It’s pretty much common knowledge that women who undergo a C-section may take longer to recover than those who undergo a natural delivery. However, if you happen to have had a condition that required you to have a C-section, don’t despair. Just because the recovery time is longer doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can't do to help out.
In fact, from the minute that you exit that delivery room, there are many things that are within your power to boost your chances of a full recovery. And even if, because of circumstances out of your control, you experience complications, you can still detect them early enough so you can receive immediate treatment.
In this article, we’ve listed fifteen steps to a quick C-section recovery guide. We hope this can help you get through the post-C-section period stress-free!
15 Lots of Rest
Let’s start with you straight out of the recovery room and into your own hospital bed. There’s no getting around it: your job at this time is simply to get enough rest. This shouldn’t be too hard as your anesthesia will not have worn out yet. Your legs may be a bit wobbly still. Besides, you’ll be exhausted.
So at this point, you’ll want to get as much shuteye as possible! Over the next few months, you’ll also want to make sure that you get enough rest as possible - or at least as much as you can considering you're home with the baby and that means getting up whenever the baby is up. Just remember, your body repairs itself as you sleep, so this is vital to ensure that you get back to prime condition very soon! A great idea is to sleep when the baby is sleeping.
14 Breastfeed Early
You’ll also want to breastfeed as soon as possible. If you think you’re ready and your baby has not experienced any complications, you can usually ask for transient or permanent rooming in with your baby. Staying in the same room as your little one can, after all, encourage more frequent feeding and of course it will feel great to have your baby nearby.
This is important as breastmilk production may be a bit late to start in moms who undergo C-section due to the abrupt separation with the baby. Early feeding will stimulate milk production through your baby’s sucking. In addition, breastfeeding helps with the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can help your uterus heal faster.
13 Go Slow on Food
Initially, your gastrointestinal system will still be affected by the anesthesia. This means that your bowels will be too numb to allow anything to pass through. Because of this, you will probably be put on a liquid diet. You’ll probably want to stick with this if you don’t want to get any painful constipation at the end of your recovery period! Constipation and cramps don't sound like a good mix.
The nurse and midwives will be frequently checking if you’ve passed your gas after surgery. This may sound like an awkward question but it is important. Passing gas means that your bowels have recovered enough for you to go on a solid food diet. So fart away, mommies!
12 Take a Walk
About a day after your surgery, you will be encouraged to walk. Obviously, you won’t need to walk very long distances at this point. Walking around your hospital room will do. If it’s too painful to walk still, make sure to tell your health care providers. You may be given pain medication to help you out.
Walking helps exercise your abdominal and pelvic muscles. This increases blood circulation to those areas, speeding up recovery. Walking also helps prevent problems such as blood clots and constipation. Once you're home with the baby, don't shy away from going out for walks. It can not only help shed some extra baby weight you may be carrying around but it will help strengthen your abdominal muscles, which is always a good idea especially if you're thinking of eventually having baby #2 or #3.
11 No to Tampons
Even if you’re likely still bleeding out of your vagina at this point, tampons are a no-go. Menstrual cups may also be off limits. In fact, it will be about six weeks before your doctor may allow you to put them on. At this point in time, pads will be your best friend. If you're use to tampons it may be a little uncomfortable to switch over to pads, however lucky you can stay home for that time and be in sweats without anyone judging you.
This is because after childbirth, whether vaginal or through C-section, your cervix opens up to expel any remaining products of conception. This means that your still very sore uterus is open to bacteria or any other infectious agents that may find their way up there. Because of this, it’s a bad idea to shove anything up your vagina, temporarily introducing infection, at this point.
10 Monitor Discharge
Probably the most important thing you have to do while you’re still in the hospital after a C-section is to monitor the amount of discharge coming out of your vagina. This is because post-surgery you’re still at risk for hemorrhage, especially if your uterus doesn’t heal properly yet.
About two to four days after C-section, your blood will still be bright red. Make sure to inform the nurses and midwives about how many pads you’ve soaked so they can check whether you’re hemorrhaging or recovering properly. By the time you’re discharged from the hospital, your own discharge should be lighter, almost pinkish. So be sure to monitor it to ensure your recovery is going smooth.
9 Wound Care
Before you’re discharged from the hospital, your health care providers are going to teach you how to care for your wound properly while at home. The general idea behind the whole thing is that you should keep your wound clean and dry. You should be able to get the wound wet in the shower, as long as you take care to dry it up afterwards.
Also, you’ll be instructed to splint your wound with your hand or a pillow when doing things like getting up or coughing. This is because increased pressure inside your tummy could cause the wound to open up. Applying some counter-pressure prevents this, and also results in much less pain. Another good tip to help heal your wound is to wear loose fitting clothes. Tight tops and bottoms may irritate the site and you want to avoid that.
The bad news is that you’ll have to abstain from sex in the meantime. This is for the same reason that you’re not allowed to use tampons. Getting something up your vagina increases your risk of introducing microorganisms up there, which can cause a uterine infection and the last thing you want is to feel burning and pain on top of the c-section recovery pains.
In fact, you might not be able to have sex until your doctor gives you a go-signal. This is usually about four to six weeks after your surgery. At this time, your cervix will have closed back up again. If, however, you feel like doing it earlier than that, check with your doctor first.
7 Monitor the Wound
Once you’re out of the hospital and your discharges have turned white or clear, the main thing you’ll have to look out for is your wound. It will still have not healed completely yet, so you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t open up or get infected. Make sure to take a good look at it every day to make sure nothing bad is happening.
You will obviously be able to tell when your wound is beginning to open up. However, you should also look out for redness, pain and pus over your C-section site. This may be accompanied by a high fever or foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Be sure to contact your doctor immediately at any sight of possible infection.
While you’ll still need plenty of rest even when you get home, it’s also important to get enough exercise as well. Obviously, you won’t be able to do intense exercise until your wound has fully healed yet. However, you’ll still want to do lightweight and appropriate exercises such as walking, yoga or even a dance class.
You might also want to continue with some of your prenatal exercises, such as Kegels. These can be done anywhere and any time. Make sure to check with your doctor as to which ones are safe at this point. These exercises are important as they help you heal up faster after C-section. As an added bonus, they can also lift your mood!
5 Don’t Lift
Speaking of lifting, there are only two things you’re allowed to lift after childbirth. The first is, of course, your mood. The second is your baby, or anything lighter than your baby. Anything heavier than your baby is off limits at this point. This is because lifting can result in increased pressure inside your tummy, which as you know by now, can cause problems.
If you work somewhere that requires heavy lifting, make sure to tell your boss that you’re not allowed to. If possible, get help from family, friends, coworkers ad your partner if you need to carry anything. Obviously, exercise in the form of weightlifting is off limits!
4 Eat Well
After a C-section, and even vaginal childbirth, for that matter, your body will require just the right amounts of nutrients to get better. You will need carbohydrates for energy, of course. You’ll also require adequate amounts of proteins and fats, which are particularly important in the healing of your abdominal muscles.
In addition, you’ll still need to take essential vitamins and minerals, which your body needs to recover. Ideally, you’ll be able to get most of this from your diet. However, your doctor may also prescribe a supplement to help you out. Some more incentive to eat clean and healthy is if you are breastfeeding. What you eat can affect your breastmilk. So the healthier you are. the healthier your baby is.
3 Drink Well
One thing just as important as eating well is drinking well. You will have lost far more body fluids with a C-section than you would have with a vaginal birth. It’s therefore important to take in plenty of fluids to replenish all the ones that were lost.
In addition, keeping yourself well-hydrated improves your blood circulation. This ensures that your blood is able to carry those vital healing nutrients to all the places that need it. It helps to take frequent sups, even when you’re not thirsty. If you’re taking strolls out with your baby, carry a water bottle as well. So remember, Water, water, water...and maybe one, or after a long night of baby crying, two coffees.
2 Birth Control
When your doctor gives you the go signal to have sex again, it’s important to address one important thing: birth control. After a C-section you should wait a minimum of six months before you get pregnant again. In fact, some doctors will recommend you to wait longer than that. This is because getting pregnant too soon will increase your risk of getting complications with your pregnancy and the subsequent childbirth.
Fortunately, by this time most birth control options will be open to you. From hormonal birth control to condoms, it’s all fair game. But if you want more permanent methods of birth control, you might want to opt for a bilateral tubal ligation or your partner, vasectomy.
1 When to Call the Doctor
While most moms after a C-section will recover without complications, it’s still essential to know what you should watch out for. If you experience any symptoms of infection or dehiscence, you should of course call your doctor immediately. If you have severe trouble breathing or get chest pain or perhaps pain or swelling in your legs, you may have a dangerous blood clot in your system, which will require emergency care.
But physical symptoms aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. If you’re feeling too low in energy, or downright depressed for extended periods of time after your C-section, you may also need to get help. After all, mental and emotional care is just as important as making sure your wound is healing!