During a cesarean surgery, or a C-section, doctors surgically open a pregnant woman's lower abdominal region and her uterus to deliver a baby. Stalled labor, a large head, a drop in the baby’s heartbeat, baby positioning or umbilical cord complications are situations that may necessitate a C-section. Recovery takes longer than after a vaginal birth. Understanding why your legs may swell after a C-section and what to do about it may help prevent related health complications.
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Recovery and rest is key after a C-section. Most women stay in the hospital for three to four days after the operation to ensure that that they and their babies are both recovering well. C-sections increase your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot in one of the veins of your legs, the Mayo Clinic reports. Untreated blood clots may travel to your lungs, block your lung's arteries and cause death. While swelling may be one of the only symptoms of a blood clot, you may also experience tenderness, warmth and discoloration in one of or both of your legs. A lack of physical activity, common after surgery, also increases your risks of developing blood clots and poor circulation.
Post-surgery exercise for your legs, toes and feet while in bed may prevent swelling and clotting that occurs because of inactivity. The Drugs.com website recommends alternating lifting your legs and making large circles with your toes while bed-bound after a C-section; consult your doctor for approval and for other suggestions before performing any post-surgery exercise. Walking around your hospital room after receiving medical clearance will increase the circulation in your legs and may help prevent blood clots and swelling.
Your doctor may advise you to wear pneumatic boots after your C-section. Pneumatic boots are leggings or plastic boots that you wear over elastic wraps or pressure stockings. An air pump is attached to the boots; it constricts and releases different parts of the boots in an effort to push blood up through the legs, back to the heart and help prevent blood clots, Drugs.com explains.
Contact you doctor immediately if your legs start to swell while in the hospital or after you return home. Leg clots can be fatal and require immediate medical attention and intervention. Talk to your doctor before the surgery about your concerns and to learn more about the symptoms and risks of blood clots after a C-section.