Answers to the Top 10 Questions after a Cesarean Birth
One in every four or five babies in North America will be born by cesarean section (C-section). Sometimes, the C-section is planned in advance; others are done with little or no warning due to last minute complications.
Regardless of the reason, if you have given birth by C-section you will need more recovery time than a woman who has given birth vaginally. Your questions will also differ. (For answers to questions after a vaginal birth see this post.)
Here are answers to the top 10 questions women ask after their C-section birth.
1) How will I control the pain?
You will have pain after your C-section but there are excellent medications to make you comfortable. Take your pain medications regularly to stay ahead of the pain, rather than waiting until you are already uncomfortable. If your pain is under control, you will be able to walk, move around and care for your baby more easily.
When you are ready to be discharged from the hospital, you will be given a prescription for medication you can use at home. Be sure to take a dose of pain medication before you leave the hospital. Getting home and settled in involves a lot of movement.
Once you are home, you may find it helpful to have a written medication schedule, or a phone reminder to take your next dose. You will have better pain control if you take more medication before the last dose has completely worn off.
Learn about medications and breastfeeding in this post.
2) How will I know if my incision is infected?
The first sign of an infection is usually increasing incisional pain, despite taking the same amount of pain medication. Other signs include:
- redness of the skin around the incision
- thick yellow or yellowish-green drainage (pus)
A small amount of bleeding or pinkish colored drainage from your incision can be normal: it is important to watch the color of the drainage. If you notice thick pus, be sure to contact your health care provider.
The stitches you can see on the outside hold only the outermost layer of skin together. There are multiple layers of sutures underneath. If the outer skin edges of your incision separate slightly, don’t be alarmed. It is important, however, to watch for signs and symptoms of infection (reddened skin, fever, thick yellow or green discharge). If the separation appears to be deeper than just the skin edges, notify your doctor.
3) Will I be able to breastfeed?
Yes! You can breastfeed as soon after surgery as you are comfortable. Most C-sections are done with an epidural or spinal block. With this type of anesthesia, you will be awake but free from pain. Many hospitals are beginning to put baby on mom’s chest in skin to skin contact after a C-section birth.
If you had a general anaesthetic for your c-section, you may breastfeed as soon as you are awake.
It can be more challenging to find comfortable nursing positions after a C-section birth. Many women like to use the football hold, side lying or laid back positions as it keeps the weight of baby off their incision.
P.S We’ve created a free ebook to help pregnant women get ready for breastfeeding: “5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding.” Download it here.
4) Why am I feeling so emotional?
Women feel emotional after the birth of their baby! Sometimes the emotions may be those you were expecting: euphoria, instant love. Other times, the emotions may not be what you expected. If your C-section was unplanned, you may feel even more emotional. Some women feel their body has let them down. Others report feeling a dull, flat or disappointed feeling after birth. Still others are embarrassed to admit they feel no connection to their baby.
Having a baby can be a very overwhelming experience. There is no right or wrong way to feel. A difficult delivery, or one that didn’t go as you envisioned may make it worse. Talk to your loved ones or your health care provider about the way you are feeling. Please know that even if you feel disconnected from your baby, feelings of connectedness will come in time. Taking time to rest and care for yourself is important.
Postpartum blues are common in the first few weeks. If these feelings do not resolve in the first few weeks or the symptoms worsen, you could be suffering from postpartum depression and may benefit from treatment and a support group. Please talk to your loved ones and your health care provider about the way you are feeling.
5) How soon can I resume regular activity?
Even if you do not feel like it, it is important to get up and begin moving within 24 hours after surgery. Get assistance, as you might feel a bit weak at first. Start with just a few steps and gradually increase the distance you walk. Walking is important to keep the blood circulating in your legs and to lessen the chance of developing a blood clot. Walking also helps to get your bowels moving. Your body will tell you if you are overdoing it. If your blood flow increases in amount or becomes bright red, you may be doing too much.
6) How much weight can I lift?
You have had surgery involving your abdominal muscles. Heavy lifting heavy can put too much strain on your incision. Try not to lift anything heavier than your new baby for at least the first 3 weeks (some doctors would suggest 6 weeks). Pay attention to your body. If it seems like too much, it probably is.
7) When can I drive?
It may take 3-6 weeks before you can comfortably resume driving. Pushing on the brakes or turning your body to shoulder check can be hard on your incision. Do not drive if you are taking narcotics for pain.
8) When can I have a bath or shower?
Once your dressing has been removed (usually 24 hours after surgery), you can take a shower. This will help to keep your wound clean. Gently pat your incision or allow it to air-dry. (Some women use a hair dryer on the low setting to dry their incision.) If you find your tummy folds over your incision, hold your abdomen back to expose it to allow air. Do not soak in a bathtub for at least 2-3 weeks as this can increase the chance of infection.
9) What if I have to cough or sneeze?
After a C-section, coughing or sneezing can be painful! Using a small pillow or a folded towel, put gentle pressure on either side of the incision as you cough. This will help to lessen the discomfort. Keep your pillow or towel close by; you never know when you are going to need it!
10) Will I have vaginal bleeding?
Many women are surprised to learn that they will have vaginal bleeding after a C-section. The bleeding comes from the place where the placenta was attached to the uterus and from the sloughing of the lining of the uterus. The bleeding is lighter than after a vaginal delivery and usually only lasts up to 6 weeks.
Recovery after a C-section takes time and will vary from mother to mother. Try to be patient with your body throughout this healing time.
Other suggested posts: How to Know When Fatigue is More Than Just Fatigue and 6 Tips for Surviving the Newborn Period.
About the authors:
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
Download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth.