Giving birth is one of the most incredible and physically demanding experiences of your entire life. But the process doesn’t end once baby is born—it actually goes on for weeks after birth, generally while you are at home bonding with your baby.
We’re sure you (and everyone else) will be busy attending to the baby’s every need. And while that’s great, we also want to make sure that YOU are being taken care of as well.
As a midwife and mom, I’ve cared for thousands of women healing from childbirth. Here’s what you need to know to have the best possible postpartum recovery after a c-section (along with our favorite products to help the process)—
Women typically bleed for about 6 weeks after birth (check out our bleeding warning signs at the bottom of this article). The bleeding will start heavy and taper off over the course of a few weeks.
Pro tip- get some big pads or disposable underwear—sometimes a pad can bunch up and be uncomfortable, but the disposable undies don’t!
Your belly will still be larger-than-normal, for months to come
Be prepared for it. A swollen belly is completely normal as your uterus contracts back down to it’s pre-pregnancy size. And while were on the topic, you may experience some uncomfortable cramping (especially when you breastfeed) for the first few days. This is again, totally normal—and won’t last forever, we promise!
Pro tip- many cultures around the world practice belly binding, the art of wrapping fabric around a woman’s abdomen after she gives birth. This has nothing to do with “looking trim” and everything to do with comfort: many moms find that belly binding relieves back pain, helps with their posture and simply makes their midsection feel more secure—especially after a c-section.
Your breasts may be sore
Whether or not you are nursing, your breasts are probably pretty tender these days, as your body adjusts to milk production (and your new little suckling). This is not forever—you’ll feel better soon (but if you’re concerned, call a lactation consultant!)
Pro tip- breast gel pads and nipple ointment are AH-MA-ZING.
You may have hemorrhoids
Ah hemorroids, everyone’s favorite “congratulations on having a baby” gift. Whether you got them from pushing before a c-section was called, or simply from carrying around a growing baby, you now likely have them, and possible some discomfort from them.
Pro tip- Make sure you’re drinking lots of water and eating foods with fiber, so you don’t have to strain when you go to the bathroom (that makes hemorrhoids worse). If you are taking iron for anemia, know that it can cause some constipation, so ask your doctor for a stroll softener to go along with it. There are also pads and creams that do a great job relieving a lot of the discomfort.
It will take about 6 weeks for your incision to heal. You will probably have some pain, but you’ll be given pain medication to take at home.
Pro tip 1- Comfortable underwear is key. It can be hard to find underwear that doesn’t rub your incision. Thankfully, these lovely undies exist! UpSpring has created underwear specifically for you: they are high wasted so nothing rubs your incision, and they offer just enough support to keep your insides feeling secure.
Pro tip 2- Breastfeeding after a c-section can be tricky because it’s hard to get the baby positioned in a way that doesn’t put pressure on your incision. Nursing pillows can be especially helpful for you in this case. And, we like the squishier versions because you can slide them around to your side (again so there’s no pressure on your belly), and still be able to lean backwards comfortably against the pillow. Our favorite for c-section mamas is the Boppy.
C-Section recovery kit
What isn’t normal—
We hope your recovery is totally uneventful. But just in case, here are some big things to look out for, and if you do have them, call your doctor or midwife right away (even if it’s 2am)—
Multiple blood clots, or a blood clot that the size of a golf ball
Heavy bleeding that fills a pad in an hour or two
Lower belly tenderness
Redness or drainage at your incision site
Foul smelling or green/yellow vaginal discharge
A severe headache
Blurry or spotty vision
Feeling faint or dizzy
Sharp pain in an area of your body (usually the leg) accompanied by warmth, redness and hardness (ie- a blood clot)
Sharp or shooting breast pain, especially if accompanied by a hard spot, redness and/or a fever
Feeling very sad or anxious, disconnected from your baby, not enjoying life, feeling excessively tired or worrying about things often.*
*If you feel like you want to hurt yourself or the baby, you can call 9-1-1, or go to the nearest emergency room.