Cesarean Recovery - Post Pregnancy Health Care
Approximately one in four births in the United States takes place by means of a Cesarean section (or C-section for short). The procedure involves making a cut in the mother's abdomen and pulling the baby out via the cut. There are many stories as to how the procedure got its name. One theory is that Cleopatra, the ancient queen of Egypt, gave birth to a baby via a cut in her belly. That baby was the son of Julius Cesar, the powerful Roman statesman. Some women choose to have elective Cesareans (i.e. they plan in advance to give birth this way), whereas others undergo the procedure only because complications arise during labor. If you are having an elective cesarean, you have time now to plan for your recovery and healing. Even if you're hoping for a vaginal birth, it's a good idea to be informed about Cesarean recovery, just in case.
Immediately After A Cesarean
You'll have to stay in hospital for several days after your Cesarean birth. Your medical team will want to monitor the incision in your abdomen for any signs of infection. You'll probably be given pain relieving drugs intravenously for a while after the operation. Before you go home, the pain will be at a level at which it can be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain killers - if indeed you find these are necessary. The midwives in the hospital will also show you how to breastfeed your baby without hurting your abdomen.
Recovering At Home
Although the vast majority of women recover successfully from a Cesarean section without any major problems, it's important to remember that you have just had surgery. You will need to take it easy for several weeks (probably 4 to 6) and get as much sleep as possible. This may mean that you need help around the house to cope with the new baby, but also to look after your other children, and even just to perform daily tasks. This is where Dad may have to step up and take on the lion's share of the day-to-day chores. If your partner is working full time, you may need to ask a friend or relative.
Tips For Cesarean Recovery
During those recovery weeks, you may find that you need to support your abdomen when you're moving around. It's a good idea to physically hold the area where the Cesarean scar is located when you cough or sneeze. You should also drink plenty of fluids (not just coffee or tea) to keep you hydrated. Try not to lift anything that's heavier than the baby, and avoid sex or any vigorous activity which could interfere with your Cesarean scar. You might find that it helps to put a pillow or cushion over your abdomen when breastfeeding, to avoid discomfort.
There are a number of potential Cesarean complications which can affect both mother and baby. Bear in mind, however, that most of them are very rare. If they do occur, they are likely to happen during the few days immediately after the C-section, when you and baby are still in hospital and in the right place to receive the best possible treatment.
Cesarean risks for Mom include the risk of infection in the abdominal cut, as well as potential complications in future pregnancies. For baby, some complications include possible breathing difficulties or injuries during the procedure itself.
It's natural to be concerned about the risks associated with having a C-section. If you're planning an elective Cesarean, discuss these risks with your pregnancy doctor beforehand. If you have had an emergency Cesarean section, your doctor may not have had time to explain the risks to you before the procedure was carried out. Nevertheless, now it could still be beneficial to ask your doctor about possible complications and about any warning signs that you should look out for.
Your pregnancy doctor should be able to advise you on which Cesarean videos you can watch in order to prepare for a C-section. Failing that, there are plenty of videos and Cesarean pictures available for free online. If you prefer, you could order a DVD and have it delivered to your home.