Whether it's an emergency or part of your plan, a cesarean-section is a big deal. It's nothing short of major surgery.
"We're cutting through your skin, subcutaneous fat and muscle to reach the baby," said Dr. Jenny M. Jaque, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has delivered nearly 2,000 babies. "If you get a C-section, you can expect to spend three to four days in the hospital."
That means recovery will take time. But, if you take proper care of your body, you can heal while caring for your baby.
C-sections are becoming more prevalent. They are more likely with advanced maternal age, and since many women choose to build their careers before having kids, the numbers will continue to rise.
- Obstetrician-gynecologist Jenny Jaque
C-sections aren't easy. The side effects can include an infection for you and stress and trauma for your baby. It's also possible for your bladder and other organs to get nicked by the scalpel. Despite that, they aren't going away.
"C-sections are becoming more prevalent," Jaque said. "They are more likely with advanced maternal age, and since many women choose to build their careers before having kids, the numbers will continue to rise."
Jaque serves as an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She's also part of a three-woman practice called Health Goes Female.
Once you've delivered, Jaque says, the primary goal of your support staff will be to get you up and walking. You won't be released until you have a successful bowel movement. If you're healing well, toward the end of your stay your physician may remove some of the staples holding your incision together.
Jaque warns against lifting more than 20 pounds for four to six weeks after you go home . She also says you should wait six weeks before taking part in vigorous exercise.
In the beginning, take short walks to get your blood circulating and to build your strength. You and your family will be changing your dressing and monitoring for infection. If this isn't your first C-section, you might experience additional pain because of the need to cut through the old scar tissue. By week four, the healing is pretty much done.
Many women worry about those scars, but how you heal is up to your body, Jaque said. She tells new moms to "stay out of the direct sunlight" to help lessen scarring.
Ultimately, she says, it’s really important to give your body a rest after a C-section. "Breastfeeding is draining," she says. "Your body needs 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. This is not the time to go on a diet to get to your pre-baby weight. We want women walking -- not running marathons."
Fever, vaginal bleeding or secretions, pain that won't go away and shortness of breath are all signs of trouble following a C-section. See your doctor immediately.
The good news for women who really want to experience vaginal delivery (and who want to add to their family), Jaque says that even after two C-sections a natural birth is still possible.