Much focus (understandably!) is put on your baby when you’re about to have a cesarean section whether it’s scheduled or emergency. Often women don’t consider what a c-section involves for them and how they’ll feel afterward. While I do cover c-section prep and typical procedural information in The Baby Nurse Bible, for now we’ll just cover the postpartum experience.
Once your baby is delivered it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete the procedure. During this time, as long as everything checks out with your baby, you can all begin bonding right away. Your partner can hold the baby while sitting in a chair next to you. When the surgery is finished you will be taken to a recovery area where you will stay for approximately two hours to be monitored and then you will be transported to a postpartum room. Your baby is likely to be with you the entire time unless he is taken to the nursery for an initial newborn assessment. Partners are usually welcome to accompany the baby to the nursery area.
So, what will you physically feel like after having a c-section? You’ll be tired and groggy immediately after the surgery from the anesthesia. You may even sleep for a few hours in the recovery room until you are stable and transported via stretcher to your postpartum room. Pain medications will be administered routinely during the first 24 to 48 hours to keep you comfortable. Expect a nurse to come in frequently to check your vital signs as well as your abdomen and incision. Your IV and Foley Catheter (to drain urine) will be left in for about 24 hours, but a nurse will show you how to move about in bed comfortably.
To promote recovery, within 8 to 24 hours after your surgery you should get up and walk around slowly for short periods at a time—your nurse will assist you. You will likely not feel like walking so soon after surgery but the sooner you do, the quicker you’ll feel like yourself again. (Walking helps to speed up the process of moving gas through the intestines). If you do a bit of moving around on day one after surgery, by day two you will feel more comfortable doing so. The hospital stay is usually three or four days depending on your insurance coverage. Your ability to get up and move around will get better each day but it does take between two and six weeks for a full recovery.
Keep in mind, in addition to the physicality of a c-section, you may feel emotional afterward and should seek the support of care providers or family. I also recommend reading and following Danielle Elwood, who recently put out a call for submissions for positive c-section stories in the name of “mothers supporting mothers.”