Last updated: February 10, 2020
Kate Killoran M.D.
Obstetrics & Gynecology
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Jessica had an unplanned c-section after her son’s heart rate began to fall during labor. A c-section was not part of her ideal birth plan, and she felt unprepared to recover from a major surgery while also learning how to care for her new baby.
“I felt like I was thrown into the wringer and didn’t know what to expect during recovery,” the first time mom explained.
While Jessica was focused on her son’s health during his first weeks of life, she didn’t realize that her own health was being compromised.
“It almost felt like someone had punched me really, really hard and I couldn’t stand up straight. I wanted to spend all day in bed but I was told that movement would speed up my recovery.”
“After a week I noticed that the pain started to get worse. My incision was red, tender and was leaking fluid. I knew I probably needed to see a doctor but I didn’t want to have to go to the doctor unnecessarily.”
Jessica contacted Your Doctors Online and was able to share her symptoms and a photo of her incision. The doctor on call advised her that her wound was infected and she needed antibiotics.
“The doctor also let me know that if I didn’t get the infection taken care of it could become much more severe possibly affecting my uterus and ovaries. I knew I needed to take this seriously.”
By being able to contact a doctor at the touch of a button from the comforts of home Jessica was able to get the medical advice that she needed with minimal effort.
“If I had to make an appointment and take the baby to the doctor’s office I would have probably just let it go,” Jessica said. “I needed to talk to a doctor but I really wasn’t willing or able to take my baby to a busy doctor’s office unless it was absolutely necessary.”
Your Doctor’s Advice: What to Expect During your C-Section Recovery
Most mothers spend the first few days to weeks after delivery focused on their newborn, getting to know them and caring for all their little one’s needs. It is also important to take care of yourself.
Your body has just been through a major surgery and even though you have a baby depending on you, your body needs time and self care to recover.
Best Practices for Care After a C-Section
Get plenty of rest: While you are caring for the needs of a new baby, it is also important to take the time to rest and recover. This means you need to prioritize your recovery over household chores, homemade meals or entertaining guests.
Ask for help: While many people may be anxious to come over and hold the baby, you may need to let well wishers know that what you really need is a hot meal or help with the laundry. Be sure to let your partner know what you need as well. The better you care for yourself and accept help that is offered, the better parent you will be able to be.
Take care of your incision: It is normal to experience pain after your c-section as well as bleeding and discharge for up to six weeks. It is important to keep the area clean and watch for signs of infection such as redness, discharge, or an increase in pain.
Managing your Pain after C-section
Every woman is unique and their body will heal differently, in general most women experience modest pain for about a week after their procedure and discomfort for about 6-8 weeks following their c-section.
Your doctor may prescribe medication for you after your c-section or you may be directed to take over the counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). It is important to only take the medications as recommended by your doctor and to let your doctor know if you are breastfeeding.
You can also use a hot water bottle to help manage your pain. Avoid carrying anything heavier than your baby, and doing strenuous exercises that could impact your ability to recover and heal. Be especially careful with movements that put strain on your abdominal muscles and limit going up and down stairs until you feel up to it.
Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore
It is important to go to your postpartum medical check ups even if you are feeling well. Your healthcare professional can check for signs of potentially serious complications that can occur after birth.
Your Doctors Online is available if issues come up between visits. A doctor on call is available to discuss your medical concerns 24 hours a day. However, it is still important to attend your regular postpartum visits.
It is also important to be on the lookout for signs of possible complications. These can include:
Extreme pain: While you can expect pain and discomfort after birth it is not normal to experience extreme pain.
Discharge or bleeding that is not getting better: While it is normal for the incision area to experience discharge or bleeding for the first six weeks, it is not normal for the bleeding or discharge to get worse. This can be a sign of infection.
Fever higher than 100.4: A fever is a sign that your body is fighting off a virus or bacteria that has caused an infection.
Pain while peeing: Pain or a burning sensation during urination after a c-section is not normal. This can often be coupled with pain in the lower back or side and needing to urinate frequently. These symptoms can be a sign of a UTI (urinary tract infection) a bladder infection or a kidney infection called pyelonephritis.
Chest pain and trouble breathing: These symptoms can indicate some very serious side effects that need medical attention right away such as fluid in the lungs or a pulmonary embolism (which is when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot)
Pain in breasts with new lumps or red streaks: These symptoms can indicate mastitis, which is a breast infection. This can happen if you miss a feeding, have engorged breasts or a blocked duct.
What to do if you are Experiencing these Symptoms
Speak to your healthcare provider. Small problems can become big problems if left untreated. For example, in some cases an infection can lead to sepsis, which is a potentially deadly response to an untreated infection.
Signs of Sepsis Include:
- heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
- a fever above 101ºF (38ºC) or a temperature below 96.8ºF (36ºC)
- breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
- probable or confirmed infection
If you suspect you could have sepsis, it is important to seek medical treatment immediately. If you feel your life could be in danger call 911 or visit your nearest hospital.
Postpartum Care can be Easy, Accessible and Affordable
While the early days and weeks with a new baby are challenging, it is important to take your postpartum care seriously. A c-section is a major surgery and while a speedy recovery would be ideal-it is not always possible. Your health needs to be a priority in order for you to be the best parent you can be.
With Your Doctors Online you are able to have a doctor in your pocket. As soon as new symptoms appear you can connect with a doctor right away to get medical direction and advice. You can rest and recover easier knowing you can connect with a doctor 24 hours a day.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Kate Killoran M.D.
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