Eating After a Cesarean: How soon is too soon?

Plate of Food

When I was a new nurse working on the post partum floor in 1994 mothers who had c/sections were not given solid food for at least 2 days after their surgery. We advanced them from ice chips, to clear liquids, to soft diets, and to regular diet slowly over the course of a few meals and as their bowel sounds returned.   This practice was done theoretically to help prevent various digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting, severe abdominal distention or an ileus.  Bowel sounds returned to normal and women were able to advance their diets, have bowel movements and go home within a reasonable amount of time.  I don’t remember many mothers with severe abdominal distention from gas. I don’t remember severe gas pain  (though women definitely complained of gas pains).  I don’t remember large amounts of nausea and vomiting and I certainly don’t remember any patients needing NG tubes.  The biggest complaint we heard was “Is this it?! Is this all I’m getting? I’m HUNGRY!”

Now… its been a long time and so my memory may be a little shaky but there is one thing I am certain of…. These days women who have c/sections are given regular food sometimes within a few hours after delivery and I DEFINLTEY see many more problems, vomiting, pain, distention, constipation, need for NG tubes than I ever saw before. With that in mind, I was very surprised to read an article from Reuters Health that said: “Early oral intake after cesarean section speeds recovery of gastrointestinal function and does not increase the risk of ileus and other gastrointestinal complications, the authors of a new systematic review conclude.”  The study this article makes reference to was published in the May issue of The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (The Green Journal)

The article goes on to say…  “On average, women in the early oral intake groups had return of bowel sounds 9.2 hours sooner than women in the delayed intake groups, while passage of flatus occurred 10 hours earlier and bowel evacuation occurred 14.6 hours earlier. Earlier intake was not associated with an increased risk of ileus symptoms, vomiting, nausea, abdominal distention, or diarrhea.

 “A neurogenic nonadrenergic pathway of postoperative ileus is activated during abdominal surgery and until three hours after surgery,” Dr. Chang said. “To avoid stimulating this neurogenic pathway, oral intake between six to eight hours after cesarean delivery is suggested. Both liquid diet and solid diet can be served as an ideal initial intake after cesarean delivery.”

SERIOUSLY?? I’m shocked! You can read the entire article from Rueters HERE This is definitely something for me to ponder. What do you think of this? Did you have a c/section?  When did you eat foods after your surgery? Do you care for post-c/section mothers? What do you tell them about eating and drinking after delivery?

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2 responses to “Eating After a Cesarean: How soon is too soon?

  1. Marianne Moore

    When we changed from restriction to feeding, we did NOT see more problems. What we saw were happier mothers who were fed as they were able. some common sense applies, I think- our AM sections would have a clear liquid or somewhat restricted lunch and regular dinner without difficulty.

    • Thanks Marianne for sharing your experience. This is what the research supports. Certainly common sense applies. And perhaps that’s the problem. So many places do a catch all for everything. i.e. NOBODY eats or EVERYBODY eats instead of doing an assessment and making a call based on clinical findings. Anywhoo… thank again for your comments!

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