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C-Section Survival Guide

A few weeks ago I was catching up with a cousin of mine who is about 6 months postpartum.  She had an emergency c-section with her third baby and I was asking her how her recovery was going.  I was taken aback when she said “one of the most annoying things about the c-section is that I got all my recovery advice, tips and tricks from you, I didn’t get any of that from my healthcare provider”. 

She said the information they gave her post-op barely scratched the surface on how she would feel, how she would recover, etc.  When she first reached out to me for advice I sent her a whole bunch of stuff right off the top of my head (I was just barely recovering from my 3rd c-section).  She texted back and said “Thats a lot of great advice!  I have heard nothing from anyone except take it easy…”  Now, I am not saying that medical providers don’t give recovery advice, however, as someone who has had 3 c-sections I have a few ideas, tips and tricks to survive c-section recovery.

I realized how serious I had to be about my recovery after having my first baby.  One of the instructions I was sent home with was “don’t do anything too strenuous such as vacuuming”.  I had never felt that vacuuming was strenuous so I kind of laughed that off and thought I would be fine.  I remember coming home and being so happy to be home that I sat down right on the floor as soon as I got inside.  I ended up sitting down way too fast and felt like I had ripped out all of my stitches, it hurt SO BAD.   I realized then that when they said “don’t do anything too strenuous” that really means “don’t do anything at all”.

But instead of going over what you should NOT do, here are some things you CAN do that I found helpful:  

1.Stay in the hospital as long as you can. 

I understand wanting to get hope ASAP, that is how I was with my first two babies, but with my third being in the NICU I stayed around as long as I could and realized it was pretty nice for recovery.  The beds that raise and lower for you are SO HELPFUL so you don’t have to use your core. It is also great because the nurses keep you on a good schedule with pain meds.

2. Change up your sleeping position.

It might be easier/more comfortable to sleep in a lazy boy (or similar chair) for the first few days after you get home because laying flat can be painful.  

When you do start sleeping in your bed again I have found it really helpful to put a pillow under my knees when sleeping on my back because it helps reduce pulling on my incision site.

Use your arms to lower yourself down into bed instead of relying on your core.  If you do try lying on your side to roll into or out of bed just be aware that twisting is also painful so you will need to keep your body rolling as a unit.  I usually just prefer to put my arms behind me and lower myself that way.  

3. If you need to cough or sneeze, BRACE your incision with your hands.

They tell you to use a pillow at the hospital but that never worked well for me.  Instead I would cover my incision with my hands then lean over and brace my hands against my legs.  This keeps the force of the sneeze from pushing out against your incision and making you feel like you just ripped open along your scar.  

4. Be good about taking your stool softeners!

Constipation is a side effect of painkillers and you want to avoid straining as possible during bowel movements.  But again, bracing your hands on your incision and against your legs is helpful here too!

5. Scar healing & swelling tips

To help with scar healing, you can use stuff called NuvaDerm on the scar to help reduce keloids.

Compression socks help so much with the swelling that occurs post c-section.  Have someone help you put them on.

6. Caring for your other kiddos

If you have other children, you are not supposed to hold them for 6 weeks. Instead, find other ways to be close to them.  I have my kids sit on the armrest or footrest of my chair or sit on my lap while I hold their hands so they don’t accidentally push off of me with their hands or elbow me in the abdomen (which has happened multiple times early post c-section until I realized I needed to hold their hands).

7. WALK

Your first walk will be assisted and most likely to the bathroom. At the hospital I delivered at they get you up and walking 12 hours after a c-section.  That first time getting up can be rough.  With my first baby I felt super lightheaded the first time I stood up, with my second I started laughing at myself out loud because of how slowly I was moving which hurt really bad so I switched to whimpering which also hurt so I had to make myself be quiet.  With my third I did much better and took my time and kept quiet when I first stood up.  Initially I am not able to stand up straight, but by walking a few times for short stretches each day I felt SO MUCH better! 

Tips from other great resources:

-Dr. Amanda FIsher on Instagram @empower.your.pelvis says to bring your squatty potty to the hospital with you and use it there and when you get back to help reduce straining.

-Nikki Bergen on Instagram @thebellemethod suggests using bbq tongs to pick things up off the floor to avoid bending over too far.  She also recommends scar massage, scar acupuncture and castor oil hot packs to help reduce the “c-section shelf”. 

Both of the above mentioned accounts also suggest high waisted compression underwear or leggings from a company called Baobei  https://www.baobeibody.com/collections/c-section to help support your incision. They even have c-section specific items. I personally do not like tight fitting clothes so I did not use the abdominal binder they gave me at the hospital very much with my first, but I know a lot of women that love the compression.

Things to remember/be aware of:

-You will most likely have a lot of bruising around your scar for a few weeks which can be alarming if you are not expecting it.

-You will still experience lochia or postpartum bleeding with a c-section.  This bleeding comes from the open wound the placenta leaves behind after detaching from the uterus.  It is also caused by the blood, mucous and tissues that are shed from the womb after birth. 

-A c-section is a MAJOR abdominal surgery.  Be patient and take the time needed to recover.  In my experience the first two weeks and especially the first 4-5 days post c-section are the most painful.  After each baby I have caught myself thinking “will I ever feel normal again”? It may not feel like it in the moment, but the answer is yes!  

-PATIENCE is the biggest thing here, it will hurt a lot for a few days/weeks but then all of a sudden you will start to feel ok and more like a normal human again.

-Accept help.  Ask for it.  You just had a major surgery and also have a new, needy, tiny human that is relying on you.  Find someone that you can rely on to help you.  Asking for and accepting help will allow you to recover faster.    

-Remember, everyone is different so use what works for you.

-You are amazing, mama!

I hope these tips and tricks are helpful and give you more options and hope than just “take it easy” and “don’t do anything too strenuous”.

When you’re ready, take a look at our 6-Phase Postpartum Return to Exercise Program below. It can help you recover and progress safely back to exercise, at your own pace.

This program was written as phases instead of weeks. A program structured in “weeks” can not only be overwhelming, it might not be the right pace for you and your individual needs.  ­We want you to be able to move through the phases of at your pace. If you feel like you need more time in a specific phase, you can spend more than one week there. If you feel good and want to move through phases 1 week at a time, go for it!  This program was also written with c-section recovery considerations in mind.  

Individual considerations: 

Every pregnancy, delivery, baby and postpartum are different.  Please don’t compare yourself to anyone else, OR your former postpartum recoveries.  Congrats on your new baby!  Enjoy this time, build a foundation, start slow to continue strong.  You got this mama!  If you have any questions you can reach out to us on our Instagram page @themintprjct .  If you want to check out our 6 Phase Postpartum Exercise program you can find it under the programs tab on our website. 

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