Some cesarean delivery’s are planned well in advance, while others are spontaneous due to medical emergency. No matter what the circumstances that led you to a surgical birth the treatment and recovery are usually pretty similar.
Not only have you just given birth to a new life, but you’ve also gone through a major abdominal surgery! If you plan to breastfeed, do so as soon as possible of course. Try laying on your side, or feed in the “football hold’ to minimize pressure on the incision site. You may feel a little more pain breastfeeding at first since your uterus is still healing from the incision and is contracting during breastfeeding. Sometimes adding the pressure of a pillow can help minimize the pain. This is also a good idea when you cough, sneeze, laugh.
The incision site will probably be swollen, puffy, numb or sore and discolored at first, which is completely normal. You can expect your doctor to be checking on it daily to make sure it’s healing correctly. Depending on the type of suture used to close the incision you may or may not have to make a appointment to have them taken out. I personally had DermaBond and dissolving stitches which were by far the best choice for me. No need to have stitches pulled out or stables removes, the stitches inside dissolved while the glue gently flaked off over a period of 4-6 weeks.
Your nurse should check you every 2-3 hours at first, checking for uterine firmness, and asses the amount of lochia your expelling. You’ll also be instructed to cough and/or pass gas to remove any fluid in your lungs and air in your belly. Once everything is OK (usually between 12-24 hours, but sometimes sooner) the nurse will take out your catheter and possibly your IV (some hospitals will leave it in up until discharge in case of a emergency or to give you pain medication). Now your on your own!
The first time you want to walk, have your nurse come in to help. Your legs will probably feel like jello! Not only that, but your equilibrium is a bit off so you do have a risk of falling and hurting yourself. Just sitting up on your own may be hard at first. I little trick is to hold a pillow to your belly, and with the aid of the nurse, slowly pull yourself up. Once standing, take a second to balance yourself, then taking small steps to your intended destination. The bathroom is a good place to go! Urinating regularly is very important, as a full bladder can hinder proper uterine recovery. Walking around the maternity ward, or to the nursery is a great idea. Your intestines will be sluggish from the surgery and your circulation may be slower then usual. Try doing this after you get your pain medication so your more comfortable. For the first couple days you’ll want to make sure a nurse or your partner is at your side, just in case.
After the first 24 hours they will usually change your diet from liquids to normal food. You will usually have to have a bowel movement before you leave the hospital to make sure all is well medically. Your nurse will bring you in some stool softener, and if she doesn’t be sure to ask if its OK if you have some. The first time you go after surgery can be uncomfortable, and you should personally take all the help you can get in this area!
Soon you’ll be ready to go home! This is the perfect time to say “yes” to all those friends and family offering help. Again, not only did you just give birth, have a new baby to care for, but your also recovering from a major abdominal surgery! You definitely need all the help you can get. You shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier then your baby, and exercise should be kept down to walking for the first month to two months. Walking is important, it helps your circulation, but let someone else take care of the housework! If you don’t have friends or family nearby, try hiring a student from your local high school/college to come by and help out. If you can afford a little more, there are many many maid services and nanny available to help you in the beginning. You can also try a postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas do whatever a mother needs to best enjoy and care for her new baby. Some states even have programs to send in home health care nurses to the homes of new mothers do answer questions, take vitals, and assess the health of both mother and child.
After 6 weeks it’s back to the doctors for you! Some obgyns prefer to see c-section patients soon then 6 weeks, usual 4. Assuming there’s no complications, this will be your last visit until next year! He or she will do a routine exam, possibly a pap smear, and ask you some questions. Be honest and speak up if something is bothering you! A lot of moms get postpartum depression, especially if the birth did not go the way the wanted to. Your obgyn will be able to refer you to a therapist. After making sure your medically OK, you’ll probably get the “OK” for sex. This is the time to discuss birth control options. Remember, you can get pregnant even when exclusively breast feeding and before you’ve had your period again.
By this time your incision should be (mostly) a scar now. Within 6-8 months your scar will lighten and heal until it is covered by your pubic hair and forgot (or at least, not noticed as much). Your body should be getting back to normal and by baby’s first birthday, you should be back to your old self!