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What to expect after a cesarean section

For a woman who delivers her baby via a cesarean section (C-section), recovery will be different than if she had a vaginal delivery, says Beth Smathers, RN, a mother/baby nurse at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. A woman may need to undergo a C-section if her health or the health of her baby is at risk.

C-section recovery

Because a C-section is a major surgery, the recovery process is longer than recovery from a traditional vaginal delivery. Most women need about four to six weeks to recover. This recovery period requires:

  • Limited physical activity
  • Not driving for the first few weeks
  • Not lifting anything heavier than the baby
  • Special care of the incision site

Post-surgery medication side effect: Constipation

There may also be side effects from the medications taken after a C-section. Pain medication, for example, may cause constipation. To lessen the symptoms of constipation:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Eat more fiber
  • Take a stool softener

“To help with all the side effects from a C-section, it’s very important – as soon as you’re able – to get up and walk,” she says.

Moving will help with soreness and bowel function.

Post-surgery medication side effect: Gas buildup

Because it may be hard to move after a C-section, many women experience gas buildup.  

“Gas discomfort is almost as uncomfortable as the incision itself,” says Smathers.

Try her tips to ease gas-related pain:

  • Walk around as much as you safely can
  • Consume warm liquids at every meal

What to expect at the hospital

“When you come to the hospital to have a delivery, if you should have to have a C-section delivery, our staff is well-trained and well-prepared to help you have the safest delivery possible,” says Smathers.

For more information on childbirth at Piedmont, visit Piedmont Women’s Services. For more women’s health advice, visit Living Better’s Women’s Health page.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


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