If you read my previous article on “7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Fear a C-Section” you may already know my personal story about how I gave birth to my son Austin. If not, check out my article here, but I will give you a quick run-down in the meantime. For the first 36 weeks of my pregnancy I was being seen at the Cambridge Birthing Center where I planned to have a “natural” birth (**Side note but I hate using the word "natural" to describe giving birth now. No matter how you give birth, whether vaginally or c-section, it is a magical, natural experience). It was around that time that my midwife discovered that Austin was not only breech, but also measuring exceptionally small. To make a long story short, I literally tried EVERYTHING to flip him to a head down position to no avail. After a lot of days spent crying and devastated that a c-section was inevitable, I scheduled my surgery for week 38. Now that I am 4 months postpartum and have gone through the c-section and recovery process, I wanted to share a few things that I found helpful post-surgery. After my original article a lot of mamas asked me for tips on healing, so I hope that others find this helpful as well!
1. Move as soon as possible after surgery
One of my good friends had a c-section three days before I had Austin and this was a tip that she gave me that I truly believe helped me so much with my recovery process. For the first 12-24 hours post-surgery you are usually still hooked up to a catheter and not able to get out of bed until it is taken out. I had my catheter taken out about 12 hours after giving birth and was encouraged to get out of bed, even to just use the bathroom to pee or brush my teeth, as soon as I felt ready. I will be completely honest with you and tell you that the first time getting out of bed will be the hardest, but every time it will get easier and easier. Moving will not only help prevent blood clots post-surgery, but it will also help with gas and digestion (see tip #2 for more on that!). Every day at the hospital I would make sure to get up and walk as my body was willing to let me. Once I got home, I continued moving and started with some short walks that got longer and longer as the days went on. I was fortunate to have a pretty quick recovery, and looking back I do credit a lot of it to trying to move as much as I could (without overdoing it of course!). I would also like to note that I DID abide by the "do not lift anything over 10 pounds except for your baby" rule for the first few weeks post-partum. This one is super important because you do not want to strain your incision and slow the recovery process.
2. Drink a lot of fluids
As a person who has a bowel movement regularly 1-2x a day (sorry tmi but it goes with my point here!), the constipation in the hospital was VERY frustrating for me. Between the medications that you are on and the hospital food, things just are not moving the way that they are supposed to. When you get the go-ahead to drink fluids after your surgery, do it! Water, hot teas and broths will help lubricate your insides and hopefully assist you in the poop department. Don’t be concerned, though, if fluids just don't seem to do the trick. Your nurses will most likely offer you some sort of fiber supplement to help speed things along. Not going to lie, I am pretty sure I saw Jesus after the first BM, but it was so satisfying when I could finally go and I didn’t have any issues after that! Also an additional tip- I would make sure to eat high fiber foods after surgery, but try to avoid foods that will make you gassy. Being constipated plus having a bloated stomach will not feel good around your incision!
3. Stay on top of your medication schedule
As someone who does not even like to take Tylenol, one of the hardest things for me to accept pre-surgery was all of the medications I was going to have to be on. I quickly learned, however, that pain meds were my friend after my c-section and it was especially helpful to stick with the regimen that the doctors and nurses gave me in the hospital. I know everyone’s experiences are different, but for me personally, I was able to have a say in what medications I wanted and didn’t want. For example, for the first 2 days I took the more hardcore pain medications because that was when the pain was the greatest and needed to be managed the most. However, by day 3 I did not feel the need for Percocets anymore and instead chose to take Ibuprofen instead. Within one week I was off all pain medications, but if you have a different experience know that is totally normal and ok! Personally, after 7 days I was feeling much better and was able to manage my pain through rest and ice and heat (see tip #4 for more info). I felt like my body gave me the cues I needed when it was time to rest and I did not want to mask any pain with medication. For example, if I went for a walk and came home feeling really sore, I took that as a sign that maybe I went a little too far, so I rested and the next day I went for a shorter walk. But like I said, if you need more time to manage your pain with medication, listen to your body and do what makes you feel best.
4. Utilize ice and/or heat
As I mentioned above, after one week I decided I was ready to get off medication and listen to my body when I felt sore and maybe had overdone it with any activity. I found ice very helpful post-surgery, both in the hospital and once I got home. I am not actually sure if ice has any benefits for recovery besides just feeling good, but I liked the cold, numbing effect it had on my incision. After a couple of weeks, I used my heating pad from time to time because as the scar tissue was forming it made the area around my incision feel tight and putting some heat on the area made it feel like there was less of a pulling sensation.
5. Let your arms assist you
You will find that in the weeks post-surgery, a simple task like standing up from a chair or getting out of bed in the morning will cause the most sensation around your incision. When getting out of a chair, use your arms to help lift you up so that you are not using your core as much to stand. When you are getting out of bed, avoid sitting up straight because that will definitely be painful. Instead, roll to your side first and then use your arms to help press you up to a seated position and stand from there. If you are breastfeeding your baby it may not be very comfortable holding him or her for long periods of time because it will put too much pressure on your incision. Instead, put a Boppy pillow or a regular pillow under them for some padding and to act as a barrier between their body and your scar. You may find the side-lying position in bed is also a good way to breastfeed your little one without having to put any weight on your abdomen at all.
In the end, mamas, no matter how your little ones arrive into this world, just know that it is 100% worth their mode of entrance! If you have any questions about c-sections or the recovery process, feel free to shoot me a DM anytime at @_theplantbasedmama_.XOXO Heidi