Cesareans are so common these days that we sometimes forget they are major abdominal surgeries. In addition to recovering from this surgery, the mother is also taking care of a brand new baby. It’s a lot to cope with at the same time.
Here are some c-section recovery tips from the doulas on our team:
1. Rest as much as possible. Your body is healing from nine months of pregnancy as well as surgery. The #1 thing you need is rest.
2. Do not lift any heavy objects – nothing heavier than the weight of your baby.
3. You will have postpartum bleeding. Even though your baby did not exit through your vagina, you will still bleed for about six weeks or so, sort of like a very heavy period. The site where your placenta has detached from your uterus is like an open wound that must heal (just as in a vaginal birth.) Be easy on yourself. If you notice an increase in bleeding, slow down.
4. Itchy skin near your incision site is normal. However if you notice the area is very red, irritated, hot, bleeding, separating, or anything that resembles an infection or you have a fever, consult your doctor immediately.
5. Clean your incision with regular soap and water. Dry the area and expose it to open air. Do not put any creams or ointments on the incision.
6. Take extra care and be thoughtful about how you will move your body when getting in and out of bed, sitting down in a chair, getting into a car, etc. If needed, ask your partner or a support person for help, especially during the first few days. You may have never realized how much you use your abdominal muscles until you barely can.
7. If you are in pain, it’s okay to take your pain medication. Don’t compare your recovery time to anybody else’s. Get rest and take meds when you need to. You or your partner can even keep a log to help you stay on top of this. Remember, it is major abdominal surgery. Taking pain medication during recovery is normal.
8. Constipation is a frequent side effect. For some women the idea of pooping after childbirth is really scary. This is multiplied post c-section. Laxatives are usually prescribed. Take them if you need to. It will still be an unpleasant experience, but it will be easier than without.
9. You may need to try different breastfeeding positions. Some women prefer the side lying position. Don’t hesitate to get help from a lactation counselor if you need it. A professional lactation counselor can guide you to make your breastfeeding experience better.
10. Remember to stay hydrated and eat lots of nutritious foods. If you’re breastfeeding, you will probably be very hungry and thirsty. Keep water and snacks around the house in any of the spots where you spend most of your time.
11. Walking gets your blood circulating and is good for the healing process. It’s a good idea to get up daily and take a short walk, even if it’s just around the house.
12. It is really helpful when you have a partner, family member or friend that can assist you during the immediate recovery phase. Let them take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc., while you rest and tend to your baby.
13. If you need additional assistance, consider hiring a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula can help with the household tasks as well as provide mother/baby expertise, newborn feeding counselling, comfort and emotional support while you recover. A professional postpartum doula does not bring opinions or personal bias. She offers non-judgemental and unconditional support. Her goal is to make your postpartum experience as easy as possible.