There are several reasons why we recommend prioritizing a vaginal birth over a C-section if you have the choice. One of them is that while considered “routine,” C-sections are major abdominal surgeries and they require the same post-operative recovery treatment as any other invasive, abdominal or pelvic surgery. However, in this case, you’re recovering from surgery at the same time as adjusting to life with a newborn and in your home.
That’s a tough order, so the more you’re prepared for the realities of a C-section recovery, the better you will handle it, and the more you can line up the help and support you’ll need.
5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Recovering From a C-Section
Here are some of the things we hope you’ll take to heart so you can be prepared as possible for your postpartum, C-section recovery:
1. It’s slow going no matter how strong you are
The body takes a long time to heal after an incision and stitches that go through every layer of tissue, muscle and the uterine wall. The C-section healing process is slightly stymied by the fact that you’ll also be holding and moving a newborn as you adjust to breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin, chest holding that newborns require.
As a result, it’s going to be slow going – and that means even when you’re starting to feel better – you cannot do things like load/unload the dishwasher/washing machines, mop, lift grocery bags, walking up/down stairs, driving, bending, lifting older children, etc., In fact, trying to prove you’re different than the rest results in more time spent in bed recovering.
Odds are, it will be about six weeks before you’re able to begin resuming a “normal life” and even that will be slow going at first.
Note: If you’re a single parent or your spouse can’t take much time off for the immediate weeks after your baby is born, enlist the help of family and friends to be in-home helpers. You can also look online for postpartum doulas in your area.
2. Keep taking the anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers
Women who try to minimize them, or “wait until it hurts” before taking prescribed or over-the-counter pain relievers can wind up in considerable pain – often in the middle of the night. These medications are designed to sustain their effects through your blood stream by taking them in regular doses. Keep on pain meds as directed to protect yourself from unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Note: Use lochia as your guide; this blood, which seeps from the uterus until you’re more fully healed, should continuously diminish (from pink, to dark red, to yellowish to clear) over time. If it scales back up, it’s a sign you’re doing too much and need to spend more time resting. Be aware that after a C-section, your lochia may be more and darker than it was with previous vaginal births as you’re healing from the outside and inside.
3. Prepare young-older siblings in advance
If you currently have a baby or toddler in the home, it’s going to be challenging on him/her when you are unable to hold them, snuggle, participate in the bedtime routine, etc., – not because of the new baby but because of your healing body.
Do your best to prepare little ones, having dad, grandma, auntie, neighbors and family friends prepared to give your other children extra special attention. Help them understand you’ll be back to yourself with your boo-boo feels better.
4. Have feeding/changing stations at the ready
Odds are you’ll spend the majority of the first four to six-weeks in bed, on a couch or chair. Have baskets or bins in each of these locations that include everything you’ll need to change, feed, burp and cuddle comfortably with baby. Also make sure you have a full container of water and some healthy snacks at the ready to minimize your need to get up, down or call for assistance.
5. Take the restrictions to heart to avoid infection or complications
After a C-section, you’re at risk for infection and other serious complications so take your doctor’s advice seriously – even if you feel “better.” This includes avoiding:
- Sexual intercourse until your doctor has given you the green light AND you feel safe and ready to participate
- Taking baths
- Soaking in pools or hot tubs
- Lifting anything heavier than your newborn
- Repeatedly using stairs
The team at Women’s Health Associates would love to facilitate your successful and safe recovery from your C-section should you need one. Contact us to schedule a consultation.