So, Mama, you've just had a c-section or your planning on having one and you're looking for ways to have a smooth and gentle recovery.
First of all, Mama - give yourself a big hug. There can sometimes be a lot of negative stigma around a c-section birth. Birth is beautiful, no matter which way it happens, as long as you feel positive about it.
Sometimes our babies have other ideas about how they wish to come into this world. Sometimes we make the choice for whatever reason that c-section is the way to go. There is no need to feel ashamed about your birth, you still 'gave birth' and generally speaking, recovering from a c-section is longer and more difficult than a vaginal birth. So, please don't be hard on yourself. There are definitely some things you can do to speed up recovery, and make it a more pleasant experience.
First thing's first...
Preparing for a c-section, or in the event of an emergency c-section, your headspace is so important. It's not always possible, in an emergency, to take time to process, so if you can prepare yourself before your birth for the possibility of an emergency c-section occurring then it can reduce some of the fear and anxiety surrounding this intervention that you may not want. Check out our free birth vision workbook, it can help you prepare for your birth in a positive way, so you are mentally and emotionally equipped for making decisions in the moment, even when things go awry. If you are pregnant and planning a vaginal birth, I feel it is so important to prepare for all outcomes in birth, to feel empowered and confident in handling any situation that may arise.
If your c-section is elected, this does not mean you are not feeling fear and anxiety, that is perfectly normal! Here is a great meditation you can do to help reduce some of that anxiety and bring you to a place of calm and acceptance:
Once you have your beautiful baby on your chest, and you have been able to enjoy a gentle c-section experience, it's now time to begin the recovery process.
Walk around as soon as you can
Once you have had the operation and you are in your recovery room, try to get up, standing and walking around soon as you can. You don't want to overdo it but it does help to speed recovery to get some gentle movement going. You are going to have a lot of gas from the surgery because when you are sewn up there is a lot of air trapped in your abdomen, so moving around can help this to make its way out.
Take the painkillers
You have just had a major surgery on your stomach - take the pain medication on offer! Ask your care provider to keep up with the times you need to take your pain medication, not just when you ask for it, to ensure you keep the pain under control. Check with your doctor or hospital staff to ensure the medication is conducive to breastfeeding and that you won't be too groggy to be able to bond with and nurse your newborn. When you get home, allocate someone at home to give you your pain medication on a regular basis because it is easy to forget while you are occupied with a newborn and already sleep deprived. You do not want to add the pain to that mix.
Take a stool softener!
Trust me! With the above-mentioned pain medication, you will be blocked up! And even if you're not, you don't want to be pushing or straining to pass stool while you are tender in your abdomen.
Drink lots of water
To further assist above mentioned, but also to rehydrate your body to help heal your body, to help your milk come in and to help flush your body of toxins and move the medication and anesthesia out of your body.
Ask for help
You are likely to be in the hospital for 3-5 days. Utilize having the nurses or midwives available to help you with your baby, or anything you need for yourself and even help to get baby comfortably positioned to breastfeed. If you can, ask to have your partner stay at the hospital with you. This is not always possible, as some hospitals have restrictions, but you may not know unless you ask! Prepare to have extra help when you get home. If possible, have hubby take some extra time off work, or have family rotate coming and helping at home at least for the first two weeks. Even when you get up walking around, after the first week, it will still be slow going and you don't want to over-do it. Have family and friends bring you meals, help with cleaning and washing, look after the baby while you shower, make your bed for you, walk your dog etc.
Don't stress yourself with visitors
Everyone is going to want to come and visit you and your new baby. This is wonderful and of course, you want to share the celebration of your baby's arrival, but it is a good idea to wait at least a few days, even better - when you get home. After you have had your c-section, you will be very drowsy, sore and want to spend some time getting to know your new baby. You also need to sleep! This one is so important. We had family visit the next day, and baby slept peacefully the entire visit. As soon as they left, the baby woke up, we hadn't slept all day, and the baby was awake for the rest of the day and night. We were exhausted! You can never predict in those first few days when you need to be getting your rest in, so you need to bookmark the entire first 48-72 hours to sleeping and recovering from your surgery. Also, don't underestimate the energy it takes to socialize. If you do have visitors, limit to one visit a day and for not very long. This is so important and if you have a sensitive family it might be best to discuss this during pregnancy.
When you get home....
Be gentle with yourself
Use kind self-talk. Take it slow. Give yourself permission to fully relax into your bed-rest requirements. This is your time to heal - the more you try to push yourself, the longer your recovery will take. It can be hard to remove the expectations we place on ourselves about getting "back to it" soon after birth. But enjoy these newborn snuggles, and allow yourself to binge watch some Netflix. Some of my fave things to watch post-C-section were the Harry Potter movies, Stranger Things, and a more recent series to binge is The Good Doctor.
LOTS of pillows
When you have had a c-section, your stomach muscles will hurt, your back may hurt, and getting in and out of bed is difficult. Remember to use your arms and legs and try not to use your stomach muscles at all to move around for the first couple of weeks. The hospital beds are great because you can sleep semi-reclined but when you get back to your flat bed at home - it's tricky. For two weeks, I personally slept in a recliner chair, because the bed was too tricky. But after that, a mountain of pillows keeping me propped up helped immensely when I needed to get in and out of bed during the night to tend to a newborn.
Wrap your belly, support your back
Having some kind of belly wrap/compression garment is extremely helpful after a c-section - when the pain around your incision has reduced. Mainly to support your back, as your core muscles will be weak. Some hospitals can provide you with a free Tubi-grip, or check out these great Belly Bandit wraps: http://amzn.to/2sG5Z4N
The last thing you want to deal with in your recovery process is a wound infection. Be sure to keep your wound clean and dry. You will be given wound care directions from your hospital, but I found placing some maternity pads over your wound helped to keep the area clean and dry, especially if you have skin folds or a "mummy apron" that can rub against the wound. I used some Mebo wound repair cream on my c-section scar after 2 weeks, to assist with healing, and reducing the scarring. You can find it here http://amzn.to/2EIeqOn
Choose some that are high-waisted, that sit above your scar which will be at your bikini line. These are perfect to use with your maternity pads (yes you will even need these after a c-section birth) because bamboo is moisture wicking, and antibacterial if you have any leaks it won't smell. They are also very soft, and easy to wash. Just to be safe, get a size or two bigger than you would normally wear, as you are likely to have some swelling and water retention after the surgery.
Enjoy your baby
Whether your c-section was planned or unplanned, the reality remains you now have a beautiful blessing in your arms. Birth trauma, especially if this was an emergency, is common and perfectly okay to feel. Do not feel bad, because your baby is healthy - that is not ALL that matters. Please talk to someone about the feelings of your birth, and allow yourself to feel all the emotions that come up. Enjoy the time you have with your baby, it goes so quickly. This pain you feel and the frustrations of being limited in what you can do right now, are temporary. Soak up the cuddles and trust the process.
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