Stillbirth and Infant Loss (Cesarean Delivery): Care Instructions

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Overview

The loss of a baby can be hard. You may wonder why it happened. A loss can happen even in a pregnancy that had been going well.

In the weeks to come, try to take care of your physical and emotional needs. Take care of yourself in whatever way feels best.

After a cesarean section, or C-section, you may have some pain in your lower belly. You may need pain medicine. You can expect some vaginal bleeding for several weeks. You will probably need about 6 weeks for the pain to go away completely.

It's important to take it easy while the cut (incision) heals. While you recover, avoid heavy lifting, strenuous activities, and exercises that strain the belly muscles.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Taking care of your body

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia, constipation, and blood clots.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weightlifting, and aerobic exercise, for 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Until your doctor says it is okay, avoid heavy lifting.
  • Do not do sit-ups or other exercises that strain the belly muscles for 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Hold a pillow over your incision when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and decrease your pain.
  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Keep the incision clean and dry.
  • You may shower as usual. Pat the incision dry when you are done.
  • You will have some vaginal bleeding. Use sanitary pads until you stop bleeding. Using pads makes it easier to monitor your bleeding. Do not rinse your vagina with fluid (douche).
  • Talk to your doctor about how to ease discomfort from your milk coming in. It can take days to a few weeks for your milk to dry up.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take at least 6 weeks off work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
  • Talk to your doctor if you want to try to get pregnant soon. Your doctor can tell you when it is safe.
  • If you don't want to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about birth control. You can get pregnant even before your period returns.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Taking care of your emotional health

  • Rest whenever you can. Being tired can make it harder to cope with your emotions.
  • Tell your family and friends what they can do. You may want to spend time alone, or you may seek support from family, friends, or religious or spiritual groups.
  • Try to eat healthy foods, get some sleep, and get exercise (or just get outside) while you heal.
  • Talk to your doctor about how you are coping. The doctor will want to watch you for signs of depression. You may want to have counseling for support and to help you express your feelings.
  • Think about making a memory book of your pregnancy and baby. You may choose to take pictures and keep a lock of hair. The hospital may take photos or footprints for you.
  • If you can, try to talk to others who have gone through this loss. You can make connections online or in person. Here are some organizations that can help:
    • The Compassionate Friends: Go to www.compassionatefriends.org for this resource for people who have lost a child. The group can help put you in touch with one of its support groups in your area.
    • Share (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc.): This group at www.nationalshare.org can offer advice and connections to others who have lost a child.
    • The International Stillbirth Alliance: This group at www.stillbirthalliance.org offers information and resources.

When should you call for help?

Share this information with your partner, family, or a friend. They can help you watch for warning signs.

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have thoughts of harming yourself or another person.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
  • You have a seizure.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of hemorrhage (too much bleeding), such as:
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
    • Vaginal discharge that smells bad.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have signs of preeclampsia, such as:
    • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
    • New vision problems (such as dimness, blurring, or seeing spots).
    • A severe headache.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your vaginal bleeding isn't decreasing.
  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You are having problems with your breasts.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.