After a C-section - in the hospital

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Alternate Names

Cesarean section - in the hospital


Most women will remain in hospital for 2 - 3 days after a cesarean section. Take advantage of the time to bond with your new baby, get some rest, and receive some help with breastfeeding and caring for your baby.

What to Expect after a C-section

Right after surgery you may feel:

  • Groggy from any medicines you received
  • Nausea for the first day or so
  • Itchy, if you received narcotics in your epidural 

You will be brought to a recovery area right after surgery, where a nurse will:

  • Monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount of vaginal bleeding
  • Check to make sure your uterus is becoming firmer
  • Bring you to a hospital room once you are stable, where you will spend the next few days 

After the excitement of finally delivering and holding your baby, you may notice just how tired you are, like the way one probably feels after running a marathon.

Your belly will be painful at first, but it will improve a lot over 1 - 2 days.

Some women feel sad or an emotional letdown after delivery. These feelings are not uncommon. Don’t feel ashamed. Talk with your health care providers and partner.

Seeing and Caring for Your Baby

Breastfeeding can often begin in the recovery room right after surgery. The nurses can help you find the right position. Pain in your incision can may make it a little more difficult to become comfortable, but don't give up. The nurses can show you how to hold the baby so there is no pressure on your incision or abdomen. 

Holding and caring for your new infant is exciting, making up for the long journey of your pregnancy and the pain and discomfort of labor. Nurses and breastfeeding specialists are available to answer questions and help you. 

But also take advantage of the babysitting and room service the hospital provides for you. You are going home to both the joys of being a mother and the demands of caring for a newborn infant.


Between feeling exhausted after labor and managing the pain from the surgery, getting out of bed may seem like too big of a task.

Yet getting out of bed at least one or two times a day at first can help speed your recovery. It also decreases your chance of having blood clots and helps your bowels move.

But make sure someone is around to help you in case you get dizzy or weak. Plan on taking your walks soon after you have received some pain medicine.

Contractions and Bleeding

Once you deliver, the heavy contractions are over. But your uterus still needs to contract in order to shrink back towards its normal size and to prevent heavy bleeding. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus contract. These contractions maybe somewhat painful, but they are important 

As your uterus becomes firmer and smaller, you are less likely to have heavier bleeding. Blood flow should gradually become slower during your first day. You may notice a few smaller clots passing when the nurse presses on your uterus to check it.

Pain Relief

Your epidural, or spinal, catheter can also be used for pain relief after surgery. It may be left in for up to 24 hours after delivery.

If you did not have an epidural, you may receive pain medicines directly into your veins through an intravenous line (IV) after surgery.

  • This line runs through a pump that will be set to give you a certain amount of pain medicine.
  • Often, you can push a button to give yourself more pain relief when you need it.
  • This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA).

You will then be switched to pain pills that you take by mouth, or you may receive shots of medicine. It is okay to ask for pain medicines when you need it. Do not be shy.

What Else?

You will have a urinary (Foley) catheter in place right after surgery, but this will be removed on the first day after surgery

The area around your incision may be sore, numb, or both. Sutures or staples are usually removed around the second day, just before you leave the hospital. 

At first you may be asked to only eat ice chips or take sips of water, at least until your health care provider is certain you are not likely to have very heavy bleeding. Most likely, you will be able to eat a light diet 8 hours after your C-section.  


Berghella V, Landon MB. Cesarean delivery. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 20.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 9/19/2012
  • Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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