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Life can feel pretty overwhelming after having a new baby, but especially so if you’re also recovering from a c-section. After 2 c-sections, I learned that the below tips are what made all the difference. Some of these c section recovery tips are common sense, but others are less obvious.
C-Section Recovery (details posted below list):
- Catheter removal
- Pain medication
- Rocking chair
- Assisted sitting
- Keep your would clean & dry
- Stool softeners
- Breastfeeding pillow
- Bed logistics
- Energy-dense snacks
- Breastfeeding basket
- Comfortable clothing
After my first c-section, an amazing nurse suggested sitting on the toilet simulating going pee to eject the catheter. It worked like a charm, I barely even felt it slip out! I have heard horror stories of nurses RIPPING catheters out, making it unnecessarily painful and saying things like “it’s better when you aren’t expecting it”. Um, no. Be sure you’re aware of this and request the previous technique; like you need any more trauma done to your poor body! After my second c-section, my nurse was unfamiliar with this technique, and I suggested we try it. Luckily she was open to trying it, and when she saw how painless it was she was excited to use it for her other patients!
Don’t walk too much too fast, but try to take some steps as soon as you feel you’re able. It’s important to start moving, but you also don’t want to overdo it. You’ll easily know when it becomes too much; be sure to stop at that point. My nurses told me that sometimes patients only make it from the bed to the sink their first time up, and that’s okay. Do avoid stairs or any sort of incline until you feel much stronger. Even if you aren’t able to walk much, just flexing your legs in bed can be helpful.
Stay consistent with your pain medication, but also get off of the narcotics as soon as possible. If you let the pain come through too much, it can take time to get back to a comfortable level. I found setting alarms on my phone helped tremendously. Another point to be aware of is that if you have local numbing after surgery and don’t feel any pain, be certain you still take it easy because when that wears off, you will start to feel the pain that you were blissfully unaware of.
A great way to get some small movement in without overdoing it is by sitting in a rocking chair. Some hospitals have them in your post-partum room and be sure to have one ready and waiting for when you get home. A recliner that doesn’t require you to lean forward to release the kickstand is tremendously helpful. Also, a kickstand that easily retracts and or can be assisted by the handle will make a big difference. A chair that has “wings” makes it far more comfortable to catch a quick snooze! Having an airplane pillow handy is a trick that adds comfort.
Just like when you’re at the end of your pregnancy, roll to your side and use your arms to help push you up from any horizontal position. It’s a bit easier on those healing abdominal muscles. I’ve also heard of people using pillows to prop themselves up in bed, so they aren’t entirely horizontal.
Keep your wound clean and dry
My provider suggested using some foaming soap in the shower and blotting it over the wound and rinsing it with water; no touching and certainly no scrubbing! It’s probably not a good idea to shower multiple times during the day and when you do shower, use a hair-dryer on the cool setting to ensure your wound is as dry as possible.
There may be some swelling after surgery, and while it may seem counter-intuitive, drinking plenty of fluids helps flush everything from your system. I drank so much water that I was worried my catheter bag would overflow.
A bellyband is a great way to get some extra support in those early days. Plus it’s comforting to know that you’re holding your organs in where you would like them to heal. Many hospitals provide these, be sure to ask for one!
Take the maximum as frequently as possible. As my doula said, “do, do, do, until you do the do!” After my first c-section, I did stay on top of stool softeners, and that was STILL not enough. Embarrassingly enough, when I couldn’t go my imagination made me believe my bowels were impacted and I would need another surgery, so I went to the emergency room. Of course, all they did was make me wait around for 3 hours and then gave me an enema. I was determined that the second time would be different. I dissolved Miralax in prune juice and took a “shot” WITH my pain meds- on top of maximum stool softeners! I’ll also had milk of magnesia and an enema on hand, should they be necessary. If you’re in pain and your body is trying to have the first bowel movement after surgery, this is not something that you want to wait to get from the store.
his was incredibly difficult for me after my first c-section. I felt like I needed to get settled back in at home and immediately unpacked my 6 hospital bags (sadly I’m not even exaggerating) and did a few other chores before I could relax at all. I had a recliner in the living room that was nice for relaxing in, but uncomfortable to sleep in. The second time I had a comfortable rocking chair that I could actually sleep in.
our provider suctions a lot out during a c-section, so you’ll likely have minimal bleeding; it’s not necessary to suffer through thick, uncomfortable pads or adult diapers. Additionally, bleeding can be intermittent, so if you have those special period panties, that’s a bonus!
It can be challenging to get comfortable in a hospital bed, much less sort out a position to feed your newborn when it’s new to both of you! I found that My Breast Friend was a tremendously helpful tool because it’s a FIRM foam that you can clip around your waist so that it doesn’t slip and move out of place. My nurses were also helpful in rolling up various blankets to assist with certain positions.
Tall beds are common, so if you have one, be sure you have a stool handy for climbing up! It was impossible for me to get into our bed without one.
Start taking probiotics immediately, for both you and your baby! You will likely have antibiotics before surgery, so re-populating good bacteria is important. Like you need a yeast infection to add to the list of post-op discomfort! Furthermore, since a baby is in an essentially sterile environment in the womb, bacteria is populated by it receiving a “starter set” from mama as it passes through the birth canal. Since c-section babies don’t travel that path, it’s vital that they get this flora another way. Probiotics can be given directly, or baby will get them through mama’s milk if you’re breastfeeding. I have a shelf-stable sporebiotic that’s in my hospital bag! There are a lot of good probiotics in pill form, but I find the body absorbs best from natural food sources. I recommend Nancy’s whole yogurt and probiotic prunes for starters. Fermented foods are also a fantastic option.
I had no appetite after my c-section because of the pain medication. For healing and milk supply, it’s important to be sure you’re getting plenty of nutrient-dense calories. High iron foods after the blood loss in surgery are a good idea. This can be as easy as adding raisins and pumpkin seeds to trail mix. Even having some frozen spinach to throw in smoothies is a great idea! Supplements are okay, but any time you can get nutrients from food the body seems to absorb it better. You’ll need plenty of protein and fiber as well! Protein promotes healing and fiber helps everything to keep moving smoothly- especially with the narcotic-induced sluggishness.
Some simple options that worked well for me were trail mix, Lara bars, grapes, and protein muffins. These handy snacks saved me! I was worried about not eating and my milk supply plummeting, so any lactation boosters you can add are a bonus! The trail mix and Lara bars are next to my recliner, so when I was breastfeeding, I didn’t have to ask for someone else to retrieve some food for me. Don’t forget to have a large water bottle near you that should be filled as often as possible. Hydration is essential for recovery and milk supply.
All breastfeeding mamas are confined to a chair for long periods during the early days. For c-section mamas, it can be even more essential not to have to get up every time you need something. It’s an excellent advantage to have a breastfeeding basket near the recliner that contains some of the essentials. Some ideas include non-perishable snacks (as listed above), a spare water bottle, chapstick, lotion, tissue, burp cloth, etc.
Loose-fitting underwear and pants that have no seams anywhere near the incision are a must! It also doesn’t hurt to have at least a few pairs of cute granny panties. Body image is always a struggle after having a baby, but even little things like cute high-cut panties can provide a boost!
Having a flexible support person who can help you with whatever you need is fantastic. My mama made sure I had a little snack dish and water bottle that were always full.
In addition to these tips, having a c-section recovery kit is an excellent idea!
**Disclaimer, I’m not a doctor; this is all information that worked well for me in my experience.