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What you need to know about a C-section:

A C-section, or cesarean section, is abdominal surgery to deliver your baby. A C-section may also be done if you are pregnant with more than 1 baby.

How to prepare for a C-section:

  • Your obstetrician will talk to you about how to prepare if you are having a planned C-section. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you had an allergic reaction to anesthesia or antibiotics. Antibiotics may be given an hour before surgery or right after it starts. Antibiotics help fight or prevent a bacterial infection. You may need tests for certain infections that can be passed to your baby, such as group B strep (GBS). If you are a GBS carrier or at increased risk, antibiotics help prevent your baby from being infected during the C-section.

What will happen during a C-section:

You will usually be given spinal anesthesia to numb you from the surgery area down. You may still feel pressure or pushing during the C-section, but you should not feel any pain. Your obstetrician will usually make an incision across your lower abdomen. He or she will gently pull your baby or babies out. Your incision will be closed with stitches or staples and covered with a bandage.

What will happen after a C-section:

  • You will be taken to a room to rest for about an hour after you deliver.
  • Do not get out of bed until healthcare providers say it is okay.
  • Call for a healthcare provider if you are holding your baby and start to feel tired. The provider can put him or her in a bassinet near you while you rest or sleep. This will help prevent an accidental drop or fall of your baby.

Risks of a C-section:

You may bleed more than expected or develop an infection. Your bladder or intestines may be injured during the procedure. You may get a blood clot in your leg. This may become life-threatening.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

Call your obstetrician if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding that fills 1 or more sanitary pads in 1 hour.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your incision is swollen, red, or draining pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about yourself or your baby.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

Wound care:

Carefully wash your incision wound with soap and water every day. Keep your wound clean and dry. Wear loose, comfortable clothes that do not rub against your wound. Ask about bathing and showering.

Limit activity as directed:

  • Ask when it is safe for you to drive, walk up stairs, lift heavy objects, and have sex.
  • Ask when it is okay to exercise, and what types of exercise to do. Start slowly and do more as you get stronger.

Drink liquids as directed:

Liquids help keep you hydrated after your procedure and decrease your risk for a blood clot. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Follow up with your obstetrician as directed:

You may need to return to have your stitches or staples removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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