April is C-Section Awareness month and if you read about the birth of our little miracle Ellery, you know her birth ended up being a c-section. In honor of the procedure that saved my baby’s life, I wanted to share my 10 tips for easing c-section recovery.
A c-section was not in my plans or even on my radar as far as birth goes, so I was in no way prepared for the recovery and after-math of such a big procedure. Here I am going to share my brutally honest experience, tips and advice for post c-section recovery.
Now to give a bit of background, my son was a vaginal birth delivery (and I felt it all) and Ellery was, as you know, a csection. With that said I feel confident saying the following C-sections are NOT an easy way out! I would have my son’s birth (which wasn’t a picnic either) 100 times over before opting into a c-section again because the healing after the fact was more difficult than I had expected.
I think it is important to understand the seriousness of the cesarean section procedure to fully appreciate and respect the healing process. In some cases, just like a vaginal birth, there can be hours of labor prior to the birth of the baby. The exhaustion of labor alone requires rejuvenation and rest for any mama. The the procedure of a belly birth requires a surgeon cutting through layers of skin, fascia, and muscle of the abdomen and uterus. Once baby is born either sutures or staples or a combination of the two are used to put mama back together. Because these large muscle groups have been cut, anything that requires use of the abdominal muscles causes pain for days, weeks to months after the procedure. This includes laughing, crying, coughing, sneezing, sitting up, standing for long periods, taking a deep breath…everything.
For me this was the hardest part of the healing process. My first night home I tried to sleep in our bed and then I had to yell for my husband to help me roll out of the bed because I couldn’t get up without pain. It was also difficult to do much more than pick up Ellery. This meant I couldn’t be as hands on with two-year old Asher during this time. I often had to have him crawl up into my lap when he needed time with mama.
10 Tips for an Easier C-Section Recovery:
- A belly band: Ask the hospital for a belly band/abdominal binder. Some hospitals provide them but after talking to many mamas, most don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask! If they don’t offer them, here are a few good purchasable options: 3-in-1 support or abdominal binder
- Loose clothing: let wide banded yoga pants and loose tanks be your wardrobe for a while. You will have a healing incision (usually) right along your panty line and tight jeans or pants rub and cause irritation.
- Get up and move, a little, and GENTLY every day. Here is a bit of TMI for you but when the body is cut open the perfect balance of gases is interrupted and often when the incisions are closed excess air is trapped in the abdominal cavity which can cause pain. By getting up and moving you can help your body ‘re-align’ a bit better and get rid of those excess gasses and as well as getting other “backed up” (ahem #2) systems going again. Now this doesn’t mean long walks around the block. This means walking short (within a house) distances each day. Just get up and move a bit. You will shuffle and scoot but it will get easier each day. **Side note here: my advice is to avoid stairs for some time or have help if you HAVE to go up stairs. Stairs require a lot of abdominal work and it can be painful, so camp on the first level for the first few days** Take care to listen to your body and NEVER, EVER push through pain. Always notify your doctor if something just isn’t right. Trust your mama instinct.
- The Bobby Pillow. These pillows (or any nursing pillow) are used by loads of new mamas for nursing but I used mine so much more with Ellery than with Asher because the pillow helped to keep baby’s weight off the incision when nursing. Overall it just made me feel so much more comfortable.
- Sleep however you are most comfortable. For some this is in a recliner or propped on pillows. Most will say some sort of upright position is the best for at least the first days. I actually slept on the couch for several weeks.
- Accept help from those around you. It is important to take time to just be. Be with baby. Be seated and resting. Be healing. This is not a time to be doing laundry, vacuuming or cleaning. In fact the #1 thing the nurses told me at discharge is DO. NOT. VACUUM!
- Good Nutrition and Hydration. This is really for all moms but when you are healing from surgery your body will route its resources to heal the greatest area of trauma. This is one reason why some mamas struggle with milk production post c-section. With this in mind make sure you are taking extra care to get well balanced, protein rich, foods in your belly. You and baby are top priority and you can’t do for baby if you aren’t in good health. So eat well mamas and drink that water!
- Brace yourself when you cough, sneeze or laugh. More than once the hubs had me laughing after Ellery and I would take short, wheezy breaths trying to stop myself which only made me laugh harder because I sounded like a balloon slowly letting out its air. In the hospital they will give you a pillow and you might think they are crazy but it hurts and having that compression helps you feel like things aren’t going to fall out.
- Let older kids come to you. If you are second, third, etc time mom one of the hardest parts of healing is not being able to do for your other children like you could before. I struggled A. LOT with this. Emotionally it was very difficult for me to not be Asher’s primary caregiver. Literally up to the birth of his sister I had never slept away from him and here he was with mom gone for three days, a new squishy being coming home, and a mama who can’t pick him up. I cried a lot thinking I was failing him. BUT I made sure to have him come to me as often as possible. We snuggled watching tv, reading books, helping with baby “sisser”. It wasn’t perfect but moving activities to my lap helped me reconnect with him and protect my incision.
- Don’t rush it! This tip is for all mamas. You. Just. Had. A. Baby! Slow down, embrace it, rest, sleep, snuggle! You don’t need to go anywhere. Your house will be just fine a little messy. Dinner can be picked up or some form of cereal or sandwiches. You NEED to let your body heal. Again this is for all mamas, but a special note for c-section mamas…You just had major surgery and your body is working overtime to heal everything. Do your body a favor and let it do its work. So other than short distances around the house stay put! And remember…just because your doctor says things look a-okay at your six week appointment doesn’t mean things are healed all the way. In fact they aren’t even close to healed all the way. It varies from person to person but it can take several weeks to months to be ready for full activity. Listen to your body and take things slow.
Having a c-section was not what I had planned but it was a miracle procedure that saved mine and my baby’s life. We were told that due to the infection, Ellery, likely, would not have made it to the next morning. And these sort of infections progress quickly and could’ve have injured me as well.
I hope you or a mama you know, can benefit from these tips. If you, yourself are a c-section mama, what would you add? What struggles did you have or what helped your healing process? Comment below!