Recovery tips for the new mother who underwent a cesarean section

While a cesarean section only takes minutes to complete, it takes weeks to recover.  A cesarean section changes everything about how the first few weeks with the new baby will be. Planning ahead for the mother’s care is essential so that she can best care for her new child.

The pain following the cesarean section is the most difficult part of the recovery process for a new mom. The onset of pain begins as the uterus begins contracting to its normal size. This may feel like menstrual cramps. For most women, the cramping goes away within 24-48 hours of the procedure. This is one of the things women having cesarean sections have in common with those giving birth vaginally.

The real pain begins when the new mother begins to walk. The first steps cause pain that feels like a burning sensation and sharp pains around the incision area and lower abdomen. While the new mother may not feel like getting out of bed for fear of pain, it is essential that she get up and move around some, as this will help with the recovery process. Walking also helps to begin moving gas as well as preventing stiffness around the incision area.

It is very necessary for a woman recovering from a cesarean section to take the pain medication as prescribed for her. Sometimes well meaning people will discourage the new mother that breastfeeds from taking her medication for fear that it will harm the baby. There are pain medications available that are considered safe for both the mother and baby because such small amounts of the medication are transmitted through breast milk. For the new mother to be able to care for her baby, she first has to care for herself. If she is overwhelmed with pain, she cannot properly care for her child. If there are fears of taking pain medication while breastfeeding, her doctor should be consulted.

As recovery progresses, the pain will slacken off, but new discomforts may begin. An aching sensation around the incision is normal as both nerves and muscles are cut during the procedure. Numbness, itching, and cramping can also be normal. Numbness may occur in and around the incision area. Sometimes, sensation is never regained due to nerves being cut. As the incision heals, itching will occur. Because of the numbness, scratching the area may not provide much relief. Be aware that if itching is accompanied by fever, chill, drainage, or dizziness, a physician must be contacted immediately. These symptoms could be signs of a serious infection.

During the first twenty-four hours after the procedure, the incision is generally covered by a large bandage. Once the bandage is removed, the nurses in charge of the patient will monitor the area. However, once the patient is home, the area must be cared for by either the patient herself or her caregiver. The doctor will send home instructions for basic care. The following are tips for taking care of the incision area:

Soak gauze strips in peroxide and gently apply them to the incision. When applying strips to sutures, be careful not to get the gauze caught (snagged) on the suture.
Do not scratch the incision area. If it becomes inflamed, swollen, or begins leaking, immediately report it to the doctor. While it may seem grotesque, the incision should be examined at least three times per day to identify changes in appearance or swelling.The patient should not take a bath until the incision has healed. Hot showers are okay. If the patient has a fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, contact the physician immediately. After the removal of sutures, continue to keep a close eye on the scar as it heals.

It can be frustrating to the new mother to take time to properly heal. Many try to do too much after their return home from the hospital as they are caught up in the excitement of their new bundle of joy. It is important to remember that a cesarean section is a major surgery.

After a cesarean section, the patient should wait about eight weeks before resuming exercise. It is important to consult with the doctor before resuming an exercise plan, or beginning a new one. The patient should be careful not to jump in too quickly. She should begin slowly, and if she feels any pain in the incision area, she should stop and give herself more time to heal.

The patient should avoid heavy cleaning around the house. If a tidy household is important to her, she should enlist the help of family and friends, or if possible, hire someone to help her temporarily. Others should help her with chores and caring for the new baby. For the first few days, even the simplest of chores will seem exhausting to her. She should avoid climbing any stairs during the first week at home.

After surgery, the new mother’s bowels may take a little time to begin to work properly. She should try to avoid foods that cause gas or that may irritate her bowels. If constipation is an issue, she should speak with her doctor about what laxatives/fiber substitutes are good options.

It is important that a new mother on pain medications not drive. Most doctors suggest not driving for the first two weeks. Sometimes it is necessary to wait longer.

As with vaginal deliveries, it is important for the patient to abstain from sexual intercourse for at least six weeks after her baby’s birth. If she has any questions, she should contact her doctor.

Allowing her body to heal at it’s own pace is very important following a cesarean section. Encourage the new mother to tell people what she needs them to do to help her. She is to graciously allow her loved ones dote on her.