Waiting for your little one to come into this world can easily make a mother anxious, especially if it’s through a c-section during a pandemic. Although women hope for a blissful delivery, short, manageable and less painful, things don’t always go your way. If you’re having an elective c-section or maybe go through an unplanned, emergency c-section, remember that it is different from a vaginal delivery, in terms of your stay in the hospital after delivery, the process of birthing and recovery status.
There is no specific time period for you to stay at the hospital after a c-section as it depends on many conditions. You’re typically asked to stay in the hospital for 2 to 4 days, depending on how well the health of the mother and the baby is. Your stay might be extended if there are any complications like high blood pressure or an infection on the incision wound, or heavy bleeding or low blood sugar in the baby. You’ll be allowed to be discharged if you and your doctor are in agreement and reckons you to be healthy enough to go home. You should be able to walk to and fro, pass gas, urinate without a catheter, have normal blood pressure, and should be able to eat and drink without vomiting before you can go home. Make sure to keep your incision clean and dry; after washing the wound with water, pat dry the area. You should call your doctor if you have swelling and extreme calf pain, heavy bleeding, breathlessness or any other complications.
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What is a c-section?
A caesarean or a c-section is a major surgical procedure used to deliver a baby, which involves making an incision in the mother’s abdominal wall and the wall of the uterus. The incision is made 4 to 6 inches either vertically on the bikini line or horizontally from the abdomen to the pubic line. About 1/3rd of all babies born in the United States are via c-section.
C-sections are either planned by doctors in advance if there’s a risk to the baby or the mother if delivered vaginally or an emergency c-section while the mother is already in labor. There are some mothers who prefer having a c-section because they have a sense of control when their baby is born, reducing their anxiety about the delivery.
When does a C-section take place?
There are many reasons why your obstetrician may decide for an elective or unplanned c-section, such as:
- You previously had a c-section
- Your labor isn’t progressing
- You have a health condition like heart or brain condition, or high blood pressure
- You’re carrying multiple babies
- Your baby or babies are in abnormal position – breech or transverse
- Your baby is in distress
- If the placenta separates from the uterine wall too soon causing placenta abruption
- If your placenta blocks the opening of the cervix (placenta previa)
- If the umbilical cord slips and enters the birth canal before the baby
- If the baby’s head or body is too big to pass through the birth canal.
How long do I have to stay in the hospital after c-section
Compared to mothers who had a vaginal delivery, mothers after a c-section have to stay in the hospital longer. Considering you just had major abdominal surgery, you’ll have to stay in the hospital for 2 to 4 days after the delivery. Some mothers may get an early discharge if the doctor deems the mother and the baby to be perfectly alright.
If you just had a c-section, it will take a couple of hours before you get back feelings in your legs. The doctors and nurses will evaluate you and your baby’s health every day to check if any health risks are developed. After you get discharged, make sure you have a friend or family to drive you home or book a taxi.
When can you get discharged after a c-section?
- You can urinate without a catheter
- After the doctor deems you to be healthy, without any complication like heavy bleeding or high blood pressure
- You can walk to and fro
- You can pass gas
- After the baby has passed her first pee and poop in the hospital
- After the baby has had her tests done like the APGAR test, hearing test
- After your baby is registered to get a birth certificate.
Reasons you might have to stay longer in the hospital
- If the mother bleeds heavily after the delivery, like soaking up a sanitary pad or two in an hour
- If the mother’s blood pressure fluctuates due to loss of blood.
- If the baby has low blood sugar after birth which could have been triggered if the mother has gestational diabetes
- If the baby has developed any health complication which requires her to stay under observation in the hospital
- If the baby’s weight is less than 2 kg or 4 lbs
What to expect after a c-section?
After the delivery, you have to stay in the hospital for 2-4 days, but most moms fully recover after 4 to 6 weeks. You and your baby will be checked for any complication for the first few hours after delivery. After the surgery, you’ll be taken to the recovery room where you and your baby have skin-to-skin contact if your baby is healthy and has no complication.
1 day later
You’ll be encouraged to start walking within the first 12 hours after surgery, but don’t overexert yourself. This will help relieve gas buildup in the abdomen. You should even eat something light as soon as you’re able to. Doctors might give formula to your baby if your milk hasn’t come in; in case you weren’t in labor before the surgery.
2 days later
You’ll be able to walk and shower as usual, even though you’ll experience some pain at your incision. Your bowel movements may not be regular; this can be due to anxiety too. Your doctor may recommend a stool softener so that you don’t apply pressure.
3 days later
Your baby may be breastfeeding and will be getting colostrum which is considered as the golden liquid for babies.
1 week later
By this time, you might be discharged and are at your home. You’ll feel much better than before physically, but make sure not to exert yourself. Don’t lift anything that is heavier than your baby and as the saying goes- ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ should be followed. Don’t work or do any chores around the house if you have help. Rest is very essential for your healing.
6 weeks later
You’ll feel much better and will be able to do more activities around the house. You can start exercising lightly, but consult your doctor before you start.
How to take care of your c-section incision
After your delivery, your doctor or a nurse will tell you how to take care of the incision. You may have a waterproof dressing covering the incision. Dissolvable stitches on the wound will get absorbed once the wound gets healed; otherwise your doctor will remove them after a week. The major points you need to remember is-
- Keep the wound dry and clean
- If your doctor has used tape strips on your incision, then wait for it to fall off on their own
- Wash the incision carefully with water while taking a shower and pat the area dry instead of rubbing
- Wear comfortable and loose clothes and cotton pants that sit above the wound.
- Don’t use any cleaning product to clean the wound; this may slow the healing process
When should you consult your doctor?
You should see or call a doctor if:
- You have severe anxiety or depression
- You have a fever
- You bleed heavily after 4 days
- You have frequent headaches
- You experience uterine cramps
- You have difficulty while urinating
- Your incision is red and swollen
- Your incision is ruptured, or it bleeds, or pus comes out of the wound
- You have swollen legs or severe calf pain
- You experience shortness of breath
- You have thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
Thought of becoming a parent and caring for your child can be scary, and while you do everything for your baby, you often forget to take care of yourself. C-section is major surgery, and full recovery from it takes time, so give yourself a break from all the chores and activities and let your partner do things for you.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your family, friends, or health professionals. The more rested you are, the better caregiver you’ll be for your child. If you had no complications from your c-section and are planning to get pregnant again, you can have a vaginal delivery after c-section (VBAC).
So, relax and take it easy. Make sure to go for a leisure walk daily, and enjoy spending time with your little one.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid, you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.