Straight after a caesarean section, you will need to spend some time in recovery. This is to enable your vital signs to be monitored until they stabilise. Once you are ready, you will be moved up to your room.
Except in extreme circumstances you should be able to have your baby stay with you during the surgery and in recovery, if your professional caregivers and the hospital policies in place support you in these choices. It’s worthwhile requesting your baby stay with you, if you would like it to happen, and even better to organise this with your professional caregivers beforehand. If staff are concerned about either your baby, or you, then this may not be possible. It’s also less likely if you have experienced a general anaesthetic to give birth.
It will take some hours for the effects of the anaesthetic to wear off. If you received a spinal, or an epidural, you may be numb from below your breasts down to your toes. Being moved from the trolley to the bed can be a bit unnerving, as you may feel like a ‘whale’ and very unwieldy, until the numbness wears away.
Just snuggle up with your little one, try some skin-to-skin contact, and have a go at that first real breastfeed, if this is one of your choices, while you wait for the feeling to return.
How You May Feel Physically After a Caesarean Section
You may feel sleepy and really tired. Take this time to allow yourself to recover from the excitement, or emotional trauma, of the surgery. You may have lots of visitors appearing later in the day, so you need to rest while you can. It may be worthwhile limiting your visitors, during the first few days, to only close family and friends. You can also ask hospital staff to block phone-calls, or visitors, if you feel that requesting this yourself may offend.
Your skin, especially on your face, may feel really itchy during the first few hours. This is a side effect of one of the spinal narcotic given during the surgery. The feeling will eventually fade as the drug leaves your system.
Sometimes women get the shakes during the surgery, and even their teeth can chatter, this shaking may continue during the surgery and into the recovery phase but will disappear as the anaesthetic wears off. It occurs because the spinal/epidural anaesthetic dilates your skin blood vessels and you lose a lot of body heat – The recovery nurse, or your midwife, should be able to organise an extra blanket for you, which will help warm you up. Your blood pressure may drop due to the epidural and, especially if you had a general anaesthetic, you may feel nauseous upon recovery, again these are a reaction to the drugs used and these symptoms will fade very soon.
One other annoying side effect of caesarean birth, which may occur, is shoulder pain. This is a sharp pain felt beneath your shoulder blade/s. It is due to air that has entered your abdominal cavity during the surgery, something that is impossible to avoid. The air pocket will gradually be absorbed by your body over the next day, or so, and the pain will disappear.
Some rarer reactions, when an epidural/spinal has been used, are headaches or a swelling at the site of injection. If you experience these symptoms, then speak to your caregiver about why they are happening and how to alleviate the symptoms.
Please realise that it will take you longer to recover from a caesarean birth than it would from a vaginal birth, generally, so you need to really take care of yourself. Don’t hesitate to ask for support from the staff, family and friends, especially in those first few days of caring for your brand new baby.
Pain Relief After a Caesarean Section
Some women really need good pain relief after experiencing a caesarean; others are up and about within a few days, and report experiencing hardly any traumatic pain at all. This could be based on each individual’s pain tolerance, or what happened during the caesarean, or preceding it, or it could be related to the mother’s attitude towards the whole experience.
Women can feel traumatised (emotionally and/or physically) by their caesarean experience and then may have more difficulty coping afterwards, as they will have emotional issues to deal with as well as the physical pain associated with a surgical birth.
There are several medications, taken individually or in combination, which will offer pain relief after your caesarean. Your midwife, or anaesthetist, will recommend which drugs will help you best to cope with any pain experienced. If you continue to experience pain, then you should alert your midwife to your condition so that she can help alleviate your distress.
Please remember that it can be better to ‘stay on top’ of the pain, as some of the drugs work best once they reach a certain level. If you force yourself to cope with pain until you desperately NEED pain relief then you may not get the full benefit of the medication. So, don’t be a martyr!
Then again, it’s worthwhile checking how your body is coping using lower doses of medication, as the days pass. As all drugs may have some effect on your baby if you are breastfeeding → either passed through your milk, to your baby, or possibly affecting the flow or production of your milk supply. Your midwife/doctor should guide you towards a reduction in pain relief over the time until your discharge.
Relying on too much pain relief, gained through medications, can actually give women a false sense of wellness. This can have the undesirable effect of encouraging the Mother to do too much, too soon. Women must be aware of some pain, so that they will remain in tune with the healing that their body is performing. If the Mother over-exerts herself too soon after the caesarean, then this may prolong the whole healing process.
Please remember that you have the right to be informed about the possible side effects of any drugs that you take to help you manage pain after your caesarean. If you have any concerns about how any of these drugs may affect you, or your baby (especially if breastfeeding), your worries should be discussed with a relevant person (i.e., the midwife, doctor, anaesthetist or the pharmacist associated with the hospital). Below is a list of drugs commonly used.
Types of Pain Relief Offered After a Caesarean Section
Specifically Pethidine and Morphine. They can be given by injection each 3-4 hours, intramuscularly (an injection in your leg) but may also be given as a ‘fixed dose infusion’ through an I/V line into a vein in your arm, via a Patient-Controlled Analgesia Pump, which enables you to self-medicate as needed (you are instructed how to use this pump) or in small doses through the epidural catheter, which may still be in place from your surgery. Another way of receiving this medication involves a single spinal injection.
The suppository contains an anti-inflammatory drug that will help you cope with pain while it reduces any abdominal inflammation you may be experiencing. This drug is inserted into your rectum, and is quickly absorbed. It is usually given twice a day.
Paracetamol, or a Paracetamol/Codeine Combination
These are usually offered in combination with the other drugs listed, in the early days, helping to reduce the amount of drugs needed. They can then be used alone as time passes, especially as the time of discharge approaches.
Codeine, Morphine and Pethidine (all narcotic drugs) can cause constipation, and this is not something you would want to experience after a caesarean, so use these medications moderately if possible, drink lots of fluids and keep mobile.
Drinking and Eating After a Caesarean Section
It is wise to start with fluids and clear foods, and possibly even solid foods, quite soon after your surgery. Your midwife/doctor will advise you about any restrictions in your individual case, and the reasons for them. Each doctor, or hospital, will have guidelines related to this, so you need to check if it’s okay before eating or drinking anything.
Generally, if you had an epidural/spinal, then your fluid intake will not be restricted. You may drink any fluids, such as water, juice and cordial, etc, and eat such clear foods as soups and jellies, etc. But you mustn’t start eating solid foods until you have passed wind – this is a sign that your intestines (which will have been ‘relaxed’ during your surgery) are beginning to function normally again. At this stage in your recovery a light diet is best, until your intestines become better able to handle your food intake.
Once you have passed a motion, then you can eat whatever you like. Though remember, especially if you are breastfeeding, that certain foods encourage wind (i.e., especially anything you are allergic to) and they may upset your tummy, or your little one’s.
It’s really important to keep up your fluid intake. Especially so if you are breastfeeding, in which case always have a glass of water close at hand while feeding your baby.
It’s recommended that you try really hard to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. This will stop you becoming dehydrated, will help replace any blood loss you experienced; it will also keep your bladder functioning well and help prevent constipation.
Urinating After a Caesarean Section
When your urinary catheter is removed, on day two or sooner, you may be asked to measure the amount of urine you pass on that first day without it. You may be supplied with a special measuring container in which you urinate, so don’t forget to hold on to your urine until the midwife has noted the amount.
If you are having difficulties urinating, then you might like to try some ways of triggering the urge (eg, turning on a tap, hopping in a warm shower, pouring an amount of warm water over that area, etc) because if the difficulties persist, then the catheter may need to be reinserted.
It should be noted that some of the drugs given to you, during the surgery or for pain relief afterwards, may affect your bladder function. It would be worthwhile investigating this as a possible cause of any problems you encounter regaining normal bladder function.
Some women may experience physical trauma related to the urinary catheter. So if you experience any burning pain upon urinating, especially if this persists, you need to let your doctor/midwife known of this problem.
To help prevent any bladder problems try to urinate at least every couple of hours during the first day, or so. By doing this, you will also avoid the pain created by a full bladder putting pressure on your caesarean wounds.
If you experience incontinence (leaking urine), which may have begun during pregnancy as a result of your growing pregnant belly continually applying pressure against your bladder and/or the normal relaxing hormonal effects of pregnancy itself, then you should seek advice from the midwife, or physiotherapist, about exercises that you can perform to increase your ability to maintain bladder control (pelvic floor exercises, etc).
Note – Pelvic floor exercises are a good idea for all women to perform. We can all experience some weakness of our pelvic floors, and resulting incontinence, even if we haven’t actually experienced pregnancy or childbirth.
One other problem, sometimes experienced, is a lack of sensation telling you that your bladder is full and you need to urinate. This is also something that needs to be brought to the attention of your doctor/midwife.
Bowel Movements After a Caesarean Section
Within the first couple of days of your caesarean, you should feel the need to move your bowels. This can be a scary experience in itself, as you will feel unsure as to how much pushing your wound can withstand. It can be reassuring to apply gentle pressure, with the palm of your hand, over the wound area while you gently attempt to allow a bowel motion to occur.
It’s important to try to avoid constipation, as the added pain and discomfort, plus the difficulty that may then be experienced in passing a motion, may be distressing to the Mother. Drink lots of water, eat a good fibre-rich diet and limit Narcotic use. If you continue to have problems with constipation, then your midwife will be able to assist you by suggesting medications that will help soften your stools.
Vaginal Blood Loss After a Caesarean Section
Your midwife may ask to view your sanitary pads over the first day, or so, to check the amount and colour of the blood you lose via your vagina.
The flow may increase when you actually breastfeed your baby, as the hormones released by the stimulation of breastfeeding encourage uterine contractions to occur. When you stand up, as a result of gravity, your flow may suddenly increase as well. You may also pass some clots, though they shouldn’t be too big. If you are concerned at all, about anything to do with the amount or consistency of your blood loss, then ask your midwife to check your discharge for you.
At first, your blood loss will be bright red, and slightly heavier than a normal period – though it shouldn’t exceed a sanitary pad per 4 hours (if it does exceed this, then advise your midwife). The loss will decrease over the next week, and the colour will alter to a paler red, then a brownish-red colour. The flow should stop after a week, or so, though light blood loss may last for around 6 weeks after the birth and is not a cause for concern. It differs for each woman. If worried, contact your midwife or doctor for advice.
Caring For Your Wound After a Caesarean Section
You may have received antibiotics while still in theatre and a sterile dressing will be covering the incision site, placed by the surgeon. These safeguards should help reduce the likelihood of infection.
During that first day of recovery, within hours of your surgery, your midwife will offer you a sponge bath, where she will sponge you down with warm, soapy water and clean away any traces of blood or surgical fluids. Then she will help you get dressed in your nightie and make you more comfortable. She won’t remove the sterile wound dressing at this stage.
The day after your caesarean you will be encouraged to get up and have a shower. This is usually when the sterile dressing is removed by your midwife, or yourself. You should gently wash away any dried blood from your wound, with water (soap may irritate), then gently pat the area dry with a clean towel. If it’s possible then allowing the wound area to air-dry is best.
A great way to protect the wound area is to place a sanitary pad, sticky side on your underpants, over the wound. This will help to prevent your clothes rubbing directly on the area. Also, for this reason, your pregnancy clothes (with the lovely elasticised belly section) will be really comfy for the first few weeks. Wearing big, comfortable underpants, rather than bikini briefs, avoids the elastic waistband being right on the wound area → you can send your partner, or a friend, out to buy you some if you are unprepared.
A healthy diet will encourage healing, as will gentle exercise. You should maintain good hygiene, and try to avoid getting very hot, as perspiration will aggravate the wound area.
Your wound may continue to feel uncomfortable for some period after the delivery. Some women experience mild pain and pulling sensations for some months afterwards when performing some actions. This does go away in the majority of women after a time. If you are worried discuss these sensations with your midwife or doctor.
If you notice any swelling or redness, or if your wound weeps blood or other fluids, please bring this to the notice of your midwife or doctor, ASAP. Especially if these symptoms are associated with pain.
Finding Time to Rest After Your Caesarean Section
After experiencing a caesarean, your body has an increased need to rest and regenerate. There’s no denying this basic need, and doing so will only extend the length of time needed to achieve full healing.
The feeling of tiredness may continue for months, long after the external scar of your caesarean has healed and become a silvery reminder of your baby’s birth. You need to acknowledge the nurturing you deserve, and not feel guilty at having an afternoon snooze (snuggled up with your little one) or leaving the housework until you feel more energetic.
This becomes more difficult when your newest little one has older siblings who continue to demand your attention. This is when you need to call on/accept the offered help of family and friends. You could even ask a friend/family member to make up a roster, while you are still pregnant, of people who may like to come around for a visit with a meal, or a few spare hours to help by cleaning up around your house. You especially need this extra support when you are recovering from a caesarean birth.
Tips for Rest
- A ‘do not disturb’ sign is great; both in hospital, and at home. You can make your own personal one during your pregnancy, with an explanation that Mum and Baby are having a nap. Take the phone off the hook and catch up on some lost sleep!
- In hospital you can ask your partner to remind visitors to not stay too long. It can be exhausting entertaining when you should be resting. The same applies at home, for those first few weeks of recovery.
- Keep your baby close-by, not in another room, during the night, at least for the first few weeks. If you keep your baby’s cot near your bed, you don’t have far to go to attend your baby’s needs.
- If your baby’s presence keeps you awake (those little sniffling noises can be daunting to a new mum) then organise some time during which your partner, or someone else you trust, can care for your baby while you have a nap all by yourself.
Can I Breastfeed After a Caesarean Section?
Of course you can, if you want to. Breastmilk is the best food for your baby, fulfilling all his/her nutritional needs in an easily digestible form. The best way to make sure your baby and you get off to a good start is to:
- Breastfeed as soon as you feel able to after the caesarean – It’s even possible in the theatre, or recovery room, if you are keen.
Unwrap your baby and place him/her next to your naked skin. Breastfeeding will be the next natural impulse.
- Find a breastfeeding position that suits you – one that doesn’t place your baby directly over your wound area. Such as, lying down on your side, with the baby raised to your breast on a pillow or using the football hold
- Make sure you have your post-surgical pain under control, as tension may affect your let-down reflex
- Get help to make sure your baby is correctly attached to your breast – this will help prevent sore nipples and a frustrated baby! Your midwife can direct you, or you can seek the assistance of a lactation consultant (many hospitals employ their own consultants)
If you have problems breastfeeding, then you need to seek help straight away, otherwise it might all just seem too difficult when it becomes yet another challenge you are facing while recovering from your surgery. If the hospital employs a lactation consultant, then this would be the person to contact for advice, remembering that she may not be available on the weekends – so don’t hesitate if you need her help during the week and the weekend is approaching! Remember most mothers can breastfeed, with the right support, and it may be beneficial to contact a lactation consultant during pregnancy about doing a short course, which will inform you of everything you need to know to get a positive start once your baby arrives (i.e., increase confidence and learn breastfeeding techniques).
It can be enormously rewarding, to both mother and child, to establish breastfeeding. The knowledge that your body is able to totally care for all your baby’s nutritional needs during the first 6 months (or more) of his/her life is wonderful. This knowledge is especially valuable when you may feel that your body had not been able to birth your baby naturally (this time). The naturalness, bonding and feelings of nurturing that are gained from being able to fully breastfeed your baby cannot be over-emphasised.
The drugs you received during your surgery, and for pain relief afterwards, may affect your letdown reflex, or even your milk supply. So it’s worthwhile questioning this if you are experiencing difficulties. These drugs may also pass into your milk supply, and therefore to your baby. If you are concerned then ask your midwife, doctor or the pharmacist for information about the properties of the drugs you are receiving, or have received.
Two great resources used to compile this information are the
Australian Breastfeeding Association Website and the
La Leche League International Website. You can also see a collection of great breastfeeding help video clips here.
For advice on breast-feeding concerns, after leaving hospital or while still at hospital, you could contact the below organisations:
- The hospital’s breastfeeding centre/lactation consultant
- The Australian Breastfeeding Association
24 Hour service – (08) 9340 1200 – Perth (check the phone book for local numbers)
- La Leche League – (08) 9321 4631 – Perth (check the phone book for local numbers)
- Your child health nurse
- Your GP – family doctor or the doctor involved in the birth of your child
- Your independent midwife
- Local parenting centres
- Your baby’s ‘Personal Health Record’ booklet often lists local services that you can access
If you choose to bottle-feed your baby, or find that breast-feeding is not possible for some reason, then the midwife can assist you in finding comfortable positions in which to do this. She will also explain sterilisation techniques and formula mixing, etc.
Even bottle-fed babies love skin-to-skin contact. So don’t deny yourself, or your baby, the joy of this sensory experience.
What About Sex After a Caesarean Section?
The same rule applies to women who’ve experienced a caesarean birth, as to those who birth vaginally. You resume sexual relations with your partner when you feel ready. Before you do, though, organise with your GP/Ob. what sort of contraceptive you will be using, as it’s a good idea to give your body a reasonable amount of time to physically heal from your caesarean before becoming pregnant with your next child. Your childbirth professional will be able to advise you what time frame this involves, in regard to the latest research available.
You may have to be inventive with the positions used during sex, to prevent pain, or pressure, on the wound area. And your partner should be prepared to stop if you do not wish to continue, so it may be worthwhile discussing this possibility with him prior to initiating sex.
The wound, and the area surrounding it, may remain numb for months (may be up to a year) after the surgery. This is due to nerve stretching, or damage, resulting from the incision, and surgical trauma to the area. Feeling should eventually return.
It may be a good idea to explain this numbness to your partner, as it can be disturbing to be touched, or caressed, on this numb area. Women may also find it impossible to wear tight clothes, for this reason, as the cloth rubbing on the numb area can actually cause nauseous sensations.
Please remember that if you are breastfeeding, then the lowered oestrogen levels (whilst breastfeeding) may reduce vaginal secretions that are normally present during sexual activity. If this is the case, then you may need to purchase a water-based lubricant gel to replace your natural secretions and enable sex to be more enjoyable.
Also realise that it is normal for you to feel very tired. You have just experienced major abdominal surgery and all the emotions that surround such an experience, as well as possibly experiencing some labour, and your body is healing physically and emotionally. You have a little baby to care for, that is demanding a lot of your time and energy (day and night!) You will spend so much of your energy nurturing your baby that you may feel emotionally ‘all out of nurturing’ by the time you hop into bed at night. This is the time that you will enjoy either a good sleep, or a little nurturing yourself (i.e., gentle massage, a big cuddle, etc) and sex sometimes just seems too hard. Your partner may not understand this, especially if your loss of interest lasts a long time, but it will help if you can explain these aspects to him It may encourage him to help a little more, and cuddle a little more. If he becomes more supportive, you may find yourself becoming more attracted to your lovely man, all over again!
One other thing that may cause a loss of interest in sex is depression. This can be caused by either:
- Hormonal problems – true postnatal depression. Please mention it to your professional caregiver for advice/diagnosis.
- Grief – if you did not wish to birth by caesarean it is normal to grieve for the loss of experiencing natural birth
- Type of ‘Post Traumatic Stress’ reaction, especially if the caesarean occurred in an emergency situation, or in a sudden or emotionally/physically traumatic way.
Whichever of these you may be experiencing, you should seek some help (it’s good to try counselling first, after checking with your medical caregiver) in overcoming the feelings that these reactions to your caesarean, or the birth of your child, will be causing.
It’s hard to truly ‘enjoy’ your new baby, when you are struggling to overcome feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, etc. Please realise you are not alone in feeling this way, though sometimes you may search desperately for understanding. Again, if your partner is understanding of what you are experiencing, and what you need emotionally and physically, then that will really help you both build a stronger relationship as you learn how to work together in parenting your new child.
What to Expect Emotionally After a Caesarean
The emotions that you may experience after a caesarean will depend very much on whether you chose to birth in this way, or whether you were aiming for a natural, uncomplicated vaginal birth. They will also depend on what actually occurred during the caesarean birth of your child.
If you prepared yourself for a caesarean birth, and everything went well on the day, then you may have no emotional issues connected to the caesarean at all. You may flow straight back into everyday life with very little difficulty, apart from the normal physical healing needed.
If you planned a caesarean birth, but something ‘happened’ on the day that wasn’t expected (i.e., your child needed paediatric help, your anaesthesia didn’t work as well as expected, etc) then you may need to deal with the emotional trauma that is connected to these experiences.
You may have been planning a natural birth and events did not go as planned, in late pregnancy or on the day, so an emergency caesarean became necessary.
‘There was a moment of silence. The Doctor then told me that I was to have a caesarean section. Things moved pretty fast after that… I was in no position to make any decisions. I just felt numb with exhaustion and relieved that the end was near.’
The degree of emotional trauma associated with each of these situations would relate back to how much of an emergency the caesarean actually was, how much control the Mother retained over the birth experience and the progress and outcome of the surgery. That is, the caesarean could have occurred because:
- You chose to birth this way – for medical of social reasons – prior to labour starting
Or, if you chose to birth vaginally, you may experience a caesarean because:
- You were induced, but labour didn’t establish
- You were in labour, but it wasn’t progressing
- You baby wasn’t coping well with labour, or was thought to not be coping
- You began to haemorrhage
- The cord prolapsed
- Many other reasons
Each of these situations will impact on our emotions and how we deal with the caesarean we experienced.
‘Midwives started taping my rings and removing my jewellery, the doctor gave me ’a little something to stop the nausea’ into my drip-line, the anaesthetist arrived, the doctor was talking at me about the pro’s and con’s of surgery and then he gave me a form to sign. Then the anaesthetist explained the pro’s and con’s of the epidural before they got that set up – all this during powerful contractions when I wasn’t really with it. Most of the time they were talking to me I had my eyes shut, and it was impossible to open them and concentrate on what they were saying.’
It is extremely distressing to be rushed to theatre from labour ward, not knowing if your baby will survive. The sterility needed, and the need for emergency action, may be bewildering and confusing. The loss of your support people, as they either gown up, or are denied admittance to the theatre if you are having a general anaesthetic, would be devastating. It is normal for your body to suffer some emotional trauma after such an experience. Thankfully, not many caesareans occur in such a setting.
How you react emotionally to the surgery, whether you understand the need for technology to intervene, and accept the fact that your child is to be born in this way, will determine how well you cope afterwards.
It is quite normal to experience some ‘baby blues’ about the time that your milk comes in – around day three. But if the feelings of depression don’t become lighter over the next day, or so, then speak to your midwife about how you may not be coping with the emotional issues that surround the birth of your child.
You may find some relief by talking of your feelings to your partner, family, friends, the midwives and the doctors who were involved in your care. By reliving the event, in this way, you may desensitise yourself to some of the stronger emotions attached to your memories.
If you were planning a natural birth, then it is normal to experience some grief at the loss of such an integral life experience. We envision how our children’s births will unfold on the day, and when things don’t go as planned we can feel grief at the loss of an important life experience.
‘In the future, I will be asking the hospital if there is a counsellor on staff that I can talk to. After the birth I was shell-shocked and I was not thinking straight. I really needed someone to explain what had happened and listen to me. My obstetrician visited me but it was all so brief and there was the baby to think of. I was just focussing on his well-being. I needed someone to ask about me – not the stitches or the pain but my mental well being.’
These feelings may not arise immediately following the birth of our child. We may be too busy being grateful for the safe arrival of our little one, and thanking the technology that enabled us to be holding a healthy, beautiful child in our arms. It may be a few weeks further on that we become aware of a feeling of loss.
Women may discover they feel happy to have a healthy child, but they still feel distress at the way their child was born. They can acknowledge the positive outcome, but they have problems accepting the way in which this same outcome (of a healthy child) was achieved.
Family and friends may not understand why the Mother feels this way. They may encourage her to focus on the healthy baby, and forget about the issues she has with the caesarean birth of her child. Or they may disregard her yearnings to have experienced a natural birth for her child, pointing out the positives of caesarean birth (organising day, no pain during labour, etc).
Speaking to a counsellor about the past experience may help, as will contacting an organisation such as Birthrites, which is made up of women who have experienced caesarean birth and felt as you do, and can therefore empathise with and understand your emotional state.
Birthrites organises get-togethers, where you can speak to like-minded women and gain knowledge about how others have coped with their own experiences of caesarean birth.
This massage is extremely enjoyable to both mother and child, and can help to replace the uterine contractions your baby may have missed out on experiencing during a natural birth
Touch your baby, spend time massaging his/her skin, this is great especially just before your baby’s bath-time, or just after a lovely bath.
You can lay your baby on a towel or rug (somewhere warm if it’s a cold day) and spend time gently massaging him/her all over with a product, like Sorbolene cream which washes off in water, or a gentle oil blend.
Start by very gently caressing your baby’s head and face, then caress him/her all over in an outwards direction, moving down his/her body – front and back.
Gently squeeze his/her little legs and arms like sausages – working from the body to the toes/fingers, massaging each digit gently.
Try it – you, and your baby, will love it! You can also check out some Baby Massage classes in your area – for more information visit the Infant Massage Organisation of Australia’s website here.
A Mother’s Post-Caesarean Story
In the few days immediately following the surgery, I was actually quite surprised that the pain wasn’t as horrendous as I’d imagined. I had a morphine spinal, and then just panadol for the next few days. Getting out of bed the next day was definitely hard work and very painful, and I felt very weak. I had to sit down that morning to shower because I didn’t feel stable enough to stand and shower. I went for a few very short walks that day and tried as hard as I could to stand upright, but I found it really difficult and after a couple of days of that, I had a really sore back – I think the pain from it hurt more than the actual surgery. So obviously my first tip is to really make a concerted effort to watch your posture at all times.
The biggest hurdle I found in the whole recovery process was re-learning HOW to do stuff that required any core strength. Even getting up from a chair, I had to stop and think about how I was going to do it. The best tip I guess I have is to take each “new” thing slowly and think about how to approach it first. It will take practice, but eventually it becomes second nature to do these simple things the new way and avoid any pulling or stretching. Also, if you feel more able to do something a different way to that that the nurses showed you – go for it. And obviously, do take life slowly – it is very easy to overdo it once the pain subsides, but it’s still really easy to do damage.
Problems I Encountered
The only post-op problems I encountered was that I had suffered from low blood pressure and slightly lower iron levels, so on the 2nd day following surgery, every time I stood up, I nearly passed out. A midwife suggested drinking Gatorade and it really did help – I would only have one bottle a day, but I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out again. Obstetrician also recommended that I stay on my iron supplements a little longer.
Well, this is going to open a can of worms!! Em was born via caesarean section because she was suspected to be suffering from IUGR (inter uterine growth restriction) and the Obstetrician wanted her out. He told me that she would most likely go into distress during labour because she was already stressed and I’d need a caesarean section anyway. She was also breech, but that played no part in his decision at the time. After I came home and recovered from the surgery, the flood of emotions really kicked in. I started to feel extremely guilty that not only could my body not sustain my daughter in utero; but I also wasn’t able to birth her myself (and add to that the breastfeeding difficulties I was having), and I felt like a complete failure. I slowly cam e to terms with it but it took a very long time.
Because we’d only just discovered that a caesarean section might be an option due to being breech, I hadn’t really had time to do any research or adjust to it, and I think had I actually put some more thought into it prior to our delivery, I might not have struggled with feeling so bad for so long. We saw the Obstetrician at 4pm Friday, I was admitted to hospital by 5pm and Em was born at 10.29 the next day, so even when I knew it was going to be the case, I just didn’t have time to think about it and prepare mentally.
I was really comfortable with the whole procedure (I used to be a vet nurse, so was very much at ease with the theatre aspect), and I don’t think it was as traumatic as it could have been physically, but emotionally it was a huge thing for me. When I became pregnant again, my first thoughts were of the possibility of having a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) so I could avoid it all. However, in my town there are no practitioners willing to allow a woman to try, so I was advised very early on that a caesarean section was going to be the method of delivery. Having had this amount of time to get used to it, I am a lot more calm and well-informed this time, and have my list of things that I would like done differently this time (really just being able to watch the birth and being able to breastfeed a lot sooner).
This bub is also breech, so that has made it a lot easier to accept that a caesarean is needed – I think I would still be struggling a bit if she were head down, and I will be completely honest and admit that I would have loved the chance of a VBAC – and if I lived in a more metropolitan area I have no doubt that I would have found an Obstetrician willing to help me achieve this.
All in all, the caesarean itself was no big deal, but the emotional aspect was much tougher.
Another Post-Caesarean Story
Zander was born at 1.27am on a Sunday morning. It was about 3am when we got back to the ward and I still had in the cannula which had the syntocinon going through it and also the catheter. The epidural was removed at some stage whilst I was in recovery. Zander was left with the nurses for a few hours so I could get some sleep.
All day on the Sunday I was being hassled about pain relief when I was feeling fine. Someone told me there was no point trying to live with the pain so I gave in and was given a shot of pethidine even though I really didn’t want/need it. The catheter was left in for the day and I think it was removed around 8pm (I only remember it was after visiting hours finished!) and I was given a quick sponge bath and told I should get up and have a shower in the morning. At about midnight I was forced out of bed (so just under 24hrs after the caesarean) by a horrible midwife. She helped me up and I felt like my insides were going to fall out! I shuffled very slowly to the shower and she helped me to get undressed. There was a big pad thing over the wound and waterproof tape over it but I was scared to get any water on it just in case it hurt. After I had finished in the shower I couldn’t bend down to pull my underwear and pants on so the midwife had to come in and help me – this was the case for the next week even when I had come home.
At this stage (Monday) I still had the drip in, but it was only fluids as far as I know. My temp was checked on Monday mid-morning and the nurses were concerned that it was too high (I think because the room was so hot), so they added a bag of antibiotics to the drip as well. My temp was normal at the next check and every one before and after the slightly elevated one, but they said I had to keep the antibiotics going just in case. I was hassled again all day about taking pain medication and rather than arguing I just took it. I’m not sure what it is, don’t think they ever told me actually – usually it’s panadeine forte but I’m allergic to codeine.
For the rest of the days I was at the hospital I did laps of the ward trying to get used to walking with the wound. I was hard (made even harder walking with a drip trolley) and it was the only time that I was ever in any pain. I found that the staples seemed to pull when I was walking and while it wasn’t painful I was worried that they would come out. I wanted help getting out of bed every time as my legs felt really heavy and just didn’t want to do what I wanted them to. After the first day moving (so the Monday) the midwives refused to help saying that when I got home there wasn’t going to be someone there to help me so I had to do it myself. However Aaron was going to be home for 3wks so after him convincing me it was ok I let him and my family help me out of bed. I was also told from the Monday morning that if I wanted to get out of bed and I was holding Zander that I was to buzz the nurses. They said that I didn’t have enough strength at this stage to get up whilst holding a newborn so they would put him in the cot first so I could get up – this one I agreed on! On the Tuesday night however my horrible midwife yelled at me so from then on I didn’t bother buzzing any of the nurses for anything.
We left on early discharge (day 3 – Wednesday) due to a few run-ins with the horrible midwife from the first night. I had trouble getting into the car and still at home needed a hand to get out of bed but it was much nicer to be at home. Because of the early discharge we had the midwives come out every day or a week to check on us. They didn’t really do much with me other than ask questions about how I was feeling. On the Friday the midwife came to take the staples out. I laid down on the lounge and she got her staple remover out (it looked like a normal one!!). Mostly I didn’t feel them coming out but the last one pulled and I really felt that one!! Once they were gone I felt much more confident in walking around and things seemed to get easier.