Your Recovery After a Cesarean Delivery

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1 Your Recovery After a Cesarean Delivery It is normal to have many questions about your care after delivery. Cesarean delivery is surgery and your body needs time to heal and recover for the next 6 weeks, also known as the postpartum period. Pain Control Pain is the most intense the first 2 to 3 days after surgery, and then it eases. Your doctor will order pain medicine for you. This medicine will keep you comfortable, but may not give total pain relief. Talk with your nurse about your pain. Ask for medicine before the pain becomes too strong. Intense pain may prevent you from breathing deeply, coughing, and walking which help with your recovery. About Your Recovery Your incision may be covered by a dressing that will be checked and changed as needed. It is often removed the 2nd day after delivery. You will be shown how to care for your incision before you go home. You will have compression wraps around your legs and feet to improve blood flow. The wraps are connected to an air-filled tube that expands and contracts your muscles. You will get fluids through an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm until you can drink the liquids you need. You will be able to eat solid food as soon as your condition is stable. Learn more about your health care. More on next page Copyright September 24, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Women and Infant Nursing - Upon request all patient education handouts are available in other formats for people with special hearing, vision and language needs, call (614)

2 Page 2 Your nurse will check your uterus to make sure it stays hard and firm. If your uterus becomes soft and spongy, vaginal bleeding may increase. Your nurse will massage the uterus with her hands to make it firm once again. Your nurse can help you locate your uterus and teach you how to massage it. Your uterus will return to pre-pregnancy size over the next few weeks. You will have vaginal bleeding called lochia the first few days like a heavy menstrual period. You also may pass small clots. The discharge will decrease daily and change from bright red and then clear over the next 2 to 4 weeks. If your lochia has turned bright red after turning brown or clear, call your obstetrician doctor right away. You will be given thick sanitary pads in the hospital for discharge. When going home continue to use sanitary pads not tampons, for discharge until after the postpartum check-up in 4 to 6 weeks. Perineal care is important to reduce infection and odor from discharge. Keep the area around your vagina and between the vagina and anus clean (peritoneal area). Your nurse will help you with perineal care. You will be given a plastic water bottle for perineal care. Gently spray water to clean the perineum after you use the bathroom. Let air dry or gently pat dry with toilet paper. Change your pad each time you use the bathroom and when it is full of blood. Wash your hands before and after cleaning. See the handout, Perineal Care after Delivery, for more information. About 6 to 8 hours after surgery, your nurse will help you to get up and out of bed. Have your nurse help you to prevent falls from feeling dizzy or light-headed. To get out of bed safely, dangle your legs over the side of the bed and move to a sitting position. You may be strong enough to walk to the bathroom to change your pad with help from your nurse. If you become dizzy or faint in the bathroom, pull the emergency call light on the bathroom wall for help. This is for your safety. Your nurse will let you know when you can walk around the halls. Walk in the hallways 3 to 4 times a day to build strength, help your body heal, and prevent problems from staying in bed.

3 Page 3 Your catheter, the tube used to remove urine from your bladder during surgery, will be removed 12 to 24 hours after delivery. Ask your nurse when you may take a shower. Take showers and not baths until after your 4 to 6 week postpartum check-up. Most women have common discomforts after cesarean delivery, such as after birth pains, sore breasts and constipation. The handout, Common Discomforts after Delivery, has more information on this topic and how to relieve them. In the next 3 to 5 days, your breasts will fill with milk, and they may leak. Your breasts can also become tender or sore. Sometimes, when they overfill with milk, your breasts may become firm and hard. This is known as engorgement. Talk to your health care provider about questions you have about breast care and how to treat engorgement. Activities for Your Cesarean Recovery After your Cesarean birth, you need to take an active part in getting better. Deep breathing and coughing helps to prevent breathing problems, and when you are ready, getting out of bed and walking will help with your strength and healing. Your doctor or nurse with talk to you about which activities are best for your recovery. Deep Breathing Have tissues and a trash bag close to you. Support your incision by placing the palms of your hands together across your abdomen. Interlock your fingers to help you take deep breaths. You may hold a pillow over the incision instead of your hands. Breathe in deeply through your nose and mouth. Your abdomen will rise as your lungs fill with air. Hold this breath for a few seconds. Purse your lips as if you were going to whistle. Let all the air out through your nose and mouth. Repeat the deep breathing exercise 12 to 15 more times. Cough after each group of five breaths.

4 Page 4 Coughing Breathe in and out fully. With your mouth open, take in a deep breath. Quickly give one or two strong coughs from deep in your lungs. Support your incision as you cough. Cover your mouth with a tissue as you cough. Collect any mucus that you cough up in the tissue. Breathing Exerciser Slide the pointer on the right side of the breathing exerciser to the volume level determined by your respiratory therapist or nurse. Keep the breathing exerciser in an upright position. You can hold it or put it on a table. Breathe out normally. Put the mouthpiece in your mouth. Form a tight seal around it with your lips. Breathe in slowly through the mouthpiece. This raises the piston in the clear chamber of the breathing exerciser. Continue to breathe in and try to raise the piston to the set volume level. Read the level of the volume at the top of the piston. When you are finished breathing in, hold your breath as long as you can. Remove the tube from your mouth and exhale. Let the piston return to the bottom of the chamber. Repeat the exercise 10 times every 1 to 2 hours, while awake. Try to cough up any mucus you have right after using the breathing exerciser.

5 Page 5 Active Body Movement Exercises Keep the side rails on your bed up. Use them to help you move from side to side and up and down in bed. To exercise the muscles in your lower legs and feet, pull your toes back toward you knees. Then point your toes toward the foot of the bed. Do this exercise five times every two hours. Wiggle your toes and fingers. Move your ankles and wrists around in circles. Do this exercise five times every two hours. Exercise your upper legs by making your thigh muscles tight and pressing your knees into the bed. Count to five and then relax. Do this exercise five times every two hours. Other Information Make an appointment the first week after leaving the hospital for a postpartum check-up in 4 to 6 weeks. Talk to your doctor if you need birth control. Call your doctor right away if you have: A fever over degrees F or 38 degrees C Any signs of infection at or near your incision: Redness Swelling Pain Heat Drainage Vaginal bleeding which returns to bright red after the lochia has turned brown or clear Talk to your doctor or others on your health care team if you have questions. You may ask for more written information from the Library for Health Information at (614) or

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