Most women anticipate having a natural, vaginal delivery, however around 30% of childbirths are C-sections, both planned and unplanned. Although it was not the way I expected to deliver my babies, I went through it and can’t imagine it any other way.
I don’t know how it feels to have had my vagina stretched the size of a bowling ball, but I do know how it feels after having my skin, muscle, and fat cut open and slowly healed back together because I experienced it 3 times.
Either way, any form of childbirth requires recovery involving time and special care. It’s best to learn from both professionals and experienced moms about the tips and tricks to make the healing as manageable as possible.
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Tips for Postpartum C – section Recovery:
The recovery following a c-section may be difficult, but there are ways to manage it properly, leading to a faster healing process. As a momma who’s been there, here are my tips and advice on how to best care for yourself after a C-section.
Take it easy
As a mom, we try to take on everything, but it’s just not practical during your c-section recovery. Even if you feel good in the first week, don’t try to be supermom!
You’re recovering from invasive surgery and need all the rest and relaxation that you can get. Of course, that is hard while also caring for and learning everything about your new baby, but try your best.
- Don’t lift things heavier than your baby.
- Don’t stand or be active for more than 5-10 minute periods throughout the day.
- Limit any walking up and downstairs.
- Don’t drive, have sex, or exercise until your doctor clears you.
- Don’t feel the need to cook and clean the house- enlist help for those things.
If you overwork yourself during this time, you’ll just have a longer recovery and inevitably make it harder on yourself.
I made the mistake of over-doing it with my last baby and strained my vulnerable tummy. This caused me unnecessary pain lasting a few additional weeks.
Ask for help
It’s so important to get support from your family, partner, and friends for all the necessary daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, driving, and even carrying the baby.
So order take-out, get help with cleaning, or have a friend spend time with your baby to catch up on sleep. Do what you need for yourself to recuperate.
None of us can do it alone so hopefully, you have close family or friends that are willing to lend a hand.
Also, watch out for signs of postpartum depression, and don’t ignore it. Speak to your doctor if you feel any differently with your mental health.
You’ll probably feel like you don’t want to get out of bed all day. I totally get it.
However, easy walking decreases your risk for blood clots which can be prevalent in c-section recovery. It also helps to get your bowels moving and the increased blood flow will give your body the strength it needs to heal faster.
Take care of your incision
Treat your incision like any other open wound you would have from a surgery or injury. It needs to be covered and kept clean to decrease the chance of infection, speed up healing time, and reduce scarring.
Make sure the doctors and nurses give you specific orders for the care of your incision. Ask the hospital for extra dressing supplies. Your incision may ooze for a week or two after delivery, so you will want to change the dressing daily.
Keep the area dry and clean. You should not soak your incision until it is completely closed over after a few weeks, so baths are not advised. However, you can shower and dab your wound dry after.
Don’t use any cleansing products with fragrance or other chemicals. Soap and water will cleanse it just fine.
Apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection. Once the incision is closed, vitamin E oil has been shown to help minimize scarring, so you may want to rub a bit of that over it several times a day.
Watch for signs of infection: pus, redness, inflammation, and increased pain will need to be addressed by your physician.
Take care of yourself
Postpartum is rough enough without having to manage the care of an incision. Make sure you are giving yourself some self-care by caring for your mind and body.
Show it love and you’ll enjoy this challenging, wonderful, fleeting stage so much more.
Hot showers, healthy foods, favorite snacks, warm socks, manicures, and a soft blanket are just a few of my favorite ways to relax and care for myself during this difficult time.
Read about my experience with miscarriage here.
C – Section Recovery Items You Will Need:
You’ll want to be prepared for your recovery time with a postpartum recovery kit BEFORE you deliver the baby.
Of course, you may be one of those women who had an unexpected c-section so gathering items beforehand may not be part of your plan. However, some of the items may be the same as with a natural delivery so you can be somewhat prepared.
Here are some key items to have on hand or gather up during recovery time. Some may be offered for free from your physician or hospital so just make sure you ask.
C-sections are common, but don’t dismiss the fact that you have been cut through 7 layers of tissue.
Any actions that involve the muscles of the abdomen will cause pain. This includes laughing, coughing, sneezing, straining, stretching, sitting up, literally most motions will cause immense pain.
Luckily, the pain can be managed with medication. Your doctor will prescribe what is necessary for your pain level.
Try to wean off of any narcotics as soon as possible, but use them if prescribed unless you can handle the pain with other forms of NSAIDs. Supplement with ibuprofen until you can manage without pain meds.
Surgery and pain-killers slow down the bowels, leading to constipation and overall discomfort while producing a bowel movement. Going #2 after abdominal surgery is painful, there’s no getting past that, but you can help it along by softening your stool and drinking lots of water.
Your doctor may give you a prescription for a stool softener, but really any generic one will do. Take it as often as directed and don’t just wait until you have severe pain from constipation.
An abdominal binder is meant to assist with keeping your incision closed and give your abdominal muscles the support they need as they heal. It lessens the pain of your sore tummy, especially when you move.
The hospital may provide them so if they don’t give it to you, be sure to ask.
I prepared before birth by getting some cute sweats and pajamas that were comfortable to lounge in. You won’t want tight clothes on your incision and your tummy will take time to fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes (unless you’re extremely lucky).
If breastfeeding, you’ll want clothes that you can easily unfasten or remove for quick feedings, as well. You may not feel particularly pretty after having a baby, but you may as well be comfortable.
Mesh panties and liners
The mesh panties they give you in the hospital? They are stretchy and comfortable and C-section patients get those too. Despite their hideous appearance, they are so awesome.
They hold your dressings in place so you don’t need tape, as well as the huge pads for bleeding. Be sure to grab a few extra pairs at the hospital too because they don’t mind you taking as many as you need.
I didn’t get enough of them last time and had to order from Amazon (they aren’t as cheap as you would think).
You will also need a bunch of heavy-overnight pads to contain the bleeding. C-sections will bleed post-birth just as much as vaginal.
This is because the bleeding comes from the wound the placenta leaves behind and not anything to do with how the baby comes out. Bleeding (called lochia) lasts anywhere from 2-6 weeks.
Tampons aren’t allowed for 6 weeks, even for C-section patients.
Nursing bras and Pads
If breastfeeding, you’ll want comfortable nursing bras. I opted for ones without wires to sleep and lounge in because you’ll be doing more of that than anything else. I chose 1 or 2 better, more supportive ones, as well, for being out of the house.
Your breasts will change in size and shape as milk production adjusts for the amount your baby needs. Because of this, I wouldn’t spend a lot on new nursing bras.
Your breasts may be huge in the first few weeks while they become engorged and your milk comes in, but they will go down in size even while you’re still nursing.
If you have a lot of milk production, you may need nursing pads, as the milk will leak out of your nipples while you’re not feeding.
I’ve personally found that I like the reusable, bamboo nursing pads that you can wash. They are less wrinkly under shirts and more comfortable. Bamboo are my favorite. Many women don’t need to worry about nursing pads however. I guess you’ll just have to find out from experience.
. . . . .
C-section recover is not easy for many women. It definitely comes with some struggles, but the ‘glass half-full’ idea comes from having your precious, little newborn to remind you that it was all worth it.
Relax and enjoy these first few months with your little one because they will go by too fast. Good luck Mama. You’ve got this!
Feel free to read about my birth story here.
Courtney Bollwinkel is based out of Utah, a mom of 3 little ones, a registered nurse, storyteller, and lover of adventure. Check out her blog at Www.wanderwinkels.com