One of the questions your doctor may ask you is if you have a birth plan. Planning your delivery and preparing for the unexpected is not always as easy as it sounds. C-sections are fairly common and account for about 30 percent of all deliveries in the United States. If you are having a scheduled c-section or want to be prepared if your birth plan takes a turn, it is important to educate yourself on what to expect. It is important to know what to expect during and after a c-section. This also helps you make an informed decision on how your recovery at home will look like and what to prepare for..
What can I expect after a c-section?
It is expected to take between 4 to 6 weeks to fully heal from a c-section. However, since no two bodies heal the exact same, it is not uncommon for the recovery process to last longer than 6 weeks. In fact, many women still experience pain in the incision long after birth.
First 24 hours
It is not uncommon to stay in the hospital for the first 2 to 4 days after a c-section. After all, c- sections are considered major abdominal surgery. Many women have trouble walking the first 24 hours after surgery and will wear a device to prevent blood clots called intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) devices on their legs. IPC is simply a compression cuff. They can either be in the shape of a boot or only cover your legs.
Women in the first 24 hours will also experience all the same things after a delivery regardless of a c-section delivery, such as cramps and vaginal bleeding. Cramping is very common in the incision site. It is also common to have uterine contractions that aid in helping the uterus shrink back to its normal size. These cramps feel similar to menstruation cramps. It also becomes more painful the more births you have experienced. Even though you may have had a c-section, you still will experience vaginal bleeding for up to 6 weeks post-op.
It is also important that in the first 24 hours, you care for your incision properly. Doctors will educate you on what to expect when you go home and what to watch out for as your wound heals.
First 2 weeks
Take your time returning to your daily activities. Remember, not only are you recovering from childbirth, but you are recovering from a c-section as well. For the first two weeks, plan on getting a lot of help from family and friends. It is important to rest as much as possible and not to lift anything over 10lbs. It is common for your incision to be sore. Doing everyday activities like getting in and out of bed or even coughing will be painful. Most doctors will prescribe pain medications, however, if you are breastfeeding it is important to let your doctor know. Certain pain medications may affect your milk supply, or could harm the baby. After a few weeks. you can start to do short walks. Listen to your body and rest when you need to. It is important to not overdo it, this can increase swelling.
Long term recovery
After your 6 weeks check-up, you are free to ease your way back into working out. Remember, your body went through a lot of changes, so you may not be able to lift as many weights or do as intense of a workout as prior. No two people are alike, so it may take you more time than someone else to get back to your workout routine.
Tips for a faster c-section recovery
C- section support wear
Consider wearing c-section support underwear or c section leggings. They provide compression and support to weakened muscles and reduce swelling. They also provide extra protection for your incision. C-section underwear is safe to use right out of the hospital. It is safe to use as everyday underwear or as you need it.
Lots of rest
Your body went through a lot of changes, give it a chance to heal by taking it easy and accepting help. Overdoing it could cause swelling and infection.
Most doctors offer pain medications, however they are not always safe for babies. Some of the things we eat or drink get passed through our milk to the baby. Also pain medications can affect milk supply. Try using a heating pad to provide natural pain relief.
In all the hustle and bustle of adjusting to a new schedule with bringing home a new baby, we as moms often forget to eat. It is important to make time for yourself to eat a well-balanced meal. Focus on fueling our bodies with healthy fats and vegetables. Certain foods act as an anti-inflammatory and also give us natural energy. Don’t forget to stay hydrated as well. Hydration helps give us energy as well as helps with milk production.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your OBGYN about different programs aimed to help new moms learn how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding can be a bit more painful after a c-section because of the healing incision on your lower abdomen.
When to seek professional help
It is common for women to experience pain long after the typical 6 to 8 weeks postpartum time. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these side effects:
- Uterine cramps that are not subsided with Tylenol or Motrin
- Painful or difficulty urinating
- Frequent headaches
- Depression or thoughts of self-harm (this could be a sign of postpartum depression)
- Bleeding that soaks up more than one pad per hour for more than 2 hours
- Calf pain accompanied by swelling or numbness. (This could be a sign of a blood clot)
- Shortness of breath
- Signs of infection at the incision site
- The incision is leaking discharge
- You develop a fever
- Pain is getting worse
- Heavy bleeding
- Incision is swollen
- The Incision is hot to touch
Your body goes through a ton of changes through pregnancy and after birth. Whether a c-section was a part of your birth plan or not, it is something every woman should learn about in case you may need a c-section. Fortunately, c-sections are a fairly common practice in the United States. With proper care and support, you will be feeling yourself in no time. Always make sure to check with your doctor every step of the way if you have any questions or concerns about your c-section recovery.