Children's Hospital Colorado

Postnatal Care for Mother and Baby

Cesarean Section

What You Should Know:

A cesarean section, or C-section, is when your baby is delivered through an incision in your abdomen.

After You Leave: 

Medicines:

  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • Stool softeners: This medicine makes it easier for you to have a bowel movement. You may need this medicine to treat or prevent constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician as directed: Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Rest: Rest as much as possible after you have your baby. Try to nap when he is asleep. Support your incision with a pillow when you feed him. Use the pillow for support when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. Ask for help with household chores until you feel better.

Exercise: Talk to your primary healthcare provider before you start to exercise. He will help find the best exercise plan for you. Start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Do not lift anything heavier than your baby until your primary healthcare provider says it is okay.

Wound care:When you are allowed to bathe, carefully wash the incision with soap and water. If you have a bandage, change it any time it gets wet or dirty. You may have thin strips of medical tape on your incision. You can bathe with these medical strips. They will start to peel and fall off in about 2 weeks. Do not pull them off. A hard ridge may form along your incision. The ridge may slowly go down as it heals. It is normal for the area around your incision to be numb after surgery. Feeling should return to the area in about a year.

Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your incision for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for 2 days.

Heat: Heat also helps decrease swelling and pain. Use a warm compress or heating pad. Dampen a washcloth or small towel with warm water and place in a plastic bag. Wrap a dry towel around the plastic bag to prevent burns. Place the warm compress or heating pad on your incision for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it.

Vaginal discharge: You will have vaginal discharge after delivery. The discharge is bright red the first 1 or 2 days after delivery, and then turns pink. The discharge becomes white or yellow by about day 10 after delivery. It is normal to have discharge on and off for 6 weeks after delivery. Use a sanitary pad rather than a tampon. This helps prevent a vaginal infection. The discharge should not have a bad smell.

Monthly period: You may start your monthly period 7 to 9 weeks after delivery. Your periods may be different than before you were pregnant. Mothers who breastfeed may start their periods even later. You may not get your period again until you stop breastfeeding. You can get pregnant while you are breastfeeding, even if you do not have a monthly period.

Do not have sex: Do not have sex until your primary care providers says it is okay. This is usually about 6 weeks after your C-section.

Mood changes: Mood changes are normal after delivery. Hormone changes, tiredness, and anxiety about being a parent can affect your mood. Talk to your primary healthcare provider if you feel depressed or are unable to care for yourself or your baby.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You feel depressed.
  • Your incision is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have bad-smelling discharge from your vagina.
  • You have red streaks, swelling, pain, and warmth in one or both of your lower legs.
  • You have questions or concerns about your C-section or how to care for your baby.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Blood soaks through the bandage on your incision.
  • You soak 1 vaginal pad in 1 hour for 2 hours in a row.
  • Your incision comes apart.
  • You feel like harming yourself or your baby.
  • You have sudden shortness of breath.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.

Copyright © 2012. Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Vaginal Delivery

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

A vaginal delivery occurs when your baby is born through your vagina (birth canal). There are three stages of labor that occur during a vaginal delivery. The first stage begins when you start having contractions, the tightening of your uterine (womb) muscles. The second stage begins when your baby enters your birth canal and ends when your baby is born. The third stage begins after your baby is born and ends when your placenta is delivered. The placenta provides oxygen and food to your baby during pregnancy.

Once your baby is born, you may be able to go home within 24 to 48 hours if there are no medical problems.

If you have had a Cesarean section (C-section) in the past, ask your caregiver about vaginal birth after C-section.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Take your medicine as directed:
Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

NSAIDs:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.

Follow-up visits:
Ask your caregiver when to return for a follow-up visit. Often, caregivers will want to see you six weeks after having your baby. Your caregiver may do a vaginal exam at your visit. Tell your caregiver if you are having any pain or other symptoms. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.

Activity:
After having a baby, you may be very tired. It is very important to get enough rest after having a baby. For a while after delivery, try to keep all activities short. You may be able to do some exercise soon after having your baby, such as walking. Kegel exercises may help your vaginal and rectal muscles heal faster. You can do Kegel exercises by tightening and relaxing the muscles around your vagina. Kegel exercises help make the muscles stronger, and may prevent gas and urine from leaking out. Talk with your caregiver before you start exercising. If you work outside the home, ask your caregiver when you can return to your job.

Breast care:
When your milk comes in, your breasts may feel full and hard. If you plan to breastfeed, ask caregivers to show you how to hold and breastfeed your baby. Ask caregivers for more information about how to care for your breasts even if you are not breastfeeding. Also ask your caregiver about breastfeeding while taking medicines.

Constipation:
Do not try to push the bowel movement out if it is too hard. High-fiber foods, extra liquids, and regular exercise can help you prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruit and bran. Prune juice and water are good liquids to drink. Regular exercise helps your digestive system work. You may also be told to take over-the-counter fiber and stool softener medicines. Take these items as directed.

Hemorrhoids:
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in or around your rectum. Pregnancy can cause hemorrhoids to stick out or swell. You may have rectal pain because of the hemorrhoids. Ask your caregiver about preventing and caring for hemorrhoids.

Perineal care:

  • Your perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. To help heal your perineum, keep the area as clean and dry as possible. This will also help prevent infection. You can wash the area gently with soap and water when you bathe or shower. Ask your caregiver about any special wound care needed if you had an episiotomy. An episiotomy is an incision (cut) in your perineum.
  • Your caregiver may suggest using sitz baths to help decrease your pain. During a sitz bath, you will sit in a bathtub filled with warm or cold water. A cold sitz bath may decrease your pain right away. To make a cold-water sitz bath, sit in slightly warm water and add ice cubes to the water. Stay in the sitz bath for 20-30 minutes, or as long as your caregiver suggests. Ask your caregiver for more information about sitz baths and other ways to decrease your pain.

Vaginal discharge:
You will have a vaginal discharge, called lochia, after your delivery. The lochia is bright red the first day or two after delivery. By the third or fourth day, the amount decreases, and it turns a red-brown color. About 7 to 14 days after having your baby, you may have a heavier flow of blood. Sometimes the color of the lochia changes to a yellow-white color and may have an odor (smell). You may need to wear a pad and change it many times each day. You may be able to use tampons if you can insert them without any problems. Caregivers may advise you not to use tampons at night time to lessen the risk of infection. It is normal to have lochia up to eight weeks after your baby is born.

Monthly periods:
Your period may start again within 7 to 12 weeks after your baby is born. If you are breastfeeding, it may take longer for your period to start again. You can still get pregnant again even though you do not have your monthly period. Talk with your caregiver about a birth control method that will be good for you if you do not want to get pregnant.

Mood changes:
Many new mothers have some kind of mood changes after delivering their baby. Some of these changes occur because of lack of sleep, hormone changes, and caring for a new baby. Some mood changes can be more serious, such as severe (very bad) postpartum depression (deep sadness). Talk with your caregiver if you feel unable to care for yourself or your baby after delivery.

Sexual activity:
You may need to avoid having sex for 6 to 7 weeks after having your baby. You may notice you have a decreased desire for sex or sex may be painful. Caregivers may suggest you use a vaginal lubricant (gel) to help make sex more comfortable for you.

CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your perineal pain does not go away, or gets worse.
  • Your skin between your vagina and rectum is swollen, warm, or red.
  • You have swollen, hard, or painful breasts.
  • You feel very sad or depressed.
  • You are leaking urine or bowel movements (BMs) or you are unable to have a BM.
  • You feel more tired than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your vaginal delivery, or having a new baby.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

  • You have sudden, large amounts of vaginal bleeding.
  • You have pus or yellow drainage coming from your vagina or wound.
  • You are urinating very little, or not at all.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.

Copyright © 2012. Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Baby Care

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