Recovering from a C-section can take longer on average than a vaginal delivery. It involves an epidural, an incision, sometimes full anesthesia - it's pretty much a full-fledged surgery. Therefore, the bounce back can be a little more challenging but it doesn’t have to be entirely too stressful. There are a few simple tricks that you can do day-to-day once you’ve gotten home from the hospital to ensure that you get a safe and speedy recovery after your surgery.
The first and easiest trick of all is simply to get lots of rest! Healing, whether from a vaginal birth or a C-section, takes time. While you will need to do a bit of physical activity to help you recover, which we’ll discuss later on, you will also be needing plenty of rest. This shouldn’t be too hard as you might feel a bit groggy after the procedure. It might take a day or two for you to regain most of your lower body strength.
Even after you get home, make the most of your maternity leave and sleep to your heart’s desire.
14 Eat Well
After the C-section, your health care providers are slowly going to ease you into eating again. They’ll probably give you mostly liquids at first, followed by soft food and so on until you can eat normally again. However, just because you can eat normally doesn’t mean you get a pass to stuff yourself full of junk food or even go immediately on a diet to lose your pregnancy weight.
Getting balanced nutrition is the key. You’ll want plenty of fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals. Look in particular for foods that are rich in iron and magnesium. You will also benefit from protein-rich foods, as your body will need protein to heal. Finally, you’ll also want to add in a good amount of fiber. Fiber can help improve your bowel movements, a boon considering that constipation is a common post-C-section problem.
13 Splint It
One thing you will want to avoid is excessive pressure over your C-section wound. Although your doctor will have stapled it in place, too much pressure can cause the wound to open up which, as you can imagine, isn’t pretty.
When you move or cough, you will therefore want to splint the wound. This is simply applying pressure over the wound with a pillow so that it stays securely in place. Some moms even find it useful to wear abdominal binders or compression underwear over their wound in order to maintain a good splint.
12 Morning Walks
After your surgery, unless you have some other complications, your health care providers are likely to recommend that you get up and walk as much as you can tolerate. Movement can help you recover faster, relieve gas pains and get your blood pumping, lowering your risk for blood clots.
When you get home, try to take early morning or late afternoon walks regularly. Morning walks are especially beneficial as you get a good dose of vitamin D from the sunlight as well. Choose a route and distance that you can tolerate and take things slow.
11 Keep Clean
It can feel like a lot of effort, at least at first, to get up and get a shower. But it’s really important to keep clean in order to prevent an infection and just to feel good. Check with your health care provider, but most women are able to take a shower a day or two after their C-section, as long as all strength has returned to their lower extremities. Trust us, you’ll feel like heaven once you’ve gotten all washed up!
Also, you’ll want to wash your hands frequently. This is especially if you’re going to handle the wound, for instance if you’re going to apply ointment or gel over it. You don’t want to introduce any harmful microbes onto it, after all!
10 Drink Lots of Water
Most women lose quite a lot of blood during C-sections. You will therefore want to keep yourself well-hydrated in order to replenish all those lost fluids. You can take water or even fruit juices, if you like, for as long as you keep your intake of sugary drinks to a minimum.
Drinking lots of fluids will help you feel more refreshed and energized, as it helps replenish your blood plasma. It can also help keep your blood from becoming too thick, which is a factor that could increase your risk for blood clots.
9 Scar Care
You will, of course, be keeping your scar clean during your daily shower. Just make sure not to scrub it. Baths, or anything that may involve soaking your incision in water, may also not be recommended for several weeks. Make sure that you pat the area dry after each shower.
You might also want to apply aloe vera gel, cocoa butter or vitamin E to hasten healing. If you want to apply a commercial cosmetic cream, however, make sure that you check with your doctor first, as certain creams can be absorbed by the body and may affect breastfeeding.
8 No Lifting
As a general rule, you should never lift anything heavier than your baby while you’re healing from your C-section. Lifting increases the pressure in your abdomen, which may cause that wound to open up. Because of this, you might want to skip your weight training exercises and that heavy-duty household work for now. If lifting is inevitable, go on and ask for help.
7 Pain Relief
Right after your C-section you’ll probably be given special medication in order to relieve post-operative pain. When you get home, your doctor may prescribe pain meds to help you handle the postpartum soreness. Take these pills as your doctor prescribed, to help you get some much-needed rest and exercise without doubling up in pain.
You might also want to try other forms of pain relief such as warm pads or cold compresses, making sure that you wrap them in a clean, dry piece of cloth before application. Wearing loose and comfortable clothing will also help keep the pain away.
6 Roll It
One handy trick is, when you’re getting up from bed, try rolling off and easing yourself up instead of sitting up. This is because sitting up puts a lot of pressure on your scar. Rolling over may be slower, but it’s much safer than jumping up immediately. Besides, you’ve already had plenty of practice while you were pregnant.
This can be hard to remember, especially if your baby is crying to be fed. However, it’s important to just take it slow to ensure that you get better quickly. And speaking of breastfeeding…
5 Breastfeeding Help
Moms post-C-section are less likely to continue breastfeeding for long, mostly due to pain. When you hold your baby in front of you, after all, it can put a strain on your surgical scar. The best position that is minimally painful can depend per woman. So it’s best if you consult a lactation consultant as early as possible to teach you positions and techniques that will make breastfeeding easier.
You may not be able to produce milk as fast as moms who have gone through vaginal birth, as the breastfeeding hormones may take time to kick in. In this case, just make sure that you nurse often. Again, a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group such as the La Leche League can help you out here.
You may also want to take supplements in order to speed up your recovery. Your doctor might prescribe iron supplements, to help you replenish your red blood cells. You might also want to take a probiotic supplement to help with your digestive system health and to relieve any gas pains.
You might want to try getting all your nutritional needs from a balanced diet, there may be times when you cannot get everything you need. In this case, supplements are an excellent way of making sure you get all the nutrients you need for a speedy recovery.
3 Do What You Love
Post-C-section recovery isn’t all about getting better physically. Just like any other mother, you just might get hit by the postpartum blues. Scientists believe that this could be because of the sudden hormonal changes in your body after pregnancy.
This is why it’s so important to just take the time and do the things you love. This could be something as simple as connecting with family and friends. Or it could be a hobby that you enjoy. Whatever it is, make sure that you take some time for yourself!
2 Get Help
One very important thing to do after childbirth is to get help! Whether it’s to help clean around the house, prepare meals or look after the baby, you’ll need as much of it as you can get! It’s even more important when you’ve just had a C-section, because your recovery time might be a bit longer and you will still not be able to do certain things shortly after surgery.
Whether this help is from your partner, family, friends or someone you’ve hired, you’re sure to find it a valuable way to get the rest you need to recover.
1 Look Out for Complications
Finally, keep a lookout for any complications of C-sections. If left untreated, complications such as infection and blood clots can make your recovery longer, more painful and even life-threatening.
Look out for symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, redness or purulent discharge at the surgical site and high fever. If you think you have something that you need to worry about, make sure to call your doctor immediately for treatment.