Over the years cesareans have gotten a bad reputation for themselves with people being quite judgmental of women who have a cesarean delivery. Whatever the reason, a woman who has undergone a C- section needs to remember that a C- section doesn’t make her a failure and having a C-section doesn’t make her less of a mother.
Ultimately, the decision of how to give birth rests on the woman and her medical condition, it's a good idea to learn about what happens after a C-section delivery. Strangely enough, while there is a lot of information available to women regarding the prenatal state, there's a lot less information available on the topic of recovery after childbirth, especially recovery after a cesarean section.
Having a healthy and safe delivery is always the primary goal, isn’t it? And a C-section simply happens to be another way of delivering a baby safely. A C-section demands a different recovery measure post-surgery compared to a normal vaginal delivery.
You can't predict before time whether you'll be delivering your baby the vaginal route or by cesarean section, it makes sense to learn cesarean facts before you go into labor. That way, if you happen to belong to that category of women who give birth by C- section, you will at least know what to expect on the recovery front.
Here’s what you need to know to recover quickly from a cesarean delivery.
8 Breastfeeding Can be Challenging
In a cesarean delivery, breastfeeding can be delayed a bit as mothers who have had a c section often need a bit of extra time to recover enough to hold and breastfeed their baby. Once the mother is conscious and can hold the baby, she can begin breastfeeding.
Babies who are born through C- section may be a bit drowsy at first, especially if the mother had been exposed to a lot of anesthetics for a prolonged period during labor. This however in no way means that breastfeeding will be unsuccessful; all it means is that the baby would need some extra prodding and stimulation during the feeding session.
This lethargic phase is only a temporary thing, so new mothers don't need to worry about it. Finding a comfortable position to breastfeed the baby can be a difficult thing for most mothers who've had a C- section. The traditional cradle hold position might not be such a good idea because it can put additional strain on the incision area.
Don't be hard on yourself, the milk will come in
Instead the clutch or football hold, where the baby is tucked beside the mother is a better option when it comes to nursing the baby. If you're in doubt you can ask a lactation expert or a doula to suggest the best position for you.
Another issue that seems to trouble most mothers is whether the painkillers that they've been consuming are going to harm their baby in any way. The fact is that some amount of these medications will pass into your milk but they are not going to harm your baby in any way. In the initial stages, the volume of colostrum produced is less and baby too ingests very little amount.
At most, your baby will feel a bit drowsy and that’s all, you shouldn’t punish yourself by not taking the prescribed medication. If you can handle the pain, it’s well and good, but if not, don't feel guilty at all about having to take painkillers.
7 There Will Still be Blood
Just because you had a C-section doesn’t mean that there will be no vaginal bleeding. This is one thing you can't escape from, no matter what kind of a delivery you opt for. After all, the waste in your body needs an exit route and nature has decided that the vagina is going to be that exit point.
After you've delivered the baby, your body will start flushing out blood and slouched off tissues from the uterus walls. Once the placenta has been removed, the thick lining that grew inside the uterine walls to support the baby during pregnancy has to shed itself. In the initial days after the delivery the color of blood will be a bright red.
You'll have to use a huge maxi pad for the bleeding.
However, in a couple of days the bleeding should decrease with the blood turning pinkish and brownish followed by a yellowish discharge.
If you find the bleeding getting worse after leaving the hospital, it might because you're not taking proper rest. Slow down a bit and allow your body to heal itself. However, you should keep track of the amount of bleeding. If you find that you are soaking a large maxi pad every hour then call your doctor.
In addition to bleeding, women might also experience the familiar menstrual cramps which they had been spared the last 9 months. It's to be expected as the uterus begins to shrink back to its original size after delivery.
6 Swollen Feet
Swollen feet are one of the common side effects of a C-section. During surgery, you'll be pumped with a lot of fluids. Plus at the hospital, you'll be made to wear a lot of compression things. Blood is bound to get pooled in places resulting in the ankles and feet swelling up.
Until the swelling goes away on its own, you can try to keep your feet up and avoid standing for long periods, because the swelling will get aggravated by the stress of being on your feet. Putting up your feet will make the fluid travel away from the feet resulting in a decrease in swelling. Walking around, wearing loose clothing and drinking lots of water can also minimize the symptoms.
Try to elevate your legs for 20 minutes and then take a walking break.
Adopting a mix of elevating your feet and walking around to get the fluid circulating in the body to prevent swelling. Drinking lots of water is another natural way of minimizing swelling, the more water you consume, the greater is the amount of liquids you are going to flush out. You might have to make regular trips to the bathroom, but frequent consumption of water can greatly improve your condition.
Taking a water pill sounds quite tempting, but if you plan to breastfeed then stay away from it because these pills can decrease the quantity of milk produced in the body. In any case, consult your doctor first before taking any medication.
5 Decreased Bowel Function
Your bowel function is going to slow down or stop after you've undergone a C- section because your body needs some time to resume its normal bodily functions after the operation. Walking to the bathroom might seem impossible at first and a cruel thing to ask a woman to do who is recovering from a surgery but it is highly essential if you want an early recovery.
It makes sense to take a walk after you've taken your pain medication because you're likely to feel less pain. Remember to drink lots of water and walk around as soon as you can to keep the bowels active and get the stool moving. Mild constipation is ok and can be handled easily but if you experience severe constipation and life becomes hell for you then talk to your health care provider.
They'll prescribe a stool softener which will considerably soften the stool and allow it to pass easily.
And yes, just to assure you won’t bust your stitches while trying to poop.
One possible side effect from a C- section could be the urge to frequently urinate. This could be caused by bladder trauma during the surgery and can resolve itself in a few months. If at all you experience urinary incontinence you can:
- Use sanitary napkins to catch urine leak.
- Use the restroom often to avoid a full bladder.
- Kegel exercises can be practiced to strengthen the pelvic muscles.
- Limiting the caffeine intake can also show positive results.
Even if you do not suffer from urinary incontinence, you must make frequent trips to the bathroom as a full bladder will prevent the uterus from getting back to its original shape and also put additional pressure on the wound.
4 Gas Problems
One of the common problems that resulting from a cesarean delivery is gas problems. A lot of women complain of experiencing gas pains which sometimes shoots up to the collarbone and shoulder area. The reason this happens is because after a C-section the bowel movements get sluggish resulting in a lot of gas being produced in the body.
This gas places pressure on the diaphragm and even extends to the shoulders. Excess gas builds-up in the body and can put pressure on the incision causing you pain and discomfort. Post-delivery women are encouraged to take it easy and drink clear liquids initially. When you start having solids, do have easy to digest foods.
Your guts will sound like there's a whale trapped in there
Try to avoid foods and drinks that can make you gassy. Women are also encouraged to start walking around a bit because it will help stimulate the bowels and get things moving. Walking around will also help provide an outlet for the trapped gas in the abdomen.
Staying well hydrated and urinating frequently is another way to relieve gas pains as emptying the bladder makes more room in the pelvic area. If the catheter has been removed then you can make a trip to the bathroom. If in spite of this, you do feel gassy, you can try the lying down technique where you lie down on the left side while drawing up your knees, by holding your incision site and taking deep breaths.
If you're in great discomfort your doctor can prescribe an anti-gas medication which will allow the gas bubbles to come easily making it easier to expel.
3 Longer Recovery Time
No matter, how many women resort to it and how many people make it sound quite easy, a C-section is still a major surgery. Doctors say it takes about 6 weeks to recover completely from a C- section. But the time-frame can vary with some women taking up to 2 months or even longer to recover from the operation.
You need to realize you need time to heal and give yourself time to recover completely after undergoing a cesarean. In the initial weeks after the delivery, a woman should go slow with house work and not jump into household chores straightaway. With a baby in hand, women tend to forget that they have been through a major operation but overexerting oneself can only add to the recovery time.
Be gentle and patient with yourself
If you try to do too much, it can lead to ruptured scars and other complications which might necessitate another hospital stay.
It’s always a good idea to have someone help you at home while you recover from childbirth, but if you had a C-section; it becomes all the more necessary and imperative to have someone around. Sometimes, even getting up and walking round can be a big struggle and if you have to climb stairs it can be quite painful.
You might be barred from lifting older children or heavy things, so don't shy away from enlisting all the help you can. Take help from your spouse (ask him to take a few days off from work, if possible), relatives or friends or hire a baby nurse or doula for added help.
2 Keep an Eye on the Incision
A C-section incision is usually performed in one of two ways –it could be either a horizontal incision or a vertical incision. Either way, there's going to be one big, dark long incision mark which might be quite terrible to look at, at first. Initially, you might experience certain amount of pain at your incision site which can get aggravated if you exert too much.
Even simple acts such as sneezing and coughing can cause you pain around the incision area. Therefore, be sure to use your hands or a pillow to provide support to your incision whenever you laugh, cough or sneeze. While your incision will heal in about three days or so, your nerve endings and tissues might take time to heal. It is thus advisable not to do any abdominal exercise for three months at least.
Ask your doctor about belly supports for your C-section belly
You might also experience numbness around the incision area which could last up to 6 months or maybe even longer. You can speed up the healing process by applying a light dressing to the incision area and even wear loose clothing that doesn’t chafe the belly. Sometimes you might feel a pulling and itching sensations in the area, but over time this will pass as much as the funky purple and pink colors that it turns into before fading.
Try to get as much rest as possible in the first few days before getting back into the household duties, you can strain your stomach muscles and hurt yourself. Ample rest can heal the wound faster. Certain things you can do to help heal the wound faster include:
- Avoid lifting heavy things.
- Restrict the number of times you use the stairs.
- Wear tight bicycle shorts underneath your regular wear so as to provide support to the incision area.
1 Postpartum Depression
Recovering from a surgery and having a baby on your hands while dealing with the postpartum changes in the body can make a lot of women prone to postpartum blues. Certain women who might have visualized a vaginal delivery, but were unable to deliver vaginally begin to think that they have been robbed of a very valuable experience – that of delivering their child through the vaginal route.
Others might feel that they're somehow less of a woman if they had a C- section. These and similar kinds of feelings are quite common, but a bit difficult to resolve. If you feel this way, it might take some time for you to reconcile your birth experience with what you had imagined.
Never try to deal with postpartum depression alone, get help immediately!
Just to make you feel better, it helps to know that a lot of women find their baby’s birth to be different from what they had thought of and imagined. Postpartum blues are quite common and is prevalent among a lot of women had either a vaginal birth or a C- section.
If you feel that your depressive thoughts are persisting and are making life miserable for you, then you better do something about it. Accepting it and dealing with it is the first step towards solving the problem.
Talk to your caregiver or consult a therapist who can help you deal with the situation. If it makes you feel better, you can write down your thoughts or even reach out to support groups. Just be patient with yourself and very soon you will be enjoying life with your new baby.