After a routine cesarean section, expect to be monitored closely for the next 24 hours to make sure that you don't develop any problems. You will receive pain medicine and will likely be encouraged to begin walking short distances within 24 hours of surgery. Walking can help relieve gas buildup in the abdomen. It is usually very uncomfortable to begin walking, but the pain will decrease in the days after the delivery.
The typical hospital stay after a cesarean delivery is about 3 days. You can feed and care for your newborn as you feel able. Before going home, you'll receive postsurgery instructions, including warning signs of complications. It can take 4 weeks or more for a cesarean incision to heal, and it isn't unusual to have occasional pains in the area during the first year after the surgery.
It is important to take care of yourself at home while you are healing.
- 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 reduce 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 the foods that are in 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 fiber 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 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. Other cleaning products, such as hydrogen peroxide, can make the wound heal more slowly. 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.
For information about how a cesarean affects future deliveries, see the topic Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).
When to call a doctor
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have severe trouble breathing.
- You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
- You have severe pain in your belly.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have bright red vaginal bleeding that soaks one or more pads each hour for 2 or more hours.
- Your vaginal bleeding seems to be getting heavier or is still bright red 4 days after delivery.
- You pass blood clots larger than the size of a golf ball.
- You have vaginal discharge that smells bad.
- You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- Your belly feels tender, or full and hard.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
- A fever.
- You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
- You have trouble passing urine or stool, especially if you have pain or swelling in your lower belly.
- You feel sad, tearful, or hopeless for more than a few days, or you have troubling or dangerous thoughts.
Some women feel shoulder pain for days after a cesarean section. This is referred pain, caused by trauma to the abdominal muscles during the delivery. It goes away on its own during recovery.