C-Section Recovery – What You Need to Know
C-section recovery is very important. Not only do you need to make sure you heal physically, but emotionally too. It takes longer for C-section recovery than it does when giving birth vaginally. It can take up to 6 weeks in total for you to recover, so as well as taking care of a newborn baby you’re also going to need to make sure you get lots of rest and take care of yourself too.
How You Will Feel After A C-Section
It’s normal to feel extremely happy and overwhelmed about the new addition to your family right after a C-section. However, you will also be recovering from major abdominal surgery while dealing with other postpartum issues. This means you may also be dealing with things like mood swings and engorged breasts.
You may feel a little groggy and sick right after surgery, for up to 48 hours. If you do, you may be given medication to minimize discomfort. Some can feel itchy depending on what they were given to relieve pain during the birth, and medication can be provided for that too.
Your dressing will be removed after a day, and you will be up and out of bed fairly soon after surgery. Although 2-4 days in hospital is normal, some women are able to go home 24 hours after their C-section and have their aftercare at home. You will likely still feel discomfort in the coming weeks after surgery. It can hurt women to laugh and cough, but supporting your tummy with your hands, or holding a pillow over the area can help.
If you have children waiting for you at home too, they will likely feel needy if you’ve been away from them for a few days. Don’t shy away from help with them and take as much of it as you can, as you really don’t want to be stretching yourself very much at the moment.
Postpartum Pain Relief During C-Section Recovery
If you had an epidural or spinal for your C-section, the anesthesiologist might add morphine, which will provide you with pain relief for up to 24 hours without making you feel groggy.
Some anesthesiologists may leave the epidural in for 12-24 hours after surgery so you can take more medication through it if you need to. After this point, you will be given systemic pain medication, usually pills containing a narcotic. You may get a shot of pain relief every 3-4 hours if you had general anesthesia for your surgery or you didn’t have morphine through your epidural. You may also be able to push a button when you’re feeling some discomfort and you’ll have medication delivered straight away through your IV. The machine will control the doses so you only ever get the safe amount.
If you are still in pain, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to somebody and make sure you are being given something to ease the discomfort as best as possible. You should always let your nurse know if the medication given to you isn’t helping enough with the pain. The more comfortable you feel, the easier it will be for you to breastfeed your baby and get back on your feet. It’s crucial that you say something before the pain is too much to bear, as it’s easier to manage before it gets too bad.
Infection Signs To Watch Out For
It’s really important that you know what signs to watch out for once you’ve left the hospital and you continue your C-section recovery at home, as you’ll need to make sure you keep infection at bay. Here are the signs that you may have an infection:
- A wound that is hot to the touch.
- Worsening pain or separation in your wound.
- High temperature/chills.
- Heavy or irregular bleeding.
- Discharge with a funny smell.
You should contact your midwife or doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms. Infection can be common, and you may need to be readmitted to hospital.
Speaking To A Midwife if You’re Unhappy
Before you leave the hospital it’s a good idea to speak with the midwife about how you feel. If things went to plan, you’re likely feeling happy. However, you may be upset that things didn’t go the way you expected, so it’s worth mentioning this to somebody before you go home. Depending on what happened to you during the birth, you may have little memory of the whole thing and this can also make you feel sad and confused. It’s important you get emotional support if you need it. Your midwife will be able to discuss with you why certain things needed to happen for your baby to be delivered safely. You will also be able to raise concerns about future births.
Your hospital may run a birth reflection service for mothers who would like to discuss their experience. You can contact the hospital to see if this is available for you.
Assisting Your Recovery
You may be feeling fine emotionally, but you do need to remember you’ve had major abdominal surgery. You can make the recovery process more comfortable if you wear loose fitting clothing and underwear, as you don’t want to put pressure on your healing scar. Take things gently too, as you may feel sore when doing regular things, like getting out of bed and going up and down stairs. You also want to ensure you’re preventing constipation, so eat fibre rich food to keep things moving and drink plenty of fluids. Here are some more pointers that can help you to assist recovery:
- Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby. This includes any other children, if you have them. You may want to get them used to climbing on your lap for cuddles before the baby comes.
- Eat and drink as soon as you feel hungry. Keep your energy levels up with snacks that you have ready.
- Peppermint tea can soothe wind right after surgery, and using chewing gum can help to get things moving if you need it.
- Gently wash and dry your wound daily. Ensure you use a clean flannel.
- Using maternity pads during your C-section recovery will help with the bleeding from your womb.
Following this advice is a must. The last thing you want is for your scar to tear. Your midwife will give you advice on taking care of yourself too, so make sure you listen to them and follow it. They will give you advice on taking care of your stitches and scar to keep infection away, and your doctor may also give you painkillers. In general, be careful when doing anything that puts strain on your stomach, such as housework. You should take it easy and at your own pace to recover optimally. Some women recover faster than others, but you should never try to rush your recovery. It’s essential that you look after yourself and listen to your body and caregivers at this time.
Breastfeeding your baby
You also need to make sure you stay as comfortable as possible while breastfeeding your baby. You may find it easier if you have a cushion on your lap, or have your partner position baby to avoid putting pressure on your belly. Lying down could also be an option, or having them under your arm instead of lying across you. Try out a way that works best for you.
You can start breastfeeding your baby right after surgery in the recovery room. Ask a nurse to show you different holds that will avoid putting pressure on your scar.
The scar is usually along the bikini line, and will look red at first. It will gradually fade as time goes on. The scar may become sensitive and itchy as it heals. Watch out for your scar becoming red or inflamed, as you may have developed an infection. Puffiness will also clear over time. Years after your C-section recovery, it will likely be a thin, pale line. Eventually it may become almost invisible, but it will always be slightly different than your normal skin tone. The good news is that there are some great products you can use to help with your scar.
If you drive, make sure you check over your insurance policy to see what it says about driving before your C-section recovery period is over. Some mums wait until after their 6 week check before they start driving again, and this is usually the best idea. Providing you feel comfortable and safe, you’ve discussed it with your GP or consultant and your insurance covers it, you should be OK to drive when you feel ready.
You will usually be encouraged to do gentle postnatal exercises the day after operation. This can help to speed up your physical recovery. You may be given a leaflet with the exercises to do and information on why they are important. It’s crucial that you are very gentle with these exercises, and that you wait until after your 6 week check before you start any other forms of exercise. You should avoid anything that is more intense than going for a walk with your baby up until your 6 week check.