Welcoming a new baby is a time to enjoy, heal and bond.
No matter how you give birth, you spent nine months growing a baby – that's no small feat.
When major surgery is added into the mix of welcoming a new baby, we've got ourselves a bit of an extra challenge.
You are now recovering from major abdominal surgery while also caring for a new little one.
Many countries have a c-section rate above 30%. Whether you have a scheduled c-section or not, knowing some tips to help with your c-section recovery can be an important part of antenatal preparation.
If you're not planning a c-section, it is also a good idea to learn about reducing your risk of a c-section.
Regardless of prenatal preparation, some women will need a c-section for their safety and the safety of their baby. We are fortunate to have this birth option available for those in need of it, even though it can mean a difficult recovery.
C Section Recovery Tips
Here are 7 tips to help your c section recovery:
#1: Plan Ahead – Have Help Lined Up
Whether you give birth vaginally or via c-section, you will need support. Having a support plan in place prior to birth will help you have a more positive experience regardless of how you give birth.
If you know that you are having a c-section you can begin planning support to help in the immediate postnatal period. Some birthing facilities require another support person be available in order for baby to room in after a c-section birth. Being sure your partner or another support person will be at the hospital with you can help make sure you have an extra set of hands during your initial recovery.
#2: Being Up and About Can Help
Being up and about within 24 hours of your c-section is often advised. Movement helps to decrease the risk of blood clots and helps to get your digestion moving again.
Trying to be up and about on the day of your surgery can feel a bit intimidating. Plan ahead to have support with you in the room to get up about. The nurses are there to help of course, but an extra support person can offer additional practical support, as well as much needed emotional support.
#3: Be Patient With Your Bodily Functions
During pregnancy, many women spend more time thinking about their bladder and bowels than they ever imagined they would. You might be hoping that after the birth, you can get back to giving your bodily functions less thought — but unfortunately it will take time.
Many postnatal women have a lot of anxiety when it comes to the first bowel movement. Having a c-section, pain medication and other factors can make the first movement intimidating. Your doctor may prescribe a stool softener or other products to help make the first bowel movement easier. Be sure to follow their instructions, stay well hydrated and try high fiber foods (best sourced through fresh fruit and veggies rather than processed foods — some of which can make things worse).
Following a c-section, you are likely to have a urinary catheter just after surgery. Once it's removed, some women find it difficult to empty their bladder. For most, this is a very temporary problem. Some women find a little warm water with a peri bottle (e.g. a sauce bottle) can help stimulate urine flow.
Be patient with your body. Spending nine months growing a baby and going through a major abdominal surgery mean your body needs a bit of time to function as it did before.
#4: Plan To Take It Easy Once You Are Home
Regardless of how you give birth, new mamas need to rest. When you've had a c-section, you need to be sure you don't over do it, because being too active could prolong healing.
Set up baby care stations in a few places in your home, so you don't have to go up and down the stairs for every nappy/diaper change. A tote or a basket with a baby blanket, burp cloth, nappies/diapers, wipes and a change of clothes for baby will keep you prepared wherever you happen to be resting. One in your living room, one in your bedroom and one in the nursery (if you are using one) can be helpful.
Remember that chores will eventually get done, just not as quickly as before baby. If you are able, try freezing meals before baby arrives or set up a meal train so you have a little less to worry about.
#5: You Had Surgery, It's Okay To Take The Meds
Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to using medications, and everyone has a different tolerance for pain. If you typically avoid medications, remember that you've just had major surgery.
You will most likely need medication to cope with pain while healing. It's more than okay to follow your doctor's recommended medication regiment. Many women find it best to take the medication on schedule to avoid allowing it to wear off.
While you are on medication, remember that your body is still healing. Even if you feel good on medication, be gentle with your body and take it easy.
While you might be concerned about taking medications while breastfeeding, many pain relievers are considered safe. You should let your doctor know your plans to breastfed, but most will already choose a safe medication following c-sections. See BellyBelly's article on 4 common pain medications and breastfeeding.
#6: Become Friends With Your Pillow
Pillows seem to be a new mama's best friend. They're great for breastfeeding, for back support while holding baby, and for catching those brief moments of rest. For a c-section mama, a pillow can offer some much needed support.
After a c-section, many mothers find holding a pillow on their abdomen offers support when they cough, laugh or get up from the bed. Pillows can also be used to prevent rolling onto your incision while you're sleeping.
#7: Your Mental Wellness Is Important – Be Kind To Yourself
Planned or emergency c-section, uncomplicated or complicated vaginal birth — whatever type of birth you have it can take time to process.
If your birth experience isn't how you imagined, it's okay to be disappointed, it is okay to be sad. It's also okay to be completely content with your birth and not feel sad about not experiencing a vaginal birth. There's no right or wrong way to feel about a c-section experience.
Many of us tend to question how we feel and compare it to how we think other mothers feel. The truth is, how we feel about our birth experience isn't a reflection of our maternal instincts, love for our baby or anything else. It's the reflection of how we were treated, our level of support, our birth preferences and desires and nothing more.
If you're feeling upset about your birth experience and are having difficulty processing it, reach out to a therapist who specialises in pre and postnatal issues. Professional birth debriefers have begun to spring up too. To locate one, try asking a doula or homebirth midwife — they are usually well connected with such people. Birth is a big event in our lives and it is expected many of us will need time to process the experience.