C Section Recovery

I am scheduled for a c section on April 3 and am quickly realizing I really have no idea of what I’m in for once I get home. The standard stay is 48 hours, assuming no complications for me or the baby.

I’m sure plenty of Dopers have gone through this so please tell me what to expect and how to plan for this. No one in my family and none of my friends have had one. The only person I do know who had one is kind of a drama queen so I don’t really trust whatever she might have to say about the experience.

The big question I have is how long (or whether) I need to have someone around 24/7? My family is 500 miles away so the only available person is my MIL–she’s great, but I really don’t want to spend my days from 8 to 4 with her…


When I had one, the standard hospital stay was 10 days, and that was for the tiny little horizontal cut. And I needed every one of them to recover. It was very painful to move around, as I recall, and even just coughing was excrutiating. Take whatever meds they will give you and accept any help you can get, is my advice. Any surgery can cause extreme fatigue for a while, so expect that. Good luck and I hope your baby is healthy and beautiful.

I was in the hospital for 5 days [this was 25 years ago] and then needed help for about a week, but probably could’ve gotten by with a day or two less. Figure on a few months before you have your pre-pregnancy energy back and can fly up and down stairs again, but I began to feel relatively normal again after about 6 weeks (which, not coincidentally, was about the time my kiddo began to sleep through the night).

Congrats on the new baby and try not to worry.

Yes, what she said. It’s major abdominal surgery. You won’t be allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for weeks - and that includes your baby. Obviously, most of us ignore that, and our sore bellies pay the price.

If it’s at all possible, I’d recommend asking your friends for help now, and make it very specific. Or make yourself a list, and when someone says, “if there’s anything I can do to help…” take them up on it. By and large, people really do want to help, and they feel honored if you let them. Things I wished I had someone to help with: laundry, dishes, making meals, grocery shopping, putting gas in the car, taking and picking up my older kid from school…if the baby had been home with me, 15 minutes of holding the baby so I could shower would have been delightful, to.

Really, all the stuff any new mother could use - other people to take care of shit so you can just recover and bond with your baby. But with a c-section recovery, you have the added pain and fatigue from major surgery on top of it.

If there’s any delay in getting the baby to you, ask for a breast pump at the hospital. And ask again, and again, and again, until they finally bring it to you. (It took me three days to get mine, and I’m still pissed about it.) Pumping early really helps your prolactin levels rise and your milk production to start. You may not get anything at all at first, but if you get even a few drops of yellow, gold or yellowish white stuff, give it to the nurse. That’s colostrum, and it doesn’t really look like milk, and it’s chock full of antibodies your new baby needs. I threw my first colostrum out because it didn’t look like milk! :smack: Even if the baby can’t nurse, they can give him/her your colostrum through a bottle or feeding tube.

I had a 48 hour hospital stay, and two more days at home with my husband. Then he had to go in to work for a few hours a day (like, 4-6) for a few days, then the grandparents arrived to help us all.

By the time you leave the hospital at 48 hours, they will have had you up and walking and probably asked you to take a shower to remove the surgical dressing. You will be able to get in and out of chairs and beds by yourself, albeit slowly. You will be able to care for the baby. You will be hormonal, weeping, sore, and very very tired–but you’ll be able to do it.

I strongly recommend that you grin and bear your MIL. It’s a rite of passage. While I made it through those hours my husband was at work, they were very very hard. On top of being tired and sore you’re going to be having post-baby hormones that make it hard to will yourself to do much besides weep. You want someone else in the house if possible.

If you will be alone, you will want to have your partner bring you a nice breakfast and leave completely prepared, ready-to-eat food for you. You aren’t going to be up to much except nursing, hobbling to the bathroom, and wolfing down that food.

I was in the hospital for 5 days (related to the baby’s health, not mine), and had my mom at home for maybe 2 days after that. I don’t know if I really needed her, but it was nice (and I like my mom, so it wasn’t stressful).

I was fortunate in that my recovery from the c-section was pretty uneventful. One thing I did, and I believe it was another Doper who gave me the advice, was to walk early and often. I dragged my IV around and walked the ward later that evening (it was awful) and did it several times a day every day of my hospital stay. When I left, there were women who had c-sections around the same time as I did, and had barely left their beds and seemed in a lot worse sorts.

My hospital sent me home with one of those elastic surgical support bands, like a velcro girdle, I guess. It helped somewhat. I wore it for about 5 days after getting home. You might ask if your hospital supplies them, and if not, send someone to a pharmacy to get one to have on hand. If you have one of those pregnancy belly bands, IMHO they’re not quite industrial-strength enough to do the job of an actual surgical band.

Laughing is the worst, for about two weeks after. No one is allowed to say or do anything funny around you. You know that expression about laughing so hard you’re crying … this is really happening, and they are not tears of mirth. If you suspect something funny might happen, grab a pillow and clutch it to your midsection to reduce any jiggling if you laugh.

Wow, my experience is vastly different to everyone else’s! I had an emergency c-section 14 months ago due to a “failure to progress”. I persuaded the doctor to discharge me after 1 night in hospital - in order to do so I had to demonstrate I could walk around and go to the loo on my own, which I duely did, despite the uneasy feeling that my insides were going to drop out.

The next day I had to return to the hospital for some treatment (I was considered at risk of thrombosis so had to be shown how to inject myself with blood thinners - having to do that every day for six weeks was by far the worst part!) and managed a short trip to the supermarket afterwards, though I did feel I wanted a six foot exclusion zone around me lest anyone jostle my stiches!

By day 5 I was able to go out to lunch with my family and after two weeks the main difficulty I had was remembering that I was supposed to be recovering from major surgery and not do certain things even though I felt perfectly able to.

However I still think it was about 6 weeks before I was left alone with my baby - though that was more because I was bloody terrified of the prospect than anything else!

I was 33 and really not very fit pre-pregnancy, so I don’t know why I recovered so quickly, but I did. I was given lots of lovely pain relief, of course, which helped, and I didn’t try to do anything other than take care of my baby for weeks afterwards. No housework for me!

Btw, I was told not to lift anything heavier than my baby, not a gallon of milk - and she was 9lb10oz at birth, so not exactly lightweight. And it did take a while for my milk to come in - five days - so whilst waiting my husband and I ended up “colostrum harvesting”. I would squeeze my nipples and he would hoover up the resulting colostrum with a syringe and squirt it into our daughter’s mouth - very weird experience!

The result of all this is currently refusing to go back to sleep even though it’s 3am! Good luck - and I hope you get one of the ones that sleep, I hear they’re great!

Or sneeze.
I made it through ok. No real problems except for that sneeze.That was a horrific pain and I remember seeing all white because of it. Keep a pillow near!

My daughter had a (second) C-section 10 months ago and was discharged from hospital in under 24 hrs.

She was fine…although I felt it was a bit too soon, but anyways, I guess hospital beds are at a premium nowadays.

I was released after three days. I was sent home with some heavy duty pain killers but I stopped taking them after about nine days. I was in pain, but it was manageable so I didn’t think I needed them. I was cooking dinner after about a week, and we went to Melbourne and shopped seven days after the baby arrived. I didn’t vacuum or drive for six weeks because I was told not to. I was also told not to lift anything heavier than my baby. I had always feared a caesarian because I believed the recovery was rough and long, but it was not all that bad, really.

I had one 9 yrs ago and the recovery was harder than I expected. Stayed in the hospital for 5 days, could generally care for the baby, but couldn’t carry her up or down stairs. Had a VERY hard time showering and getting up and down from the toilet!! :slight_smile: Our toilet at the time was on one wall with the sink across the bathroom, so there was no counter to lean on for support.

Is this your first child? FWIW - I had a very hard time breastfeeding - my milk didn’t “come in” as is usual, but I don’t really know what that means… since it never really happened. I continued to pump and try for about 10 weeks, but never seemed to produce much, never experienced what people call “let down,” just generally had a difficult time. People say the c-section shouldn’t affect your ability to breast-feed, but I know a number of people who went thru the same issues after a c-section. I felt like my body didn’t respond as if I had just given birth. Rather than kicking into “milk-producing mode” perhaps it was focused on “repair and heal the terrible wound mode.”

You’ll get through it, but it is rough. You won’t need help 24/7, but you will need help. I don’t think I felt capable of a trip to the store for about 6 weeks. Although i could carry my baby, I couldn’t carry her in the car-seat and there was not way I could lift the stroller in and out of my car. :slight_smile:

Thank you for all the replies. I’m feeling like I’m on the uphill part of a roller coaster and just don’t know what to expect. I’m pretty good with pain and pain management and am definitely someone who will have to force myself to take it easy.

Any other tips, thoughts, horror stories?

My milk came in fine and I was able to breastfeed until my son was 12 months old. Much like everything else about the process, it varies between women and pregnancies.

I had mine at 4:00 am, and was on way home within 24 hours. The doctors want to know you are peeing, and your gut has to make “gas” noises that basically let them know everything is working the way it should be.

I was told not to lift anything over 10 pounds which is ridiculous since my baby was 9pounds 8 ounces at birth, but you need to be careful - the places you will damage are inside after all. No vacuuming, no stairs - all of these stress your core. Have a pillow nearby for when you need to cough or sneeze. It helps to hold it against yourself. No baths for a while, but showers are fine. Dry gently, obviously.

You will bleed slightly less, since they do remove a lot of the fluid when they are in there.

It hurts more that you think it will, but it’s not unbearable. Any other questions, let me know!

Take care of your incision. My story is not typical nor meant to scare and gross you out, but please be advised.

I had an emergency C-section, a complicated birth ,my boy was 10lbs, he was born with multiple medical problems, and we were air lifted to London ON a few days after he was born, and he almost died in the plane. Somehow along the way I ended up with fluid pooling behind the staples and that pocket of fluid burst. Due to trauma and drama and this and that it resulted in me needing twice daily then daily packing dressings from December 16th until Easter. I still have one part of my scar that healed in a kind of deep crater, I call it my second belly button.

My story is not typical, and the fact I had to do stairs, had to take the baby for regular checkups and go to the surgical daycare clinic for wound care probably made it a lot worse. I was stressed and it was winter. But yes, follow all the wound care instructions to a T --and if adhesives make you itchy ask for Montgomery ties.

Make sure you have diapers, wipes, supplies, freezer foods, and help with showering. If you have long hair consider braids or a low maintenence hair style, because you are going to at some point going to be begging for someone to help/let you shower. PM me for more gory details if you wish.

I think about 85% of my problems were related to the fact that it was an emergency c-section under general anesthesia. Normally they leave the epidural in for several hours after the c-section, but mine didn’t work (hence the general) and so I came up out of anesthesia in horrible pain. Then I had serious drugs because the pain was so bad, but the real drugs + the lingering effects of the general + nursing all conspired to make me sleepy to the point of incoherence. So then I refused to take anything at all, which made me pain-ridden to the point of incoherence . . .in retrospect, I was not real logical. For me, the pain was never really the incision; it was an overall horrible achiness that I assume was related to the general anesthesia. It was like the worst flu ever.

One important, important, important thing: you haven’t mentioned a husband, but you’ve mentioned a mother-in-law. Is husband around at all or is he overseas or something? If he isn’t around at all, you really need 24-hour help for a while. Nights with a new baby are very, very long and you do NOT want to be recovering from a c-section and be the only one in the house all night as well as all day. If he is home, don’t, don’t, don’t downplay this to him. For whatever reason, almost every woman I know who has had a c-section has had this thing where the dads don’t realize how out of it we are at first. I think there is some weird hormonal thing where after the baby is born we fake competence real hard, and they are distracted anyway, and they kind of forget that we just had surgery.

I should add that my c-section was NOT planned. I was 2 weeks late, then induced, finally ended up with a c-section after hours of labor and pushing… the baby’s head couldn’t get under the pelvic bone and she kept turning face-up.

I would think that a planned c-section would be better - the doctors are not in a terrible hurry with mother and baby in distress. That could make a big difference in recovery as well.

I had 2 C-sections. For the first one, I was 2 weeks overdue, induced and then had a C-section. I had trouble walking the next day. I was in the hospital for the 3-4 days and would have liked another day of quiet. I was just really tired and really in pain.

I was worried about the 2nd C-Section since I was older and in much worse shape (fitness wise). It was scheduled and MUCH easier. I was able to walk later that day and it didn’t hurt that much. With this one, I had to remember to slow down and heal. I don’ know for sure but I think the difference was the induction.

Good luck!

My husband is around–I just don’t think he really gets what’s coming our way. He is supportive, just a bit clued out right now. He will be able to do a lot of work from home but does usually have a number of face-to-face meetings every week that can’t be turned into conference calls…

That’s a really good point. Emergency c-sections are rougher, generally, because they’re often quicker. There’s a lot of pulling and tugging required to move the layers of skin and fat and muscle, and when you’re worried about the baby’s condition, the priority is “Get the baby out NOW”, not reducing trauma and bruising to the mother. I was rather glad they’d strapped me to the table and there were people standing all around, 'cause I would have ended up on the floor with all that tugging! My tugging may also have been greater than some, since my baby was only “half baked” - 23 weeks along - and so the uterus wasn’t as stretched and high up as a more ripe pregnancy. :slight_smile:

So yes, take anything you read with a grain of salt. Every body is different, every circumstance is different, every surgeon has a different level of skill and uses different techniques. Prepare to need lots of recovery and pampering, and enjoy it if you don’t. :slight_smile: