The First Week After a Cesarean, What to Expect

the first week after a cesarean birth jax, fl

The First Week After a Cesarean, What to Expect

When you’re preparing for birth, learning about what to expect in the first week after a cesarean just makes sense. Whether you’re planning for a vaginal birth, or scheduling a cesarean this is information you’ll wish you knew if you need a cesarean. With 35% of mothers giving birth via cesarean in Florida alone you’d be better off to learn about it and not need it than to need it and not know.

In the first week after a cesarean birth, you’ll be sore.

I know, DUH! Really the soreness, discomfort, and pain you feel will last at least a couple of weeks. For most people it’s the better part of six weeks, sometimes longer. With each week becoming progressively less intense so long as you don’t have complications or setbacks.

Be sure you stay on top of your pain meds when you come home.

Even if you’re not big on taking medications. It’s better to stay on top of it than to try and reduce the pain once it has begun. Learn now how to get in and out of bed after a cesarean. Learn now breastfeeding positions that put less pressure and movement on your incision. Learning those things can help tremendously.

In the first week after a cesarean birth some trapped gas is normal.

After surgery there’s gas/air that can be trapped inside of the body. It’s nearly inevitable to prevent. With a c-section birth the pain from the trapped gas can be significant. You may not experience this. We hope you don’t. You could experience pain in the chest, shoulders, and in your back caused by trapped air. If you do it can be alarming. We often associate this type of pain with what we believe a heart attack feels like. Any pain that’s severe, intense, or alarming should be reported to your care providers right away. After all, they’re really the only ones who can rule out a true emergency.

Your Milk Can Take a Little Longer to Come In

Women go through many hormonal changes in the roughly 40 weeks they’re pregnant. Then, add the hormonal fluctuations we encounter during a cesarean birth and wowzers! It’s no wonder it can take our milk a little longer to come in after a cesarean birth. You can be proactive though.

  • Take a class that teaches you about breastfeeding.
  • Try to be around others who are breastfeeding.
  • Ask to see the lactation person at the hospital as soon as possible.
  • Get skin-to-skin and nurse your baby as much as possible.
  • Ask for a hospital grade breast pump if you and your baby are separated for any amount of time. Use your own pump until they bring one.
  • Find a great IBCLC, CLC’s are great too, but IBCLC’s are the experts in breastfeeding.
    • check their website:
      • Do you feel a supported vibe?
        • Find out about their process:
          • Ask when should you contact them to be seen in the first day or so after coming home. Will they come to the hospital?
          • What is the cost involved? (does insurance cover any part)?
          • what forms need to be completed (can any be completed ahead of time)?
          • Ask how they can help!

Limited walking and movement are recommended almost immediately after birth.

You’ll be expected to walk as soon as anesthesia wears off after your cesarean. Once you’re home you should be encouraged to walk a few times a day. For at least the first two weeks you’ll be told no lifting anything heavier than 10 lbs. (this means no carrying your baby in the car seat).

Also, doctors will usually recommend no stairs unless it is unavoidable. If unavoidable they’ll likely limit you to 1 flight of stairs 2x a day with someone to spot you the entire time. You should go slow, hold on to the railing, and take breaks as needed while navigating stairs. Pay close attention to how you feel. Sit down immediately with support from your stair buddy (your spotter) if you feel lightheaded or ill.

It’s usually recommended for you to walk periodically a few times a day. Definitely not even close to getting back to the normal amount of walking you did before you gave birth. However, getting out of bed to empty your bladder frequently is good. No climbing a hill to fetch a pail of water, Jill! No standing and cooking Jack a meal either. However, a walk to the faucet for a refill and to grab a muffin helps to get your blood circulating. It will also help with lymphatic drainage!

Safety first, always!

No matter how good you feel you should follow your Obstetrician’s instructions explicitely and wait for approval for all exercise! However some things, like breathing exercises are allowed and encouraged. While standing near or lying in your bed you can do non-strenuous, gentle movements that encourage blood flow and circulation. Things like ankle and shoulder rotations are generally considered safe. Avoid using full range of motion. Also avoid putting any strain on any muscles or ligaments in your body. These gentle movements are essential to encourage healing and help to prevent harmful blood clots. Any signs of blood clots should be reported right away. Warning signs may include pain and warmth in one area of your leg. Another warning sign is one leg that is more swollen than the other. Your provider will give you a list of things to watch for!

You will be swollen.

In a cesarean birth you will be given a fair amount of IV fluids. Your body will need at least this first week or two to shed the extra fluids by urinating and sweating. YAY! One way to combat this is to increase your fluid intake. I know, I know, it seems counter intuitive to take in more fluids, but it helps. Watermelon, eggplant, garlic, cucumbers, and lemons are diuretics. Diuretics will help facilitate the removal of excess fluid in your system while helping you maintain hydration.

There’s vaginal bleeding, even with a cesarean birth.

After giving birth your uterus is shedding the rest of its lining, amniotic fluid, cervical mucus, and some bacteria. This process lasts a few weeks. Lochia rubra is the first stage of Lochia. It is dark or bright red for at around 3-5 days. Your flow will be heavy. You may pass smaller to medium clots. You’ll experience period like cramps, and soak one thick pad about every two to four hours. By the end of the first week your flow will be lighter in color and flow.

Now’s the time to schedule a visit with a pelvic floor therapist!

Your OBGYN is the expert in performing your cesarean birth. A pelvic floor therapist is your expert in everything pelvic floor! From incontinence, pain, prolapse, constipation, mechanics, to scar tissue and diastasis recti, they are the ones to see. We believe every woman should have access to a great pelvic floor therapist after they’ve given birth. Be proactive and research your options before birth if you can.

Caring for yourself means knowing when to ask for help!

There are experts here to help you in the first week after a cesarean and beyond. We help parents just like you navigate this time period and enjoy motherhood more! Having hands-ons help and access to resources and accurate advice without judgement makes all the difference in the world. The first week after a cesarean doesn’t have to wear you down to nothing! You can feel rested, supported, and be nourished and cared for! Not sure that one-on-one support is for you? Read our reviews! Still not sure? Our past clients are happy to take a call if you have questions for them!

Happy Birth & Parenting!

Elizabeth Luke