Caesarean Section: What to Expect at Home
A caesarean section, or C-section, is surgery to deliver your baby through a cut that the doctor makes in your lower belly and uterus. The cut is called an incision.
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's important to take it easy while the incision heals. Avoid heavy lifting, strenuous activities, and exercises that strain the belly muscles while you recover. 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?
- 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.
- 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 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, limit alcohol. Alcohol can cause a lack of energy and other health problems for the baby when a breastfeeding woman drinks heavily. It can also get in the way of a mom's ability to feed her baby or to care for the child in other ways. There isn't a lot of research about exactly how much alcohol can harm a baby. Having no alcohol is the safest choice for your baby. If you choose to have a drink now and then, have only one drink, and limit the number of occasions that you have a drink. Wait to breastfeed at least 2 hours after you have a drink to reduce the amount of alcohol the baby may get in the milk.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it 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.
- 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.
- If you breastfeed your baby, you may be more comfortable while you are healing if you don't rest your baby on your belly. Try tucking your baby under your arm, with your baby's 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 your baby's 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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?
Share this information with your partner, family, or a friend. They can help you watch for warning signs.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or another person.
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
- You have a seizure.
Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- You have signs of hemorrhage (too much bleeding), such as:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
- Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
- A fast or irregular heartbeat.
- New or worse belly pain.
- 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.
- Vaginal discharge that smells bad.
- New or worse belly pain.
- 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.
- You have signs of pre-eclampsia, such as:
- Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
- New vision problems (such as dimness, blurring, or seeing spots).
- A severe headache.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if:
- Your vaginal bleeding isn't decreasing.
- You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
- You are having problems with your breasts or breastfeeding.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: February 23, 2022