After nine months of pregnancy, every woman is ready to give birth. And if your little one arrived by cesarean, then you may have a longer recovery time until you’re able to move about without pain. Have no fear: millions of women give birth by cesarean and recover! However, having all the facts can significantly aid the recovery process. Here’s what you need to know about cesarean section recovery.
Cesareans are considered major surgery; mainly because doctors cut through the abdominal muscles and into the uterus to remove the baby. Recovering from a C-section takes time—anywhere between four to six weeks. During this time, it’s imperative that new mothers follow their caregiver’s instructions regarding allowed activity and wound care; pushing your limits may result in a longer recovery time. Likewise, cleaning and monitoring the incision is very important to avoid infection.
Although every woman’s body is different, following specific guidelines can help your body heal more quickly. Here are six great tips:
- Rest often. Our bodies heal quickly when they are able to focus on healing. Rest helps to reduce both physical and mental stress; the more quality rest you enjoy, the better your body will be able to heal itself.
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids—especially water—is a key aspect of a speedy recovery. This is particularly important because adequate hydration allows the blood to deliver vital nutrients throughout the body. Fluids also help to avoid constipation, which can become quite painful after a C-section.
- Plan ahead. If you know you’re having a C-section, plan on placing important items within your reach. For example, instead of placing diapers or bottles high on a closet shelf, place them on a dresser or countertop at hip height. Vaginal bleeding is common for several weeks following a C-section, so have pads ready—all medical professionals recommend avoiding tampons.
- Follow instructions. Many doctors recommend avoiding stairs for several days after returning home. If your bed is on an upper level, consider setting something comfy up on the main level. Don’t push returning to workouts either before you’re ready. Adhere to weight guidelines when picking up heavy items as well.
- Listen to your body. No one knows your body better than you. Listen to your body; if holding your little one puts too much stress on your core muscles, consider using a pillow to help. If you still experience difficulty going up and down stairs after the recommended time, don’t push it!
- Support your abdomen. Simple, sudden movements such as laughing or coughing can cause pain. If you feel a sneeze coming on, gently support your incision. Until your abdomen heals and regains its strength, treat it kindly! Be conscious of your posture; sit and stand straight to reduce the stress of being hunched over.
You’ve just given birth! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family will most likely offer to help—take them up on it. Whether it’s asking for meals so you can relax instead of standing on your feet, or allowing them to come over and simply sit with your new little one, take your loved ones up on their offer to help. And don’t be afraid to ask your partner for specific help, such as handling more household chores or helping during a shower.
Likewise, it’s important to ask your OB or midwife if you have any questions. Keep their number handy and call immediately if you experience severe pain or suspect an infection. Signs of infection include a persistent fever above 100.4, an incision that becomes swollen or emits a discharge, or a sharp pain emanating from the incision. It’s always better to call then to wait-and-see.
Whether you experience an unplanned or planned C-section section, knowing the facts can help your body recovery quickly. Remember: you’ve just undergone major surgery! Your body needs time to heal. Be kind and patient with yourself. Ask friends and family for help when needed. And finally, contact your healthcare provider if you suspect something to be amiss.