I have so far had two C-Sections: an emergency and an elective, both poles apart. The former was a traumatic crash section due to being induced as I had the pregnancy liver condition ICP and recovery took a long time, the latter was a gentle, super positive experience and I recovered quickly.
Whatever your experience, sections take a while to heal. One or more incisions are made, cutting though skin, muscle and tissue and the key is to be kind to yourself to help you feel normal again, as soon as possible.
Here are some of my top tips post op:
1. Rest. Try and rest as much as you can after the birth. Yes this is never easy, especially as you have just had a baby but don’t be scared to ask your midwife for assistance with the baby in recovery. Post op they like to get your moving a little when possible but you shouldn’t be lifting the baby from the cot next to your bed without help at the start.
I found day 3 post op, a small turning point as pain improved and I felt more like myself. Second time around I was lecturing at a university when he was 3 weeks old, I felt so good. A stark contrast from the first time, where I felt weak and sore for a long time after the crash section.
This is because an emergency caeasarian needs to be quicker (often 20 minutes in total) as the baby is distressed and needs to be born asap and often the trauma and physical pain of the procedure can take longer to heal than an elective which tends to be much more relaxed.
2. Accept Help. When you arrive back home and family and friends offer to help, please accept. Immediately. Your body is trying to recover from a major operation and you have a baby that needs you so you need to be as strong as possible.
That simply means sleeping when the baby sleeps and saying yes to any help thrown your way, be it to look after older children or having a meal cooked for you or your feet rubbed.
Remember you cannot drive until you are able to do an emergency stop and your car insurers approve, so arranging transport might need to happen if you can plan beforehand or try and have partners/relatives and friends play taxi driver once you are out of hospital. There is no shame in accepting help.
3. Limit visitors. Don’t bombard yourself with hundreds of visitors in the first few days. Yes everyone is anxious to see your newborn but you will be exhausted and visitor after visitor might feel like too much, too soon.
The majority of visitors can come in a week or so when you are feeling slightly more like yourself and don’t be afraid to gently mention that you are tired if they start to overstay their welcome.
4. Eat well. You need nourishing food to give you strength for the night shifts and to help you heal as quickly as possible so ensure you have lean protein and slow releasing carbs with vegetables in every meal along with lots of fruit to make sure you are getting all your nutrients and vitamins…this leads me to number 5…
5. Don’t pressure yourself into losing baby weight or exercising too early on. You’ve had surgery, your wound will take time to heal and your tummy may well look different to women who have had a standard vaginal delivery as muscles will take a time to rebuild. I was told by my GP that I should walk gently for the first few weeks post op and was only allowed to jog after 3 months.
I wasn’t actually ready to jog until my baby turned 5 months old, with my first when he was 8 months old. Listen to your body.
The priority is yours and your baby’s health so go at your own pace. Try and take things easy. You’ve made a baby, you did good Mama.
I hope these tips help you. Please share your own, I’d love to hear from you!
Photograph © Peter Broadbent.