C-section births have become relatively common. That said, in the current world of pregnancy and birthing, there seems to be a stigma surrounding them in comparison to a vaginal birth. A C-Section birth was not exactly what I wanted (I would love to have gone through the more typical vaginal birthing process), but thanks to some medical issues and my doctor’s recommendation, it’s what I got. I had a c-section scheduled for a Friday morning, but when my water broke at midnight on Sunday, we had to transition to a semi-emergency c-section to get my boy safely out.
C-sections are just completely different from natural birth experiences. In some ways, I envy mothers who were able to have their children in a more natural way. In others, I am so thankful that a c-section was the best option for my baby and me. Regardless of whether you are all set for a c-section or your birth plan is to birth vaginally, it never hurts to have some information, just in case. Here are my top 10 tips for c-section recovery.
How to Recovery After a Caesarean Section Surgery
- Go for walks.
Make yourself go for walks as often as you feel up to doing in those first two weeks. It helps your recovery in the long run, especially when you can get yourself moving in those early days. I really struggled to move around enough at the hospital with COVID restrictions and my personal fatigue levels after surgery. I had some intense swelling, particularly in my feet and legs. Walking is one of the few things that helps with the swelling, so I recommend getting out once or twice a day if you can. The sunshine did me tons of good too. But don’t overdo it, either. You’re tired enough as it is without straining yourself to recover.
- Make sure you have lots of feminine hygiene pads.
It is normal to bleed for 6 weeks or more after a C-section. And you can’t use tampons or other feminine hygiene products either. The overnight type like these works great – believe it or not, you can wear those during the day. Hah!
- Don’t let the pain get ahead of you in those first few days.
A Caesarean section means they are cutting you open, and that means they will pump different gases and medications into you that will cause you to bloat and feel pain in strange places. I had a lot of bloating pain that referred to my shoulders and I let it get ahead of me during my first week after surgery. Catching back up with the pain is hard, especially when you are breastfeeding and dealing with people who want to meet your baby and trying to get some rest. It took me two full days to get back in front of the pain, and I ended up taking more medication than I would have if I had just stayed above the pain from the beginning. Being brave and strong is good when you’re facing a situation involving some pain, but suffering from intense pain isn’t worth it because then you can’t do as much for yourself, your spouse, or your baby.
- Wear all the compression stuff and drink lots of water.
My feet were HUGE with swelling – like couldn’t put on my shoes huge. As we were leaving the hospital, I was under the impression that I would wear the sandals I arrived in. I told my husband this as I was getting dressed, and his eyes got big. “Oh, Honey, I don’t think that’s possible,” he said as sweetly as he could manage. He was trying to soften the blow, but I was determined to try them on anyway. I didn’t even come close to getting my sausage feet back into those shoes, so I wore out the bright yellow hospital socks in shame. I felt like Regina George on Mean Girls after Cady tricks her into eating fattening food. “But these sweatpants (insert “socks”) are all that fits me right now.”
The best thing that helped me slim down was guzzling tons of water using this water bottle and wearing these compression leggings and old lady compression socks from CVS. Within a week the swelling had gone down significantly, and by 6 weeks I was much closer to my normal size.
- Slow down and take time to heal.
Post-surgery you will likely feel okay, but your long-term recovery will possibly take longer than you think. Give yourself time and space to heal – you had abdominal surgery AND a baby! Sure you may not have trauma down there because you may not have labored, but your abdomen was cut open to take your baby out. For some women, 6 weeks is plenty of time to recover and get back into the swing of things. I needed a little longer. Both are normal. I’m over 6 months post-delivery and while I do feel well recovered, I still get some odd little sensations in the area around my scar. Things just feel differently for a while – maybe forever. And that’s okay! It was all worth it for my little guy.
- Accept help.
You need sleep. More than you realize. I had a tough time balancing my desire to be with my baby in those early days, just staring at the perfection that he is, and desperately needing sleep to recover. My mother-in-law was there with us for the first 3 weeks after we had the Bear Cub, and she wanted to help in every way possible, but I was sort of hesitant to let her. Part of me wanted to prove that I could do it myself, another part of me wanted to be there with my son for every second, and another part of me was jealous of anyone else spending time with him! I wanted him all to myself. Those feelings, while pretty paranoid and selfish, are normal. Because hormones. I will probably have the same roller coaster of emotions for future babies if we are blessed with them. Sorry, sweet Mother-in-Love! You’re the best! It wasn’t you, it’s me! Looking back, I don’t know how we would have survived those first few weeks without her. It was wonderful to have her love and support for those early weeks. After you’ve gotten some good sleep under your belt, you can let go of all of that guilt, (and apologize if you need to!) but in those early days just accept help when you can make yourself do it, and get some sleep.
- Hang onto those pain pills until you are sure you aren’t feeling any abdominal issues.
My doctor didn’t give the normal 6-week recovery window. She recommended 3 months because she sees a lot of patients that end up with hernias after a c-section from overworking themselves. I was a little put off when she told me that, but she was absolutely right. At 2 months postpartum, I was feeling pretty good, ready to get back into exercise – until I wasn’t. One night, I moved wrong right before we had some company over, and I ended up suffering from intense spasms all through dinner and into the night. I tried hot pads and ice pads, Pepto Bismol, and more because I just couldn’t pinpoint what kind of pain it was. It just kept getting more and more intense (worse than any contractions I had experienced), until the only thing I could think of that would help me relax was some of the prescription pills I had leftover from surgery. I took one and was able to get some sleep. If I didn’t have those pills at that moment, I probably would have had to get my husband to take me to the emergency room. A week later, a similar event occurred, and once again, I turned to those prescription pills (and my doctor) for support. I was so grateful to have them on hand through the end of my recovery period.
- Don’t worry about your weight for a long time (or maybe ever).
Caring for your baby is way more important than numbers on a scale. When I left the hospital, I figured I would be at least 8 pounds, 13 ounces lighter. I could not have been more wrong! I was almost as heavy as my last weigh-in while pregnant! I was retaining so much fluid that I needed weeks to get back to within a more normal range. By about 6 weeks out, I was below my pre-birth weight – not sustainable when producing calories through breastfeeding that another human will be living off of. So now I let myself eat what I want within reason, and I’m not worrying about the weight. I’m at a point where I feel good, my milk supply is regular, I can be active with my son, and I have the energy to work out three to five times a week. That’s right where I want to be for now until we wean. So I may not even look at the scale until we wean.
- When you do get back to your normal activity level, ease back into it based on your energy and pain levels.
There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself a little bit, but overdoing it isn’t worth it. I have used the Sweat app by Kayla Itsines for years, and I am so thankful that there are two post-pregnancy workout plans to choose from. I used Kelsey Wells’ program for 12 weeks after my doctor release, and I felt like it did a wonderful job helping me rebuild my core so that I can now work out how I like. There are so many trainers and training types to choose from to keep things interesting.
- Remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
One day, about six or eight weeks postpartum (for me it was sometime around the time my husband and I became intimate again) you will hopefully start to feel normal again. It might take longer or maybe even less time – that really depends on you, especially if you deal with any postpartum depression. I felt like one morning I woke up and I looked at myself over the past few weeks and didn’t fully recognize who I had been. That version of me was in Grizzled Mama Bear mode, ready to rip the head off of anyone who was a perceived threat. My mind still feels a little hazy when I try to remember what it felt like in those days. Hormones were raging, and I was doing my best to deal with them, but I didn’t always succeed. Add that to less overall sleep and fewer hours of consolidated sleep, and it really is a lot to handle.
You will be a different person after having a baby. You cannot go through the birthing process or those early days with a newborn and not be a different person. But your new normal will have some characteristics of your old normal, because you don’t need to lose yourself to have a child. You can still be you – a new and improved, more maternal you. I like the new me. I hope you like the new you too.
C-Section Mama Bears are tough. They have abdominal surgery and a baby at the same time. I hope these tips help you with your c-section recovery. Leave me a comment to let me know what product has been your fave during pregnancy or what tips you’d offer to new moms facing a c-section!