Pregnancy is a period in which the body changes drastically over a relatively short period of time. After all, it may not look like a lot of work, but creating a baby in the womb is tough work! At this time, pregnancy hormones cause changes in the body that affect everything from mom’s thicker, shinier hair to her swollen feet. Which is why many moms often say that they cannot wait for the baby to be born so that everything can go on back to normal.
At least, that’s what they think will happen. The truth is that some of the changes in mom’s body may disappear after childbirth, but giving birth in itself is a whole new trigger for an entirely different transformation altogether. That is, mom inevitably changes after childbirth. But, depending on the circumstances of her childbirth these changes can vary.
Which is why we want to talk about C-section for a bit. C-section is decidedly an unnatural sort of childbirth. “Unnatural” does not, of course, mean that it’s necessarily bad. After all, many unnatural things, including C-section, have saved millions of lives ever since the dawn of modern medicine. But it also does mean that the body doesn’t quite adjust to it as easily as it would to a normal childbirth, when it is possible.
So to help moms out there know what other changes to expect after C-section, we’ve compiled this list of fifteen reasons why there’s no coming back to the pre-pregnancy state after the surgery.
15 Managing Expectations
One of the things that many moms have to deal with following a C-section is less physical, but more of a combination of intellectual and emotional. This is because many moms nowadays have their hearts set on having normal vaginal births. However, there are so many circumstances in which this is just not possible. Sure, we may be having disproportionately too many C-sections nowadays, but when mom’s and the baby’s lives could potentially be at danger, sometimes the moment just calls for it.
The period when the decision for a C-section is made is often done in a flurry. It isn’t until after the procedure that mom has time to think about the decision. This can, of course, be complicated by the fact that some people might give her a hard time for having a C-section versus a vaginal birth. As such, mom’s mind may be full of what ifs about what she could have done to increase her odds of having a vaginal delivery.
Post-C-section healing can take a relatively long time. In fact, in most cases it may even take longer than that of a vaginal delivery. After all, after a vaginal delivery, the body’s post-childbirth healing mechanisms kick in almost immediately and, if all goes right, repairs mom’s body within a month. With C-section, however, these mechanisms and more all have to work together to heal the decidedly unnatural wound on mom’s tummy. A C-section is, after all, a major surgery.
Typically it might take about six weeks, give or take, for moms to fully recover from a C-section. If there are any post-operative complications, it may even take longer than that. As such, mom will need plenty of time to rest after the procedure. If mom is working, she might want to take this in consideration when she’s planning on her maternity leave. It may also be worth looking up some of the things that she can do to hasten recovery.
13 Post-surgery Pain
Regular vaginal childbirth is painful, without a doubt. After all, mom could go through hours and hours of labor, not to mention the fact that a child passing through the vagina is absolutely no joke. A C-section, while relatively painless during the actual procedure has its own painful problems. For one thing, when the intraoperative pain meds lose their effect, mom will be experiencing pain around the operative site, especially when pressure is applied to it. This can make moving around very uncomfortable right after the procedure. As well, a small percentage of moms might experience painful spinal headaches, a complication of the epidural.
If the pain is particularly severe, mom may have to undergo postoperative pain management to help her get through the pain. This can make mom’s time at the hospital a bit longer compared to moms who have vaginal deliveries, even if they experience less pain initially.
12 Gas And Abdominal Bloating
Most anesthetics will slow down mom’s gastrointestinal system drastically. And since they will take some time to wear off, mom might have to suffer from a buildup of gas in the intestines and, thus, abdominal bloating after the procedure. And, as you may very well know, too much gas in the gastrointestinal system can be very painful.
Immediately after the procedure, mom will not be given the clear to eat anything until she begins to pass that gas. (This is why the nurse will regularly ask if mom has farted yet. It’s not funny. It’s a necessary measure for recovery.) This is because if she eats while her GI tract is still sluggish, food residue and gas will build up in the intestines, causing pain and possibly putting pressure on the recovering uterus. Initially, mom will only be allowed to sip liquids, and the diet will slowly transition to solid food as the effects of the anesthetic wears off.
All moms will have to get regular exercise post-childbirth in order to hasten recovery. This, however, is a bit more critical in those who have undergone a C-section. For one thing, a C-section is far more painful post-procedure and there isn’t a lot of incentive for mom to get up and take a morning walk or something. However, it is important to do this because it promotes good blood circulation and, therefore, healing. Studies do show that women who exercise regularly after childbirth generally heal faster than those who don’t.
As well, exercises done after a C-section may be a bit different from those after a vaginal delivery. After all, mom must take into consideration that some exercises may be a bit too hard on her still-healing wound. For instance, she will not be able to carry heavy weights or exercise for extended periods of time, as this can put too much strain on her post-operative site.
10 Wound Care
One important thing that mom and her family will have to learn following the C-section is proper wound care. Basically, it is important to keep the post-operative wound clean and dry. Any dirt that comes in contact with it potentially carries microorganisms that could cause an infection, something which could further delay healing or even trigger a dangerous evisceration. Moisture against the wound can, also promote skin irritation and the growth of these microorganisms. As such, mom will have to make sure to gently pat the area dry after she takes a shower. She will also have to dry it if she gets sweaty.
Depending on the type of dressing that the medical team places on the wound, mom might have to clean the area and change the dressing every so often. The nurses will likely teach mom as to how to do this before mom is discharged from the hospital.
9 Abdominal Support
One possible complication following the C-section is if the wound opens up. The term for post-operative stitches that break open is dehiscence, while a situation in which internal organs actually come out of the open wound is evisceration. As you might imagine, neither situation is pretty. As such, it’s important for mom to maintain support over her abdomen – a counter pressure, if you will – to avoid too much internal pressure from pushing against the wound.
Mom can do this by supporting the stitches any time she does something that might result in internal pressure, such as coughing or sneezing. She might also want to apply pressure with pillows, perhaps, against her stitches every time she moves. But one of the most effective ways in which to do this is to maintain an abdominal binder, especially during the first few weeks post-childbirth. This applies consistent pressure against the wound, although mom will have to be careful to keep it dry and free from sweat.
8 Doctors’ Appointments
Another thing that may be a bit different for moms who are post-C-section are their doctors’ appointments. Depending on their condition and any complications from the surgery, they may have to see the doctor a bit often. If all goes well, however, the doctor may just ask to see her at around four to six weeks post-childbirth to remove the stitches. She will then also assess the wound to see just how well it’s healing. Depending on what she sees, mom may need to take an antibiotic or put on a cream that can help out with wound repair.
During this time, mom may also want to bring up any concerns she has about recovery. Common problems during this period include breast pain, abdominal pain, headaches and incontinence. This way, the doctor will better be able to trace the causes of mom’s problems and address them appropriately. Of course, if mom feels like her symptoms warrant treatment before this time, she can schedule for an earlier appointment.
7 The Scar On The Outside
One of the most obvious markers that things will never be the same for the new mom after a C-section is that brand new scar on her belly. The exact kind of scar she has will depend on the circumstances of the surgery. Most moms nowadays will have the low transverse incision, also known as the bikini cut as the scar can be comfortably hidden under a bikini. A low vertical incision, however, might be done if the baby was in a position that made it difficult for her to be delivered through a low transverse cut.
The classical incision, which is similar to the low vertical incision, but is bigger and higher up in the tummy, used to be the standard surgical incision. However, it is now only reserved for emergency C-sections as it talks longer to heal. Many moms consider these a highlight of their body, a true battle scar of what they’ve gone through.
6 The Scar On The Inside
While mom may never forget the scar she wears on the outside, she might not appreciate its counterpart on the inside of the body. After all, the doctor had to cut through quite a number of layers to get to the baby. And it does make sense that some of those other layers might scar as well. These internal scars may also have lasting effects on mom, although she may not be fully aware of them.
For one thing, if the scarring on the uterine tissue is quite severe, there is a possibility that mom might have trouble getting pregnant again. This is because any fertilized eggs might have trouble implanting on the scar area. This is particularly for the larger classical incisions as they cover a bigger area in the uterus. In addition, any area where there is scar tissue will no longer be as flexible as before, and so if there is extreme pressure in this area, there is still a possibility it will open up. The chances are low, though, but it is still a possibility.
5 Considering Future Pregnancies
Because of the implications on scar tissue and other possible complications, C-sections do put a lot of weight on succeeding pregnancies. For one thing, doctors recommend moms to wait at least two years for post-C-section moms before getting pregnant again. This is to allow the incision to fully heal and lower the chances of evisceration and dehiscence. After all, the increasing pressure on the uterine tissue during pregnancy and childbirth can take a toll upon the relatively weak scar tissue.
However, there may be other reasons why mom might want to get pregnant before this time. This is especially if she has any fertility issues that might lower her odds of getting pregnant the longer she waits. If this is the case, make sure to talk with the doctor to discuss the measures to take to make it as safe as possible. Do note, also, that this will also decrease mom’s chance of having a vaginal birth after a C-section.
4 Comfy Breastfeeding Positions
Yet another thing that a mom post-C-section will have particular difficulty in is breastfeeding. Initially, she might not be able to breastfeed properly while she’s still groggy with the anesthesia. But mom’s breastfeeding troubles don’t end there. Her still-healing scar will make it painful for her and the baby to get into some of the classic breastfeeding positions. The cradle and the cross-over holds, for instance, require mom to hold the baby over her tummy, something which she won’t exactly be comfortable doing.
Fortunately, however, there are several alternatives. In the clutch or the football hold, mom tucks the baby under her arm like a football, supporting the little one’s body with pillows. This means no pressure on mom’s tummy and, therefore, no pain. The reclining position also allows mom to nurse the baby comfortably, while placing adequate support on her abdomen so that there is minimal pressure on it.
3 Looking Out For Complications
Although C-sections nowadays are far safer than they have ever been, they still do have a bit more complications associated with them. As such, it is extremely important to monitor for complications that might put mom’s life at risk all over again. For instance, post-C-section moms have a higher risk of experiencing postpartum hemorrhage. This is because, aside from the surgical incision, the uterus does not have much opportunity to contract and, therefore, some of the blood vessels might continue just bleeding out. She may also have a higher risk for postpartum infection, so look out for fever, redness at the surgical site, and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Also, given that mom will also have more exposure to medications to manage pain and bleeding, there is also an increased risk that she will have an adverse reaction to one or more of them. Make sure to inform the doctor of any symptoms experienced during this time so complications can be treated immediately.
2 The Baby
The very result of the C-section that will change mom’s life forever is, of course, the baby! No matter how mom wanted to give birth, nor how it actually ended up, it’s hard to deny that the little one will, regardless, have a huge impact on her life from now on! Granted, it’s going to be a bit tougher to take care of the baby after surgery. With the longer healing time, challenging breastfeeding and the pain, moms post-C-section will have to change up some of the “regular” baby care routines to make them more comfortable for her and, of course, easier on her surgical site.
Moms who have just had their first baby, in particular, might find that baby care is a steep learning curve that will require her full attention in the first few days, at least. But don’t lose heart! It does get easier as mom gets used to all the routines, although, admittedly, the sleep deprivation can build up!
1 The Blues
It’s important to remember that mom’s journey won’t exactly end with the C-section. In fact, it will have only just begun! For one thing, there is a possibility that mom might experience post-partum blues, or in some cases even depression, after giving birth. While both moms who have had a vaginal birth and those who have had a C-section are equally vulnerable to experiencing it, sometimes post-C-section moms do dwell on the trauma and circumstances of their childbirth, making the blues a bit worse. As such, it might be important to come into terms with the events of childbirth to help mom feel better about it.
Generally, however, postpartum blues and depression happen because the hormonal makeup after childbirth changes drastically. Pregnancy hormones drop shortly after the baby is born, while those involved in breastfeeding make their rise. This can put a toll on mom’s mood right after childbirth. This typically normalizes after a few weeks. However, those who are vulnerable may continue to experience it for a longer period of time. In this case, professional help may be needed.