A Cesarean section, often called a C-section, is a surgery performed to deliver a baby. In the USA, about a third of all mothers deliver their babies via a C-section.
Cesarean section operation in process. Image Credit: Elis Blanca / Shutterstock
Following a C-section, the mother is usually cared for in the recovery room for a few hours. Once her condition is known to be stable, she is shifted to the ward. Breastfeeding should start as early as possible to encourage good lactation.
Pain medication is usually administered immediately after the patient is in the recovery room. Intravenous fluids are continued until the anesthetic effect wears off. Oral feeding is resumed once nausea has passed and intestinal motility has resumed, as confirmed by the physician. A bladder catheter is often kept in place until the patient is able to walk again, which may be after a day in some because of the spinal anesthesia.
Resumption of mobility is paramount because it helps prevent blood clots and edema of the lower extremities. An experienced attendant should help with getting out of bed the first few times to prevent falls and injuries. By the second day the mother should be walking around the room a few times without difficulty.
Antibiotics may often be continued after the surgery. Constipation may be an issue, for which reason the patient should be advised to have plenty of fiber and fluid in the diet.
Once the dressing is removed, the wound should be kept clean and dry.
Signs of Delayed or Complicated Recovery Following a C-Section
Following a C-section, there may be some complications such as the following:
- Wound pain which does not respond to pain relievers
- Severe or continuing back pain especially in the region of the epidural or spinal injection may indicate infection around the injection site
- Urinary tract infection may be signalled by dysuria or retention
- Urinary incontinence
- Paralytic ileus
- Heavy bleeding through the vagina
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Sudden onset of chest pain, dyspnea, or coughing may indicate pulmonary embolism
- Pain and/or swelling of the calf muscles may indicate deep vein thrombosis of the leg veins
- Infection of the abdominal wound
Helping Recovery at Home in the Postpartum Period
The following practices may help women who have had a C-section to recover faster:
- Following the right positions to get out of bed and to breastfeed to avoid strain on the wound.
- Getting help with baby care, especially early breastfeeding, and household chores in order to increase the amount of rest they get after discharge.
- Avoid lifting anything heavier than the infant, and that too should only be done from a seated position.
- Moving around at a smooth and gentle pace can promote blood flow and increased feelings of happiness as opposed to complete bed rest.
- Pelvic floor exercises will help prevent uterovaginal prolapse later on.
- Use hot fomentation to soothe the wound at first, but avoid very hot applications.
- Use abdominal support such as special underwear for a few weeks if the abdominal wall feels too lax and movement is difficult or painful as a result.
- Timing intercourse and physical intimacy to occur only after both partners are ready.
- Having a support group to help adjust to the first few months after a C-section, especially accepting individual differences in recovery after a major surgery.
- Driving should be postponed until the wound is completely well, usually after checking with the physician.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)