as abnormal position of the baby, or abnormalities of the placenta and umbilical cord.

    Cesarean section

    illustration

  • Cesarean section

    Cesarean section - illustration

    There are many reasons to deliver a baby by Cesarean section, such as abnormal position of the baby, or abnormalities of the placenta and umbilical cord.

    Cesarean section

    illustration

Talking to your MD

 

Self Care

 
 

Review Date: 9/25/2018

Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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