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C-Section Recovery: Tips to Speed Healing

Approximately 1 in 3 babies in the United States are born by cesarean section. Some parents plan to have a c-section and some are planning a vaginal delivery and have a cesarean for medical reasons that come up during the birth. Whether you’re planning on having a c-section or not, it’s good for every expecting parent to be familiar with what to expect and how to heal after a cesarean delivery.

C-Section Recovery Tip #1: Rest Whenever Possible

The very most important part of recovery after a c-section is REST. This was a major surgery and it needs to be treated in the same manner of recovery as others!

This includes extreme rest, managing the wound, and perhaps pain medication, if necessary. Most people find it easy to rest while they are in the hospital, but it’s important for you to keep resting for at least the first 2 weeks after you get home. This is not the time to push yourself!

Your body has worked hard over the last 9 months of pregnancy and now you’re recovering from major abdominal surgery. You need to take time to rest! This is the perfect time to take advantage of all of the offers of help from family and friends. Let them be the ones to do your laundry, wash your dishes and vacuum your floors.

You should not be picking up anything that is heavier than your baby for the first 2 to 4 weeks and you need to avoid pushing/pulling motions, like those used to rotate laundry or sweep. While you may not always be able to sleep when the baby is sleeping, make every effort to rest every chance you get.

C-Section Recovery Tip #2: Move to Improve Blood Flow

It may seem contradictory to what I just said about rest, but movement is the second best thing you can do to help your body heal after you have a cesarean. Once your epidural wears off and you’re able to feel your lower extremities, it’s important to move your toes, ankles, and legs. As you are able, start doing leg slides on your bed, and once you are given the ok by your healthcare provider, get up and walk around every couple of hours.

Movement is important for blood flow and to prevent blood clots after surgery. Slow, gentle movements will also help your body recover. When you need to get out of bed or sit up, roll to the side and use your arms to push yourself upright.

Don’t try to use your abdominal muscles or your back! Once you get home, make sure you keep walking around your house frequently. One thing you’ll want to avoid as you move around in the first several weeks is stairs. If you do need to go up and down stairs, make sure to go slowly and use the railing for support.

 

Movement will get easier as time goes on, but don’t be surprised if you feel stiff and sore the first few days. The aches and soreness should get better over time, but make sure to call your Ob-Gyn if you suddenly feel worse.

C-Section Recovery Tip #2: Move to Improve Blood Flow

The very last thing anyone wants to be after they’ve given birth is constipated. The medications you were given during surgery can slow down your digestion and make you prone to constipation, so make sure you stay hydrated both before and after delivery. Aim for at least 3 quarts of water a day, eat lots of fiber rich foods and consider having a stool softener or fiber supplement on hand, in case you need additional help to get things moving.

Drinking lots of water is good for breastmilk supply, too, so it’s doubly important if you’re breastfeeding. Once your urinary catheter has been removed, drinking plenty of water will also make you need to go to the bathroom frequently. And there’s nothing like a full bladder to encourage you to get up and move around!

C-Section Recovery Tip #4: Breathing Exercises

Immediately after surgery, take the time to reconnect with your breath. Your abdomen has had a whole lot of change happen in a very short amount of time. Reconnect your mind with your diaphragm and your rib cage. Feel your lungs fill up and your ribs expand to the front and the back and feel your diaphragm pull down into your abdomen. Practice deep breathing techniques several times a day, as it is great for helping restore good breathing habits, heal your core, and calm your mind.

C-Section Recovery Tip #5: Wear a Postpartum Recovery Garment

Speaking of your core…your back, pelvic floor, and abdomen can benefit from a little help in the postpartum, so a postpartum recovery garment or support belt is a wonderful tool to aid in your recovery. Coughing, sneezing, or laughing can be painful at your c-section incision, so if you don’t have a recovery garment, put a pillow over your abdomen and give some counter-pressure before doing those things. As you start being more active and returning to your everyday activities, wear your postpartum recovery garment to help you maintain good posture and establish good movement habits while your muscles are still healing.

C-Section Recovery Tip #6: Proper Breastfeeding Positions

If you are breastfeeding your baby, it can be difficult to find a way to hold your baby that doesn’t hurt your incision. But there are many good positions to breastfeed that are more forgiving in the healing process. That’s why the football hold is a favorite after a cesarean birth. It allows you to see your baby’s mouth and lips for latching purposes, but isn’t putting any pressure on the incision site.

Side-lying is another great option, but many new moms find this position a little more challenging in the first few days. It gets easier as time goes on, so if it doesn’t work for you at first, try it again in a week or two. The beginning of every breastfeeding relationship is a bit of trial and error as your new baby is figuring out the best way to latch on and hold the nipple in their mouth while feeding, so give yourself and your baby lots of patience and grace. Meeting with a lactation consultant can be an enormous aid in problem solving any obstacles you might face and help you feel more confident in breastfeeding.

A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery, so all you need to do for the first couple of weeks is rest and feed your baby. Make sure you get in touch with your provider if you start having any signs of infection, if your vaginal bleeding increases, or if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.

All content published on the Motif Medical site is credited for information purposes only. This information should not substitute as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or qualified health professional with any questions regarding the health of you or your baby.

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