Hi! It’s your friendly neighborhood labor & delivery nurse and I’m here today to share some tips for a smooth C-section recovery!
A C-section (Cesarean section) is a method of delivering a baby via abdominal surgery. I would like to take a moment to say that a C-section is still BIRTH and you never have to make excuses for yourself for having one. It could have been unplanned, emergent, or totally elective. And all of these reasons are valid! That being said, it is a major surgery. Some of you may have had one and can attest to the fact that the recovery process comes with some challenges and takes a bit of work. The immediate post-delivery portion of recovery and then the longer-term may span over days to weeks after having the baby. Below I will be sharing a few tips that I hope will come in handy to the (future) C-section mommies in our community!
At the Hospital
Most [non-emergent] cesareans are performed using a form of anesthesia called a spinal block or spinal anesthesia (or “spinal” for short). This kind of anesthesia provides comfort to the mother by blocking all sensation from the ribs to the toes. After birth, the legs may remain difficult to move for several hours. Due to the nature of the surgery and the anesthesia, mom will remain in bed for up to 12 hours post-birth.
Taking care of your baby has its challenges during this time due to the inability to get out of bed, so my first tip would be to utilize your nurse and/or your partner for help for things such as getting your baby in and out of the bassinet or picking something up off the ground. This will remain true throughout your entire stay at the hospital.
Other things that will help during the hospital portion of your recovery will be:
- As soon as you have been cleared to get out of bed on your own, try to walk laps around the room about once an hour or so. Walking will help your circulation which promotes healing and will help to reduce gas pain by keeping things moving.
- Stay “ahead” of your pain. Most physicians will prescribe pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), which are given on an “as needed” basis. You can have a conversation with your nurse to ensure that you receive your medications on a schedule to prevent you from feeling unnecessary pain.
- Use the hospital bed to help you stand up! Raise the head of the bed all the way to allow the bed to assist you in getting up instead of sitting up on your own.
- Adult diapers might be your best friend – no tight waistband and they are a pad and underwear all in one lovely disposable package.
- Take pain medication right before you head out to go home to not fully feel every bump in the road while sitting in the car.
- Go home in a dress! The waistband of pants/leggings may be uncomfortable against your new incision.
Now that you have brought your brand new bundle of joy home, the focus has shifted and you may have tunnel vision when it comes to taking care of your baby. But you need to remember your needs as well! It may help to prepare a few of these things before you go into the hospital but they can always be done after as well, with the help of your partner or a friend.
- Raise everything! Keep your bathroom supplies up on a little table or shelf or even on the back of the toilet. If you’re breastfeeding, put your pump and other supplies on a rolling caddy so that you have a portable station and you don’t have to bend over for anything.
- Pillows and more pillows. It may be difficult and/or uncomfortable to lay flat or even on your side for the first few days after coming home so use all the pillows! Between the legs, behind your back, etcetera etcetera.
- It may help to have a small step by the bed to aid in getting in and out of it.
- Keep a “stash” of supplies in the area of the house you spend the most time in. This may be in the form of a changing station in the living room with basic baby supplies and a few outfits – this way you won’t have to trek across the house for every diaper change.
- Walk around to keep the blood flow circulating and to promote healing. These living room laps will turn into neighborhood strolls with your baby in no time (be sure to run it by your doctor before heading out the door!).
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!! Get a massive water bottle and make it your best friend. You also want to make sure you’re nourishing your body. It is easier said than done with a newborn to care for, but eating well will help you heal. It can help to have some meals prepped before having the baby. (Side note: if your friend just had a baby, send her some dinner!)
- Be sure to keep your incision clean and DRY. It may be intimidating or downright scary to face the incision but patting it completely dry after your shower is a must.
- After a c-section, an abdominal binder may help keep things feeling “secure.”
- Using a nursing pillow (whether or not you are nursing) will help with holding the baby while seated. The pillow will essentially carry the baby for you and he or she will be propped up, preventing you from having to hunch over.
- Hang in there. You’ll see that at about the two-week mark you’ll be starting to “feel like yourself” again. That being said, don’t get too crazy with your activity until you have been cleared by your doctor!