Whether it was planned or unplanned, a cesarean section (better known as a c-section) is what brought your baby into this world and helped to keep you both safe during delivery! Keep reading below to hear Natalie’s personal experience from a c-section recovery and her best tips.
There are many reasons women get a c-section; medical conditions with mother and/or baby, inability to deliver vaginally after pushing for several hours, personal choice, etc. I think we throw around the words “c-section” as if it is “no big deal” and many forget that a c-section is a major abdominal surgery! When doctors perform a c-section they cut through several layers of tissue, ligaments and nerves before they are able to pull your baby into this world. OUCH! That being said, even though both a c-section and a vaginal delivery bring a baby earthside, a c-section recovery is very different from a vaginal delivery. After a c-section you need to give yourself grace as you heal and be patient with yourself as it could be longer than the healing time for a vaginal delivery.
I was diagnosed with a complete placenta previa with my third baby (medical terms for when your placenta completely covers your cervix (aka the exit) so the baby has no way to get out vaginally). This means that the only way out of my belly for Hudson was a c-section.
For me, this was a huge disappointment and I was very emotional when I learned this information. I wanted to labor again as I did with my twins and be able to push Hudson out; especially knowing this was our last baby. I would hope every time we went in for our medical checks that my placenta had moved – it never did. I thought to myself (and outloud to my husband) my twins were a vaginal delivery, how could it be that my singleton would be a c-section? Well that is life.
For me, the surgery was scheduled meaning I knew exactly the date and roughly the time that Hudson would make his debut. Knowing these details were helpful for planning purposes but I also felt it took away the element of surprise and excitement that goes along with having a baby. You walk yourself to the OR and sit yourself on the operating table. Then once you are all prepped and have your epidural, your partner can come back to join you in the OR. It is very sterile feeling. Then you lay there while the doctors cut and tug and finally… you hear that glorious cry! Your sweet baby is here!! Hopefully that baby is healthy and perfect and all those feelings about how you wanted them to get here start to fade.
Recovery time: physically
After having a c-section you will REALLY know how much you use the muscles in your abdomen. From sitting to standing to walking, sitting up to nurse or bottle feed, use the bathroom, cough, sneeze, laugh and cry your stomach muscles are involved. For the first 5-7 days, you will need help just to function in daily activities!
The other pain that I was not expecting was what is called “referred gas” pain in my shoulder. Thankfully my friend who had experienced this told me a few days before otherwise I would have thought I was having a heart attack (thank you Adrienne!). There were points that this pain was worse than my incisional pain. It feels like sharp, shooting chest pain. What is it? Basically when they sew your belly shut there is air that gets trapped in your abdomen and the pain is felt in your shoulder (called referred pain – long science lesson about how the nerves behave in your body and how it is interpreted in your brain). Until you start passing gas and stool, there is nothing you can really do about the pain. Seems fair after everything you’ve already been through right?!… NOT! Depending on your doctor they may close the incision with just stitches or a combination of stitches and sutures.
3 tips for phsyically recovering
1. Take your pain meds!
I made the mistake of trying to limit my pain medication intake and it was stupid. I found myself in a pain crisis twice – taking me much longer to get my pain under control than if I would have just been on top of my medication (prescription and over the counter). The doctors have done this for a long time and know which medications are safe and in what doses for breastfeeding – listen to them!
2. Have a small pillow for support everywhere you go!
This small pillow is to offer support for changing positions and it really helps. You will want to put it right over the incision and use it to brace your abdomen as you are moving about and going from laying to sitting to standing, etc.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For Every. Single. Thing! I wish in the beginning I would have asked for more help especially in the hospital. I had my husband go home to be with the twins and I stayed the nights by myself in the hospital, using the nurses as my support to make any move. Well being a nurse myself, I didn’t want to “bother them” and call them back in to help again if they had just been in my room. I wish I would have. Instead I just tried to do everything myself and it HURT… A LOT! Learn from my mistake! This may have lengthened my recovery process and could have been avoided.
C-section items that I found helpful
- TIGHT belly wrap – many hospitals will give you these while you are inpatient – because your muscles are stretched from pregnancy and you have had surgery this band will offer extra support as you heal. Ask for an extra before you are discharged.
I like this belly band or this abdominal binder.
- Pillow – to brace your incision site as you transition from different positions (laying, sitting, standing)
- Disposable underwear or pads – You still have swelling and bleed vaginally after a c-section
I also really liked this c-section underwear that has a place to put ice or heat packs in!
- Pain meds – prescribed by your MD – TAKE THEM. Transition to over the counter ASAP.
- Ice packs – with any surgery there is swelling. Ice really helps with the swelling and the pain. I would ice on and off all day, everyday for the first week (and then other days when I pushed the limits too far)
Have you checked out this newborn and c-section virtual class to prepare?
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Have more questions? Schedule a text or video chat consult with Kate, Lauren or Natalie (NICU RNs) and they can help answer any questions that you have!
Did you know that we offer a service for postpartum support through video chat consults? It consists of 4 weekly video chat check-ins:
- perfect for new parents
- talk about what to expect in this period, how you are feeling and adjusting
- discuss perinatal anxiety, PPD/A
**This post is educational and not meant to take the place of your provider. Bumblebaby makes a small commission on some of the items listed above