After caesarean birth

Women give birth to their babies in many ways. Caesarean section is the surgical birth of your baby through a cut in your abdominal wall and uterus, usually performed under a spinal anaesthetic (numbing injection in the back) but sometimes under general anaesthesia (asleep).

Monash Women’s supports women regardless of mode of birth.

Recognising that around one-third of Australian women overall will give birth by caesarean section either electively, due to health complications in the pregnancy for mother or baby, or due to complications in labour such as labour obstruction where your baby cannot fit through your pelvis, or where baby does not tolerate labour contractions, Monash Women’s understands the extra needs that come with surgical birth.

You can anticipate an extra night in hospital, and adequate pain control including additional stronger pain relief including a prescription to take when you get home and our understanding that you will need increased physical assistance with your baby particularly in the first 24 hours while your mobility is slower than a woman who has had a vaginal birth.

At home

Many women are worried about pain however generally speaking regular simple pain relievers (paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory) and as needed stronger pain killer is usually only required regularly in the first week after birth and ‘as needed’ after this time.

You can be reassured you will be able to move and care for your baby and if your pain does not allow this, medical review is recommended to assess why your pain is more significant than normal and exclude complications.

Your caesarean wound will have a dressing which can be removed at 3-7 days after birth. This is safe and decreases your chance of developing a skin reaction to the adhesive in the tape.

Most women will have skin stitches that are dissolvable, if you have a removable (blue, visible at the ends) stitch, this will be communicated clearly to you and this can be removed on around day 5-7 by your postnatal visit midwife or by your family doctor if you prefer. This is not painful.

The wound requires no additional special dressings, however, if you are prone to abnormally raised or thick scars, your caregiver may recommend additional measures including supportive taping or wound sheeting or creams.

It is safe to bathe normally with a caesarean wound, however, avoid scrubbing at the wound area as this can cause bleeding and pain. The skin may feel ‘different’ or numb as surgery temporarily affects the nerves to the skin in the area however this improves over time.

Keep your wound clean and dry after daily bathing or showering and make sure if it is in a fold of skin, this area is kept well dry and inspected with a mirror – this reduces your chance of infection. Seek assistance from your family doctor if there is redness, new pain or swelling, or you develop fever as these are signs of potential wound infection.

You can lift your baby and do normal light tasks but should avoid heavy lifting for 4-6 weeks to allow your abdominal wall to heal properly and reduce the chance of a hernia.

For further information, please visit our Health Information section and view fact sheet on ‘Going home after a caesarean section’.

Driving

It is a common misconception that women who have a caesarean birth cannot drive for a period of six weeks. This is safe advice but many women are physically safe to drive before this time – see your family doctor for confirmation that all is well before you do so.

Remember to consider a stroller in your lifting restrictions when out and about!

The next baby

Many women who have had a caesarean section are able to safely have a vaginal birth next time, this is particularly the case if your caesarean section was for a reason that was not related to your ability to labour such as a breech baby, or a baby that did not tolerate contractions well.

Please discuss your options with your caregiver. Overall, three quarters of women who attempt a vaginal birth will succeed – read more about birth after caesarean.

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