How Do I Minimize Swelling after a C-Section?

It is common for women who undergo a c-section to experience swelling in the abdominal area and extremities after the procedure.
Swelling in the legs, feet and ankles after a c-section may be alleviated by elevating one's legs.
Drinking lots of water helps flush out excess fluid to reduce swelling after a c-section.
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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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You may be able to minimize swelling after a c-section by elevating your swollen extremities, wearing loose-fitting clothing, and drinking lots of water. If your abdominal area is swollen from gas, which is a typical side effect of having any type of abdominal surgery, you might be able to relieve some of that by walking around. It may be best to stay off of your swollen legs, ankles, and feet after a c-section because standing in one spot for long periods of time could make swelling in those areas worse. Even though water pills may be helpful for swelling as well, but you should take these only if your doctor advises it.

Swollen legs, feet, and ankles are common after the majority of c-sections, and the best way to deal with this may be to keep your legs elevated. Make sure that your legs are either at or above the same level as your heart so that the fluid can travel downward, away from the feet. You can elevate your feet for 20 minutes at a time, taking breaks to get up and walk around after each 20-minute elevation period. Mixing some movement in with elevating your feet may be helpful because the movement should get the excess fluid circulating throughout your body. Walking around might also help to get rid of abdominal gas buildup, which is a common problem after surgery.

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In addition to elevating your lower extremities, you should also try to avoid tight-fitting clothing if you want to avoid swelling after a c-section. Clothes that are too tight might make any swelling you have worse because the constriction of the clothes could negatively affect circulation. If you are experiencing postpartum swelling, you should wear loose shirts, pants, and shoes to prevent this problem. You may want to consider not wearing shoes or socks at all if you don't have to leave your home for any reason.

Another way to minimize swelling after a c-section is by drinking lots of water. The more water you take in, the more excess fluid you will likely flush out. You might end up having to make frequent trips to the bathroom as a result of doing this, but regular water intake should drastically improve your swelling. Even though it may be tempting, try to avoid taking any water pills to get rid of your swelling, particularly if you are breastfeeding, because the pills can reduce your milk supply. If you've just had a baby and are suffering from swelling after a c-section, ask your doctor if she would recommend water pills before taking them.

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anon354389
Post 3

For every woman out there dealing with swelling following a c-section delivery, in my case, I had zero swelling of any kind during the entire pregnancy, zip, none whatsoever.

It seems amazing to me that they don't warn you (at least not in my case) about possible post-surgical effects. I don't remember now how quickly the swelling began, but my legs ballooned to more than double their usual size. Actually I had some fluctuations, one day one leg was less swollen and the other one was more so, and then it would switch. The skin around my knees and ankles were stretched to their full limit by the fluid accumulation, preventing me from being able to bend more than the slightest amount. I was so uncomfortable, and quite frankly it was freaking me out. None of the medical staff had much to say about it other than it would go away, but no one would give me even a ballpark idea of how long it could last.

After five days, there was no sign of improvement and I felt somewhat desperate. But then, my very generous friend who is a certified manual lymphatic drainage therapist, from the Dr. Vodder School, came over and gave me a one-hour session. Within the next few hours of her finishing the treatment, I started peeing more and my legs went back at least 80 percent to how they normally are. I cannot even begin to express how thrilled I was, especially since I was also having breast feeding issues and needed all my strength and concentration to be put towards that hurdle.

Please, if you have access to a therapist and can afford it, it truly is efficient and it works well. It is light and relaxing to boot. Just make sure it is a Vodder trained therapist, because not all the lymphatic drainage out there is equal.

ElizaBennett
Post 2

@dfoster85 - Those are good tips. I started drinking water even before they unhooked my fluids, but that's something else--you want to get unhooked from your IV fluids as soon as possible. At my hospital, that meant showing them that I could get out of bed and eat a meal. Then I just drank, drank, drank. Every time a nurse or CNA came in my room, I asked them to bring me more water.

The key is to strike that balance between rest and moving around. Your body needs some movement to prevent constipation and bloating, but you also need to rest, rest, rest. Rest more than you think you need to!

dfoster85
Post 1

They will do some things at the hospital to help with your swelling, so don't fight them! For instance, when you are still in bed after your surgery, they will put these large cuffs on your legs, kind of like giant blood pressure cuffs. They inflate and deflate regularly to keep blood moving through your legs, which is important to keep the swelling down. Don't try to remove them or argue with your nurse! They may not be comfortable, but they work.

If you are expecting a c-section, or even if you aren't, bring a nice loose pair of slippers to the hospital. You won't want to walk around the hospital in your bare feet (yuck) and you might not be able to put your shoes on. (It's nice if it's summer and you can wear flip flops home.) Don't give yourself an excuse to hide in your room! Bring a a nice nightie or robe, too, so that again, you feel comfortable leaving your room to walk around and get that swelling out.

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