Tips for C-section Recovery
A C-section is major abdominal surgery therefore it is going to take time and patience to get back to your pre-pregnancy self. Having an emergency C-section (unplanned) after you have gone into labour can also take longer to recover from than an elective planned C-section. You need to be kind to yourself and your body mama, and accept lots of support and help from those around you. Once you get discharged home from hospital, the total recovery time can range anywhere between 6 weeks to three months postpartum.
As a lot of you will know, I had an emergency cesarean section - something I truly didn’t expect. After days of labour, I needed a c-section to get my daughter here safely, and for that, I will forever be grateful - however, it certainly wasn’t an easy process. Let’s look at some things that have helped me, and generally help mothers during this time.
Tips in the first week after a C-section:
- Getting out of bed and moving as soon as possible after your C-section will help your recovery. Gentle mobilisation in the early days also reduces your risk of blood clots, constipation and infection. Your midwife will help you get out of bed and shower the night after your C-section or the next day
- Ensure to take regular analgesia for pain. You will be given regular pain relief but make sure you ask your midwife for stronger ones when your pain increases. In the first week, you will need strong analgesia and then as the days and weeks go on you will decrease the amount you need. Continue to take simple analgesia such as paracetamol and ibuprofen for the weeks following your C-section
- Breastfeeding in those first few days can be more challenging when your wound is sore. Ask your midwife for assistance with feeding, and try the football hold or side-lying position, which can be more comfortable in the early days
- If you had a planned elective C-section, it can take an extra day or so for your breastmilk to come in. To help your breasts fill with milk promptly, do lots of skin to skin with baby and put your baby to the breast frequently in those first few days
- I know it is hard to rest when you have a newborn that needs to be fed often and wants lots of mummy cuddles, but rest is also important for your recovery. I recommend gently mobilising every 3 hours to feed bub and change your pad, and then lay down on a couch or bed between feeds and rest. This way, it gives you a good balance between regularly mobilising, attending to bubs needs and resting
- It is essential to keep hydrated postpartum and consume a healthy balanced diet. My Motherhood Hydration Powder is loaded with plant-based goodness to keep you nourished and you body hydrated. Hydration impacts your breastmilk supply, constipation and how you feel. This beautiful electrolyte filled powder is completely natural, designed by me (a midwife) and a naturopath and is Australian made. It's perfect for all stages of motherhood - start sipping in pregnancy and enjoy the benefits long into your postpartum. A high fibre diet is also recommended to get your bowels going post C-section
- It is normal to take a couple of days for your bowels to open for the first time after a C-section. Your midwife will ask you if your bowels have opened or not, and after 2-3 days they may recommend a stool softener or laxative to help get them moving. Strong opioid pain relief that is prescribed post C-section is very constipating so keep this in mind when you go home and continue to take laxatives if you need. Continue to sip on a few serves of the Motherhood Hydration, to help keep your bowels moving.
- Before you are discharged from hospital, a physiotherapist might visit to see how you are going, and assess your pelvic floor and rectus abdominal separation. They will provide you with information and exercises to do in the early postpartum period and then recommend a follow-up with a physiotherapist at around 6 weeks. I commenced the Empowered Motherhood program C-section recovery program early on in my recovery, which starts with important aspects like breathing, stretching and learning to engage your core again. I can highly recommend this amazing program and am still using it today. It commences from week 3 post-c-section and every week changes based on your body's healing and recovery. It’s created and led by a women's health physiotherapist who is an expert in this area (thank god because I had no idea what I could and couldn’t do properly!)
(You can use code: Bumpnbub10 for a discount).
Tips in the first month after a C-section:
- In the following weeks after you get home, you still need to take it easy, which can be hard when you see housework that needs doing or have another child to look after. In this first month, you really need to do the absolute minimum around the house and concentrate on yourself and your baby. If you have stairs at home, avoid going up and down them too often, so keep everything you need close to you to minimize overdoing it.
- Remember to not lift anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 weeks after your C-section. Not lifting anything heavy includes a full washing basket, a vacuum, grocery bags and your toddler. Ask your partner to do any of these heavy-lifting duties
- After having a C-section, you are at an increased risk of blood clots postpartum, so it is highly recommended to continue to wear your compression stockings at home for 6 weeks. Regularly moving will also help lower the risk of clots, and if you have any signs (redness, pain, swelling) of a clot, make sure you get it reviewed by a doctor
- It is normal to continue bleeding vaginally for 6 weeks, so remember to change your sanitary pads regularly and monitor your bleeding
- Make sure you also do things in the postpartum period that make you feel more like yourself; treat yourself to lunch out with a friend, put a face mask on, or wash your hair
- Ask for as much help and support as you need from those around you. Even if you want an hour to yourself to do something simple like the above, take that time out you deserve. If you don't have much support around you, get some meals delivered, hire a cleaner or a nanny to take the pressure off you during your recovery
Tips for beyond the first month after a C-section:
- Continue supporting your belly and wound, including slowly getting in and out of bed and bracing your stomach when coughing or sneezing. You can wear a belly support band or compression shorts/pants postpartum if you feel like you need that support throughout the day. I wore SRC recovery shorts, and it felt nice in the early days to hold everything together.
- It is crucial to avoid strenuous exercise until clearance by your doctor at 6-8 weeks. Every mama’s recovery is different, and it’s important to wait until your body is ready. Once you commence exercise - it’s important to honour your recovery and body that has been through a lot. I am still doing Empowered Mother courses (it covers the entire first year after birth), because I know they are expert-led, which is so important to me as I know my body is still recovering four months on. The program can be done anywhere, anytime which I love as Zadie normally joins me for them #obsessedwithmum. Be sure to use Bumpnbub10 if you join.
- Follow up with your GP or OB around 6 weeks postpartum or as they recommend. At this appointment, ensure to ask any questions you have regarding the C-section and your recovery. If your C-section was an emergency, I encourage you to debrief with your doctor at this check-up if you haven’t done so already. Your debrief should include any clarification you need as to why things happened and what the recommended mode of birth is for any future babies.
- Always seek medical advice if you are experiencing; redness, swelling or pus from the incision site, increased pain, a fever of more than 38°C, heavy vaginal bleeding, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or if you feel something is not right.
I hope this blog provides some insight into recovering from a c-section. Although we haven’t covered it in this blog (we will in another blog) there can also be a huge mental component to recovering from a c-section, especially an unplanned one. For me, this is something I am still working through almost four months on. Remember that there is help available if you found your birth to be traumatic and you are never alone in the process.