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Catholic Health Obstetrician-Gynecologist Laura Sheridan-Kelchner, DO shares helpful information about preparing for and recovering from a cesarean section (C-section).

What is a C-section?

A cesarean section (C-section) is a type of delivery in which a baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's abdomen. There are several reasons why a C-section may be necessary for a delivery, including:

  • Fetal distress
  • Breech presentation
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Concern for the mother's or baby's health
  • Twin or multifetal gestation
  • A very large baby

These medical conditions do not automatically mean a C-section will be done, but may put a mother at a higher probability of it happening. 


How can a patient prepare for a C-section?

In the event a mother has a planned C-section, it will be important not to eat or drink anything for about eight hours prior to the planned procedure. Many times, however, a C-section is unplanned and occurs due to other safety issues that can arise during labor.

For vaginal and C-section delivery, it is important to bring comfortable, loose fitting and easily removable clothing. Avoiding tight clothes with low waist bands can be helpful. The essentials you will need for any wound care will be provided to you by the hospital. Many incisions are closed with a dissolving suture, but occasionally staples are used that are removed a few days after the delivery.

How can a patient optimize their recovery time after a C-section?

After a C-section, early mobility is important. It is very common to have feet and ankle swelling after the delivery. Moving can help get that extra fluid back into circulation. Movement also helps greatly with gas pain associated with abdominal surgery.

Taking Motrin and Tylenol at a timed interval is extremely helpful in limiting the need for stronger pain medications. These medications are safe for breastfeeding. An anesthesiologist also helps optimize pain control with various techniques to limit the amount of extra pain medication.

What is the average recovery time for a C-section?

After a C-section, a mother can expect to stay in the hospital between two and four days. It can take about six weeks to recover from the surgery. Most mothers feel well after a few days. Recovery is also dependent on the scenario that led to the C-section.

Mothers who labored for a day or two and ended up with a C-section during their active phase of labor can often experience a slightly harder recovery. 


What other helpful information should patients know about a C-section?

C-sections have become a more common mode of delivery in recent years. The decision to perform a C-section is never made lightly and will be discussed between a mother and her obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) in the event this surgery is, or becomes, necessary.

The goal is to deliver babies in the safest way possible. Mothers have become more high risk over the last 20 years, which has increased the likelihood of having a C-section. High risk factors that have increased include:

  • Maternal age
  • Hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Multifetal gestation

It is important to know that even without obvious risk factors, the time of delivery can become an emergency in a matter of seconds. Prioritizing the health of the mother and baby are of utmost consideration during all moments of labor. A C-section should never be seen as a failure. Giving life is a victory.

Learn more about our labor and delivery services.

Learn more about our women's health services.

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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