In the inevitable conversations about birth surrounding the arrival of a new baby, almost all new moms can expect to come across someone who has delivered their baby via c-section. Some doctors actually prefer to deliver babies surgically since they have almost complete control over the process . Others will only do the procedure if there is an emergency that warrants it. Breech presentations, distress of the baby during labor, or complications in the mother (such as high blood pressure) all are common reasons for c-sections.
A c-section is major abdominal surgery and the recovery from one is often more difficult than is the recovery from a normal vaginal birth. Since the incision is through the abdominal wall, the soreness in these core muscles can be the most aggravating part of the recovery. Within a few hours of the surgery, feeling starts to return to the lower part of the body, usually starting in the toes and working up. A new mom might have an air pumped pressure device on her calves during the first 24 hours to aid circulation and help to prevent blood clots. Often, a morphine drip was given intravenously during the surgery and the effects of the drug help to dull the soreness during the first 12-24 hours after the spinal block has worn off. After this, the nurses will usually offer a narcotic pain killer to help relax the muscles and dull the pain. Also, a catheter is inserted into the bladder before surgery and this will remain in for about 12 hours or until the mom is ready to get up. Although the removal of the catheter can give a moment of discomfort, the convenience of not needing to get up is well worth it! Following the removal of the catheter, a mom might find urination difficult for the first day or so, but this improves to almost normal within 3-5 days. Bowel movements, also, can take a few days to return, and can be a little difficult at first due to the extreme sensitivity of all the muscles used to exert pressure.
During the first day or two after the surgery, the patient should expect to find movement such as walking, getting up, sitting down, and rolling over in bed to be rather painful operations. A wheelchair can be handy during this time for getting more than a few feet from bed. The pain is not excruciating, by any means, but resembles the soreness someone might feel after doing about 10,000 sit-ups! The first post-operative shower might be the best experience the mom has in the hospital, but she should expect to need some help getting dressed since bending over can be difficult.
It is difficult to get much sleep in the hospital due to the constant ‘visits’ the staff make to check on the patient’s progress. Every few hours, nurses will check the patient’s body temperature and blood pressure, and will check the incision site and feel the abdomen to make sure the uterus is descending correctly. Additionally, there will be visits from the doctors, nursing students, residents, and, possibly, the pediatricians. Since, the mom is going to need as much rest as she can possibly get, it is generally a good idea to get home as soon as possible!
Once home, the mom can expect the soreness to be manageable, possibly with just an over-the-counter pain killer such as Ibuprofin. However, it may still be difficult to relax the muscles enough to rest comfortably for a couple of weeks. After 2 to 3 weeks, however, the soreness is significantly less, and by 4 to 6 weeks is nearly all gone except for right around the incision area. The doctor will probably schedule a post-operative visit a week or so after release from the hospital to remove any staples or protruding threads from the stitches.
After the first couple of weeks, the worst is over, and it is time to enjoy the new little miracle!