Caesarean Section: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

A caesarean section, or C-section, is surgery to deliver your baby through a cut, called an incision, that the doctor makes in your lower belly and uterus.

You may have some pain in your lower belly and need pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks. You can expect some vaginal bleeding for several weeks. You will probably need about 6 weeks to fully recover.

It is important to take it easy while the incision is healing. Avoid heavy lifting, strenuous activities, or exercises that strain the belly muscles while you are recovering. Ask a family member or friend for help with housework, cooking, and shopping.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia, constipation, and blood clots.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weightlifting, and aerobic exercise, for 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Until your doctor says it is okay, do not lift anything heavier than your baby.
  • Do not do sit-ups or other exercises that strain the belly muscles for 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Hold a pillow over your incision when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and decrease your pain.
  • You may shower as usual. Pat the incision dry when you are done.
  • You will have some vaginal bleeding. Wear sanitary pads. Do not douche or use tampons until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take at least 6 weeks off work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.
  • If you are breastfeeding, do not drink any alcohol.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Other instructions

  • If you breastfeed your baby, you may be more comfortable while you are healing if you place the baby so that he or she is not resting on your belly. Try tucking your baby under your arm, with his or her body along the side you will be feeding on. Support your baby's upper body with your arm. With that hand you can control your baby's head to bring his or her mouth to your breast. This is sometimes called the football hold.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your lung (called a pulmonary embolism). These may include:
    • Sudden chest pain.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Coughing up blood.
  • You have thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or another person.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through a pad every hour for 2 or more hours.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or more belly pain.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: May 30, 2016