Understanding Cesarean Section Recovery: What to Expect After the Procedure

by Onward Physical Therapy | May 27, 2024 |
Understanding Cesarean Section Recovery: What to Expect After the Procedure

To start, congratulations, mama! Preparing for your baby’s arrival takes a lot of planning and preparation, ranging from registry lists to getting their room ready. Have you been told by your doctor, or elected to have a C-section? We’re here to help you answer some of the questions rolling through your brain. 

What is a Cesarean Section (C-Section)?

A cesarean section, commonly referred to as a C-Section, is a surgical procedure where a horizontal incision is made just above the pubic bone, through the abdominals, uterus and amniotic sac to deliver the baby. These are performed for a variety of reasons, such as the baby is in an unusual position, there are problems with the placenta, you’re having multiples, there is a health concern, or you’ve previously had a C-section. These procedures are safe with low rates of complications but do require a 2-4 day hospital stay afterwards.

How to Care for Your C-Section Incision

In the days following the procedure, you can expect to have tenderness and soreness in the area. You will want to monitor for things like a fever, increased redness around the scar, increased puffiness, and discolored drainage as these may be signs of infection and you should consult your doctor. In most cases, you are able to remove the wound dressing for showering and you can clean it by just letting the water run over it.  Avoid scrubbing the area. The typical time for the incision to heal is around 3 weeks, and follow ups with your doctor generally occur at 6 weeks. 

What Else to Expect During Your Recovery

Even though your baby was not delivered vaginally, you will still experience vaginal discharge that comes from the uterus and through the vagina. Also, know that it is common to have pelvic floor symptoms typically associated with a vaginal birth, such as heaviness, and weakness of the pelvic floor. Carrying a baby requires a lot of work from core and pelvic muscles so they’ll be recovering along with your incision as well. 

Additionally, most mothers are given a general guideline to not lift anything heavier than their infant until cleared by their doctor at their 6 week follow-up appointment. This can be an overwhelming thought, as infants in car seats are heavy and you may have other children at home that also need you to care for them. Communicating these needs with your partner is going to be crucial, but also know that a physical therapist who specializes in pregnancy and postpartum care has a variety of tips and tricks to assist you in navigating daily life and helping you build your core back. 

How to Speed Up Recovery from Your C-Section

If you are pregnant and have a planned C-section, working with a pelvic floor therapist who can assist you with making sure you go into your procedure with a strong core and pelvic floor can assist with recovery. The stronger you go into surgery, the stronger you come out!

If you’re finding this blog after you’ve already had your C section, PT can still be very helpful! A great time to see your pelvic floor PT is 2 weeks after delivery, when they can help you begin to reconnect with your abdominals and pelvic floor. This also helps you navigate that tender time between delivery and your 6 week doctor follow up.

Once the incision is healed, a PT can also assist with massage techniques to help the scar be less painful, prevent adhesions and reduce the appearance of the scar. Even if it’s been years since your procedure, these techniques can still be used to improve the mobility and sensitivity of your scar. Adhesions have been shown to impact muscle function, which is why this is important to manage. 

Extra tips: 
  • Get quality (we know quantity is low) sleep, adequate nutrition, and manage stress, as all are important for healing and recovery as well. 
  • One great item many moms appreciate having is C-section underwear which provide a little compression but rise above the scar line for increased comfort. 

Have additional questions or are interested in having an Onward Physical Therapist join you on your pregnancy or postpartum journey? Schedule an appointment or free phone consultation to discuss your options today!