A c-section is a major abdominal surgery and it will take time to recover. In addition to recovering from surgery, you also have a new baby to take care of. Don’t be surprised if you feel run down, tired, and in pain for a month to 6 weeks after your c-section.
Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine for you. There are two types of pain medicine used for a c-section recovery. I usually give my patients both. One is a narcotic such as Percocet, Norco, or Vicodin. The other is an anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen. They are very different medicines and each has a specific use.
The narcotic is good when the pain is very bad. I advise patients not to be afraid to take the narcotic. It is safe for you and the baby even if you are breast feeding. The narcotic has some side effects. It will cause constipation in most people. It can also make people feel “drugged” or “out of it”. It can also increase tiredness. For these reasons, it is smart to stop using the narcotics as soon as the pain level has decreased enough for the anti-inflammatory medication to sufficiently help your pain. Usually by 2 weeks after surgery, patients are done using the narcotic, but everyone is a bit different.
The anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen has fewer side effects then the narcotic medications, but it is not as strong. It is also safe for the mom and the baby even while breast feeding. It can cause gastritis or nausea, so take it with food. It does not cause constipation of tiredness. This is a great choice when the pain is not as severe. It can also be taken together with the narcotic when the pain is severe.
There are different ways the skin is closed. Staples are very popular. These will need to be removed by your doctor 3-7 days after your c-section. The skin can also be closed with dissolvable sutures that do not need to be removed. There is a special medical glue that can be used as well. Steri-Strips are often placed as well. They look like tape and are held to the skin with an adhesive. They may fall off on their own, which is fine. If not, they can be removed in about a week by either you or your doctor.
Don’t be afraid to get the incision wet. It is important to clean it well with soap and water every day to get the bacteria off of the incision site. This helps reduce the risk of infection. After the wound is cleaned, it should be dried thoroughly and then kept dry. Some patients use a blow drier to dry the incision. If the tummy goes over the wound a feminine pad can be put over the incision to help keep it dry.
The first two weeks can be rough, but things should start improving after that. Each day you will feel a little better. One day you may feel great and overdo it. Don’t be surprised if you have increased pain for the next couple of days. This is very common and does not cause any long term damage. By 6 weeks, you should be able to do most of your normal activities. At six weeks your incision will be strong enough that you won’t need to worry about injuring the wound.
You should not drive until you can slam on the breaks in an emergency, this is about 2 weeks for most people. You should not drive if you are taking narcotics, this is a DUI. You should avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for 4 weeks. Nothing in the vagina, no sex or tampons for 6 weeks.
There are some warning signs to watch for. If the wound turns red, gets hot to the touch, starts to drain pus, or becomes extremely tender, or if you develop a fever, you might have an infection. You should be seen right away. If there is an infection, prompt treatment can help avoid bigger complications.