You're back in your own home, own bed, and own PJs. Gone is that butt-less number you donned in the hospital. The hospital staff sent you on your way with post-op C-section instructions, but it seems someone forgot to give you tips to handle some less than pleasant problems.
What's a new mama to do? Turn to Mother Nature, of course! She has tons of tips and tricks up her sleeve to enhance your recovery and remedy common concerns, naturally.
Remember, reach out to your doctor or midwife with any concerns before trying these suggestions—you want to make sure that what you are experiencing is normal, and not something that needs medical attention.
Here are 8 natural C-section recovery remedies:
Get your fill of fiber and fluids
One of the most common complaints post C-section is constipation. The combo of a lack of movement, painkillers, antibiotics, and abdominal surgery gives rise to this uncomfortable problem. Fortunately, getting plenty of fiber and fluids can make it easier to move things along. Aim to drink plenty of water (about 8 glasses a day) and eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
My favorite fiber-rich foods to relieve constipation also lend extra tummy benefits from probiotics or mucilage (the gooey gel-like fluid found in some plants). Opt for foods like okra, oats, chia, and flax seeds. Their slippery texture will help soften your stool, making it easier to pass. Fermented veggies like raw sauerkraut or kimchi have probiotics that will get your microflora back in working order after your antibiotics knocked it out of whack.
Psst: One study also found that taking probiotics after giving birth also helped prevent postpartum depression and anxiety!
Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking water can help you replenish the fluids that you lost during delivery. But it can also help relieve constipation, which is good news since it is such a common problem and can cause pain by putting pressure on the incision.
Drink at least 8 cups of water per day. You can leave bottles and mason jars filled with water around the house as a reminder to stay hydrated. You can also sip on homemade fruit and vegetable smoothies made with water as the liquid base. They're a great source of fiber and water. Who doesn't love a twofer?
Give yourself a massage
Massages have long been used to prevent and reduce the appearance of C-section scars. They increase circulation, bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the suture site. They may also encourage skin regeneration and break up scar tissue—though there is no strong evidence to support this yet, so definitely chat with your provider first.
You'll want to wait four to six weeks before you massage the suture site, sooner if your provider okays it.
Gently massage the suture site with or without oil for five to ten minutes each day. If you opt for oil, tamanu and rosehip seed oil are great choices. You can also add anti-inflammatory and skin regenerating essential oils, like chamomile, lavender, or frankincense to your massage oil. Just make sure to dilute the essential oils properly: 10-12 drops of essential oils for every two tbsp (one oz) of oil will do.
Turn up the heat
Pain is an after effect of C-section. There's no getting around it, but heat is one way to ease it. Heat will relax your muscles, increase blood flow to the area and, because your nerves are relaying the feeling of warmth to your brain, will dampened the pain signal. You can apply heat with a hot water bottle, heating pad, or by taking a soak in a warm herbal bath—of course make sure the water isn't too hot. If it instantly makes your uncomfortable when the heat touches your skin, it is too hot.
There's conflicting information out there about how soon after your C-section you can take a bath. Go with what your provider tells you. Once you're cleared, go for it. Add a strongly brewed cup of chamomile or lavender tea to your bathwater for additional relaxing benefits.
Breathe in the sweet scent of essential oils
You may have thought the nausea was finally over, but nausea after a C-section is incredibly common. Blame it on constipation, abdominal bloating, surgery, and hormonal changes. One way to settle a queasy tummy is by engaging your sense of smell. Inhaling the pleasant aroma of essential oils is a great way to do that.
Peppermint, fennel, and ginger are anti-nausea go-tos. You can diffuse them, put a drop or two on a cotton round and waft it under your nose, or add a drop to a bowl of steaming hot water and breathe in the vapors. Make sure to only use these oils in a well ventilated room, away from your baby.
Eat nutrient-packed meals
Your body is in recovery mode. You just carried another human being around for months and had major surgery (seriously, you're my hero). It can use all the healthy building blocks it can get. While there's no magical food or nutrient that will heal you, your body needs a variety of foods and a variety of nutrients to replenish and rebuild. So choose protein-rich foods and plant-based options full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Here's a simple guide you can use to put together well-balanced meals. For each meal include:
- a colorful vegetable and/or fruit;
- a source of protein, animal or plant. Your call, both are great;
- some slow carbs. These are the whole food carbohydrate options with plenty of fiber like berries, quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
- a dollop of healthy fat. Include cubed avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, some nut butter, or choose a protein source that's also packing healthy fats like fish. Nuts, seeds and fatty fish are also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce swelling.
- flavor and health enhancers. Use herbs and spices in ample amounts.
Keep taking your prenatal vitamin
If you're not eating a variety of foods or don't feel up to eating full portions yet, you're probably not meeting all your nutrient needs. Your prenatals can help fill in the gaps in your current daily diet.
It contains iron, which you likely need after pregnancy and surgery to rebuild your blood cells. And let's not forget the zinc and vitamin C, both of which are very important nutrients for proper wound healing.
Get some rest
It's easier said than done, but it's essential. Rest, following any surgery or emotionally and physically taxing experience, allows your body to repair itself and keeps your immune system strong. Enlisting the help of your support group will free you up to focus on your baby and healing. Ask members of your community to handle errands and household tasks. And remember, rest doesn't always mean sleeping or taking a nap. What soothes and calms you? Do that. That's rest.
The tips above are effective tools to help you manage the most common post c-section concerns and recover as soon as possible, simply and naturally. But, if you're ever worried about anything you're experiencing or have questions about following any of the recommendations above, make sure to speak with your provider.