There are different aftereffects for a C-section, or Cesarean section, than with a vaginal birth. Since a C-section involves major surgery in which a doctor makes an incision in your abdomen to help deliver the baby, the recovery often takes longer and raises added complications. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, around 30 percent of American women gave birth by Cesarean section in 2005.
It will take about 4 to 6 weeks for the incision to heal. During this time you should avoid any strenuous activity other than light walking; avoid lifting objects heavier than your baby. Also, the incision will probably itch, but avoid scratching it as this can cause infection. Up to 10 percent of C-sections performed in the U.S. develop infection, either in the incision, in the uterus or in the urinary tract. Signs of infection are redness and swelling around the incision area and draining pus.
C-section incisions often cut through nerves in the abdomen, causing numbness in the skin around the incision. Most women recover with full sensation in a few months, though some women still have no feeling in the area around the incision for years afterward. Unfortunately, there is no medical way to regenerate the nerves in or around the incision.
A typical C-section incision is between 4 and 6 inches long and around 1/8 inch wide. After the surgery, the scar will be puffy and darker than your usual skin tone. Within 6 weeks the scar should begin to shrink and the color will lighten, and within 3 months it will likely be fully healed, leaving just a faint purple line. Because C-section incisions are made very low on the abdomen, your scar will probably be easily covered up by your underwear, bikini bottom or pubic hair.
Breast-feeding soon after a C-section can be a challenge. Because of fatigue and sensitivity around the area of the incision, you will likely need some extra time to recover before you feel like nursing your new baby. You also may find it hard to find a comfortable position to nurse your baby without straining or bumping the skin around the incision. Turning on your side to nurse can help alleviate the discomfort.
Antibiotics taken after the surgery to help kill off bacteria can cause an overgrowth of yeast in your body. For your new baby, the overgrowth can lead to a harmless and common yeast infection in the baby’s mouth known as thrush. For you, the overgrowth of yeast can lead to vaginal yeast infection and, if you are breast feeding a baby with thrush, painful and itchy nipples. A prescription from your doctor can cure yeast infections in a couple of days.