If you're scheduled for a C-section or might have an unexpected one, it can be nerve-wracking to think about what recovery will actually look like. I even had some feelings of loss after delivering this way and disappointment that this wasn't the birth experience I imagined. But however you bring a baby into this world is incredible.
Something that can get lost in the excitement of a new addition to the family is that a cesarean is a major surgery, and the subsequent 12 weeks are similar to healing from other surgeries.
The skin will heal first, but even though the wound is closed, tissue regeneration is happening below the surface. As moms, we'll be up and about caring for our newborn. But, consider this: If you had knee surgery, you wouldn't expect yourself to be "back to normal" a week or two later, right? But, C-section mamas usually focus on the baby, not the surgery
Unfortunately, this can have consequences for healing, such as wound stress, increased scarring (which can be painful for a longer time), more pain and a longer healing time.
But don't worry! There are a few tips that can help improve your C-section recovery from a mama who went through it.
1. Be gentle on your belly (and what you put into it!)
Post-delivery and for the first week or so, be careful what you eat. Because the surgery is in the digestive area, constipation is a real and uncomfortable problem that can last for weeks. Pain medications can also contribute to constipation.
Drink lots of liquids and eat soft and nutrient-rich foods (I celebrated with pizza on my second delivery and still regret it 11 years later!). Gradually return to a normal diet after your bathroom trips are easier.
Laxatives can cause cramping so be sure to discuss with your doctor or discharge nurse other options, such as Senokot type tablets that are made from trees and more gentle for most people. And, make sure to drink lots of fluids!
2. Prioritize laying down and getting off your feet
For the post C-section swelling, think of the pelvis as a bowl—it allows for the post-operative swelling and fluids to, well, pool. Getting off your feet and laying down for 10-15 minutes every one to two hours for the first two weeks can help this process.
Avoid waiting all morning to lay down, or just sitting down—you really need to lay all the way down, for short time periods, frequently. Snuggle up with your baby or your toddler, and look at it as extra time for love. Do what feels best as far as lying on your side or on your back, but as long as you are down, you are giving that "pool" a rest.
After that first week or two, the pelvis is STILL a pool. You'll be feeling better so you may try to be on your feet all day which may leave you with what looks like a hot dog bun of swelling around your C-section incision.
Limit this swelling by lying down before it happens even a few weeks after surgery. Swelling can be expected for 12 weeks. Make an effort to get off your feet and give your lower pelvic region a break, even if that means asking your village to help.
3. Choose your undies + clothing wisely
C-sections are common and many moms find themselves unprepared with the right items for their recovery after birth. If you've recently given birth and are transitioning from maternity clothes to postpartum clothes, you'll want to consider a few things first:
- Is the material breathable?
- Does it offer compression or support?
- Do I already have this item in my maternity clothes selection?
- Can I breastfeed easily in this?
- Does it have buttons or extra latches or devices that I'll have to fiddle with?
- How easy is it to throw on if I'm breastfeeding and need to open the door for a delivery or visitor?
As your body begins to heal, be sure to give yourself grace and buy quality postpartum clothes to wear after a C-section that will help with your recovery. Prioritize compression and comfort so it doesn't irritate your incision, but provides enough support for your belly.
Giving birth has often been likened to running a marathon. It's a long, difficult process and your body will need the proper items and time for recovery. As you heal from birth, whether it was vaginal or via a cesarean, know that you are amazing! You've grown and birthed a human!