A lot of women are fearful about the labor experience for good reason. Movies and television shows have over dramatized the pain and discomfort that comes with bringing a new child into the world for years. Many women have only heard the traumatic birth experiences vs the positive experiences of other women.
The fear these images and stories create can negatively affect your delivery and recovery experience. Understanding what to expect will dispel some of that fear and give you real tools to improve your postpartum recovery experience. These C section recovery tips will help you take control of your birth and postpartum recovery experience.
- What to expect in all phases of recovery
- When to call your doctor
- Tips for a better postpartum experience
Table of Contents
What to Expect In Your C Section Recovery?
As someone who has been on the other side of the drape assisting the surgical team during a C section I can give you a really honest portrayal of what to expect. I want you to understand what happens and feel empowered as you use these c section recovery tips to make your healing process the best it can be.
While in the OR
Your surgeon with make one of two incisions. Either a vertical incision most often in an emergent situation to get baby out quickly, or a transverse lower abdominal incision along your bikini line. Once the baby is delivered ask if you can do skin-to -skin with your newborn while your surgeon puts everything back together and stitches you up. This can take often more time than getting the baby out. Your new baby can be a great distraction while they finish up.
If for some reason your facility does not allow for you to participate in skin-to-skin with your newborn advocate for your spouse participating. The benefits of implementing “the Golden Hour” are well worth all the benefits your newborn and mom/dad will receive.
You will be moved to a recovery room to be monitored by a nurse once. your surgery is complete. They will ensure you remain comfortable, monitor your vitals, asses your incision, look for signs of bleeding, responding appropriately to the anesthetic, and can begin to assist you in your first latch if you choose to breastfeed. You will most likely feel little pain due to your epidural or spinal block (numb up to 2 hours and can keep you comfortable up to 8-20 hrs). You will begin to start feeling some tingling in your legs and movement will slowly come back.
First 24 Hours
You will go back to your hospital room where your medical team will continue to monitor you for any postoperative complications. Once you have sensation in your legs they will remove your catheter and help you walk to the bathroom. The first attempt to urinate after removing your catheter can be difficult and slightly uncomfortable.
Getting you up and moving within the first 6 hours after surgery is great for your recovery. You will often have a lot of gas pain that can really only be relieved by getting up and walking around. Pain medication will do little for that pain and will really lead to more constipation and complications in the long term. Walking also helps prevent blood clots, pneumonia, constipation, and improves your urinary output. Movement increases your blood flow to your tissues and tissue repair.
You did have a major abdominal surgery so it will be painful once the anesthetic wears off. Speak with your team and ask for an abdominal binder to help support your incision site and decrease some of your pain. Keep a pillow nearby that you can hug across your abdomen when you have to cough, sneeze, or laugh. That will brace the incision and reduce your pain.
Try to stay on top of your pain by taking your prescribed medication. If you let your pain get too out of control it’s a struggle to get back on top of it. This will often impede recovery as you are less likely to participate in walking and deep breathing.
First 6 weeks
It is normal to have some numbness and pain at your incision site for a few weeks. It also may be slightly raised, puffy, or discolored. It is important to look out for signs of infection and contact your doctor if you have any concerns. Even with a C section you will have vaginal discharge, or lochia. The first 3-4 days will be bright red and will gradually turn to pink and then a yellowish color. You uterus is shedding any pregnancy materials in preparation to return to pre pregnancy state. It will take about 6 weeks for the uterus to fully return to pre pregnancy size. Everyone’s recovery looks differently so try not to compare yourself to other people. It is typical for someone to take 4-8 weeks or more to return to their regular activities after a C section.
- Continue to walk frequently increasing your distance as tolerated
- Keep an eye on your incision (if warm, red, bloody or pus like drainage, fever, or chills call your doctor immediately)
- Wear abdominal brace to support your incision
- Keep pillow close by to brace your incision
- Manage Pain with prescribed medication
- Drink lots of water and eat foods high in fiber
- Use stool softener if needed (consult with your MD)
- Get plenty of rest
- try using “football hold” for breastfeeding to keep baby off your incision.
- Go back to work too soon. Allow your body plenty of time to heal
- Try to do this on your own. You will need help (your partner, family, friends, lactation consultant, doula, ect).
- Strain while using the bathroom (puts too much pressure on your incision)
- Take baths (not good for incision to soak in water)
- Go more than 2-3 days before having a bowel movement
- Don’t lift anything (have your spouse bring your baby to you as often as possible).
C Section Recovery Tips
- Go into your C section with a birth plan and advocate for yourself. Even if it is something schedule there is so much benefit to educating yourself about your options and communicating your preferences in advance.
- Manage your pain by using the tools at your disposal- medication, ice or heat, movement, and abdominal binders
- Get as much rest as you can. You just had a major surgery and that requires some rest for your body to properly heal. Take every opportunity you can to rest.
- Take regular walks to reduce risks of complications and improve blood flow to support recovery.
- Hydrate and focus on healthy eating. Your tissues need vitamins, minerals, proteins, and complex carbohydrates to meet the demands of postpartum recovery.
- Avoid constipation with movement, hydration, healthy diet, and stool softeners as necessary.
- Ask for help from your support network (friends, family, spouse, etc)
- Find healthy ways to process your emotions. Maternal health disorders are very common and addressing these issues early can be life saving. You are worth it!
- Enlist a lactation consultant early to help you with your breastfeeding experience. They are an amazing wealth of knowledge when it comes to embracing the breastfeeding experience.
- Prepare for your postpartum visits by coming with questions and being completely honest about your recovery. That will ensure you get the best care possible.
When to Call Your Doctor
- Abnormal incision drainage – bloody or pus like drainage, signs of infection (redness, warmth, and/or fever over 100.4)
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- Excessive vaginal bleeding – soaking through a pad in 15 minutes or bleeding that soaks through a pad in 1 hour or less for two consecutive hours.
- Severe or persistent pain that is not relieved
- swollen, legs, face, or hands
- sadness or depression
- Any other concerns should be addressed by calling your doctor or their nurse. Always reach out if something doesn’t seem right.
Frequently Asked Questions
Taking a prepared and educated approach when having a C section will ensure you have a easier recovery and safer delivery. There are always risks and complications that can arise, but following these C section recovery tips will give you the best foot forward. Start assembling your support team now and make a plan to truly rest and recover.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.