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What You Can Expect From C-Section Recovery

After your C-section surgery, your mind may be spinning with emotion, as any woman's does after giving birth. It's likely you'll want to focus all your mental energy on your baby, but you'll also be dealing with your physical C-section recovery. What can you expect following your surgery and after you arrive home with the newest member of your family?

Symptoms After Surgery

Immediately following the surgery, you'll likely be overwhelmed with grogginess and nausea, which can last up to two days. Many moms also report itchiness all over the body, especially if the doctor used anesthesia for the surgery. You can take medication to minimize these discomforts.

Postpartum pain may be significant, and to potentially reduce some of that pain, your anesthesiologist may choose to give you a painkiller, like morphine or Tylenol 3. Let your doctor and any other health care practitioner know if you are allergic to morphine or codeine, as well as whether you would prefer different options for pain relief. Your incision may also feel numb and sore, so try not to put any pressure on that area.

Other postpartum issues include enlarged breasts, mood swings, and vaginal discharge, which will be bright red during your first few days of recovery. You may also experience gas pains and bloating for the first couple of days. Get up and move around to help relieve some of this pain, or request an over-the-counter medication from your nurse.

Hospital Stay

Following your C-section, you will most likely stay in the hospital for two to four days. During your stay, you will be monitored for any complications during or after surgery. Within six to eight hours, you may be able to consume fluids and a light meal, per your doctor's recommendations.

Within 12 hours after your surgery, you'll have your IV and urinary catheter removed. With the help of your nurse, you should get up and walk around at least a couple of times the day after your surgery. Even though it may be difficult, walking is crucial to your recovery. Also, move your feet and ankles around to maintain proper blood flow through your legs.

You can expect your doctor to remove your sutures or staples after three or four days, which is a quick and usually painless procedure.

Recovery at Home

Going home does not mean your recovery period is over. At this time, you'll need a great deal of help, as you are still recovering from major abdominal surgery. You can expect to receive a prescription for painkillers for up to a week after surgery, then you will switch to over-the-counter pain relievers (although you should avoid aspirin if you're breastfeeding). Drink a steady flow of fluids to lessen constipation.

During this time, monitor your incision site for signs of infection, and contact your doctor immediately if you have any concerns. Your vaginal bleeding and discharge will continue for a few days, during which time it will transition from bright red to pink to yellow-white. It could last up to six weeks, so keep your doctor informed.

The most important thing to do during your C-section recovery is be cognizant of your body's changes and remain in contact with your doctor, especially if anything appears out of the ordinary. Know that much of what your body will go through is normal after a big surgery like this, and that there's no need to panic — just stay in touch with your family and medical team so no one worries and you can get help if you need it.

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