Preventive Self Care After Cesarean Birth

Because your body is healing from both surgery and giving birth, any type of infection can be very serious for you. Preventing infection in your lungs, incision, uterus, and urinary tract is very important. Proper handwashing is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby to prevent infection.

Preventing infection of the uterus can help prevent hemorrhages. The most common cause for infection of the uterus is from germs that get into the uterus through the vagina.

To reduce the risk of infection of the uterus for the first 6 weeks:
• Don’t use any type of vaginal douche.
• Use only sanitary pads for the first 6 weeks, not tampons. Tampons keep the discharge inside the vagina and provide a place for germs to grow.
• Don’t have intercourse until all vaginal bleeding has stopped to allow yourself time to heal completely.

If you have pain or tenderness in your lower abdomen or a fever over 100.4° F, call your doctor.

To reduce the risk of urinary tract infection:

• Don’t hold it when you have to urinate. Holding it can lead to a urinary tract infection.
• Use proper perineal care (see page 4).

Urinary tract infections can lead to other problems and may occur on the 2nd or 3rd postpartum day. The signs of a urinary tract infection are:

• Feeling like you have to urinate often.
• Feeling like you won’t make it to the bathroom.
• Blood in your urine (see Tip 1).
• Pain or burning while you urinate.

If you have signs of a urinary tract infection, call your doctor.

Incision Care

For a cesarean birth, an incision is made in the skin of your abdomen. This incision can be side-to-side or up-and-down. The skin incision is closed with stitches or staples. The stitches on the inside—in your uterus—will dissolve.

Proper handwashing is the best thing you can do to prevent infection for you and your baby.Our skin protects our internal organs from infection. Once the skin is broken, such as with an incision, the risk of infection increases. Therefore, it is very important that you take proper care of your incision. Your stitches or staples may be removed before you go home from the hospital. If not, a home health nurse may come to your home to take them out, or your doctor may have you come into the office. After your stitches or staples are removed, you will have strips of adhesive tape across your incision for protection. These strips will fall off by themselves or wash off in the shower in about 5 to 7 days. Do not put ointment, creams, or oils on your incision until it heals completely. When you take a shower, do not let the water spray directly onto your incision; keep the spray above your incision or keep your back to the spray. Call your doctor if you notice swelling, drainage from your incision, warmth with redness or tenderness, or the skin separating.

Circulation Exercises

To heal itself and stop the bleeding, your body makes substances to clot your blood. Until your body has healing under control, you are at risk for blood clots in your legs and your lungs. You can reduce this risk by helping your blood circulate. In the hospital, the nurses reminded you to pedal your feet, draw circles with your toes, or get up and walk. Once you are at home, walking often and doing your leg exercises while you are sitting or lying down will help reduce this risk. Call your doctor if you have pain in your lower legs with warmth or redness, chest pain, or problems breathing.

Breathing Exercises

If you had general anesthesia during surgery, a machine breathed for you. After surgery, the tiny air sacs in your lungs must be expanded to prevent breathing problems and pneumonia. The nurses will remind you to do your breathing exercises while you are in the hospital. Once you get home, you will have to remember to do them. Take 5 to 10 deep breaths every hour and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, support your incision with your hands or by hugging a pillow and breathe out (exhale) until all of the air is out of your lungs.

Proper Hand Washing

Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after going to the bathroom or changing a sanitary pad. Proper handwashing is the best thing you can do to prevent infection for you and your baby.

The following are steps for proper handwashing.
1. Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds in warm water and with soap. Keep your fingertips pointed toward the bottom of the sink, and your hands lower than your elbows. This allows the soap, water, and germs to run down the drain, not down your arms.
2. Pay special attention to fingernails, between your fingers, and areas that look dirty.
3. Don’t touch anything while washing your hands.
4. Rinse your hands and wrists well, then dry them well with a clean towel.
5. Use the towel to turn off the water to keep germs from getting on to your clean hands.

Washing your hands every time you touch your baby will help protect your baby against infection. Always wash your hands before and after you handle your baby.

More About Self Care After Cesarean Birth

Introduction to Self-care After Cesarean Birth
Preventive Self Care
Perineal Care
Physical Changes and Healing
Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)
Breast Care
Activities and Healthy Exercise
Nutrition and Diet
Family Planning and Birth Control
Normal “Baby Blues” or Postpartum Depression
Your Postpartum Check-Up
Get as Much Rest as You Can
When to Call Your Doctor


Proper hand washing technique
Always wash your hands before you hold your baby.

Contracting and shrinking is how your uterus stops the bleeding. Holding urine in your bladder when you need to go can
keep the uterus from having enough room to contract and shrink as it should.

If you see blood in your urine during the first week, you may not be able to tell whether it is from your bladder, which may be a sign of a urinary tract infection, or from the uterus, which is from the lochia.


To find out where the blood is coming from, do a clean-catch urine specimen by standing astride the toilet, wiping off the area, spreading the labia with two fingers, and urinating into a clean cup. If there is blood in the cup, it is probably from your bladder.