A major concern many people have when preparing for a cesarean birth is the recovery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for your incision and a list of dos and don’ts for healing. Here are some more tips for a healthy recovery:
- Make sure you get plenty of rest. A c-section is major abdominal surgery. Like with any surgery, your body needs time to heal afterward. Expect to stay in the hospital for for 48hrs after your delivery, and longer if there are complications. Give your body approx. six weeks to fully heal.
- Manage your pain. Ask your doctor what pain medications you can take, especially if you plan on breastfeeding. Depending on the level of your discomfort, you care provider might prescribe a pain reliever or advise an over-the-counter pain medication (Advil, Motrin or Tylenol).
- Stay hydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated while you are recovering, especially if you’re chest/breastfeeding. Drinking plenty of water will help replenish fluids you may have lost during delivery and can also help with constipation.
- Baby your body. Take extra care getting around while you heal. Avoid going up and down stairs. Keep everything you need, like diaper changing supplies and food, close so that you don’t have to get up too often. Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby. Ask for help from your partner, friend or family member. Whenever you sneeze or cough, hold a pillow against your abdomen which may help to protect the incision site.
- Take it easy. It could take weeks to get back to your normal routine. Ask your care provider when it’s fine to exercise, go back to work, and drive. Also, wait to have sex or use tampons/menstrual cups until you have the green light. Avoid strenuous exercise, but do take gentle walks as often as you can. The movement will help your body heal and prevent constipation and blood clots. Avoid making sudden movements, which can cause serious pain. Avoid stretching upwards-that upward motion may also cause pain and additional discomfort.
- Take care of your mental health. As you take care of your physical health, don’t forget about your emotional and mental health. Having a baby can bring up feelings you never expected. If you feel exhausted, sad, or disappointed, don’t ignore it. Talk about your emotions with a friend, your partner, your doctor, or a counselor. Call your doctor if your mood never seems to lift, especially if you have thoughts of hurting your baby.
You’ll probably feel some soreness in the incision, and you may have some vaginal bleeding or discharge for up to six weeks after the c-section. That’s normal.
The following symptoms warrant a call to your doctor, because they could sign of infection:
- redness, swelling, or pus oozing from the incision site
- separation in the incision site
- pain around the site, in the groin or stomach
- worsening pain
- bad-smelling discharge from the vagina
- heavy vaginal bleeding
- redness or swelling in your leg(s)
- difficulty with breathing
- chest pain
- pain in your breasts
Lastly, if you know someone who also had a cesarean birth, try not to compare yourself to them. Everyone’s experience is different. Give your body the time it needs to heal.