Giving birth is always going to be a physically, and emotionally, demanding experience. For those that have had a c-section (whether elective or emergency) there can be additional issues to contend with that can make the recovery process more complicated and longer. As a mum of two babies born via c-section I know what its like to recover from a c-section.
The emotional recovery
For many women a c-section can make them feel as though their bodies have let them down, especially if they had always hoped for a vaginal birth. Your expectations of what birth would be like may have been challenged by your own experiences, and it can take some time to get your head round what happened.
If you had an emergency c-section you may be feeling traumatised by what you have been through, and what could have happened under other circumstances. It is important that if you have any concerns, or anything is troubling you, that you have a chance to talk through your experience with a member of your medical team. They will be able to explain what happened and why it was important. This will help you come to terms with what you and your baby endured.
Your partner may also have their own feelings about what happened – seeing the woman they love go through major surgery can be just as traumatic for them. It is important that you both feel able to discuss how you feel and how it has affected you.
The physical recovery
A caesarean may be routine, but it is still major surgery, and it is going to hurt afterwards. Many women report feeling they are unable to do anything for themselves in the days following birth, as simple acts such as sitting up in bed may require assistance from others.
However, with time things do get easier but there are things you can do to speed up the process and make your recovery more bearable.
Eat and drink as soon as you can.
Regardless of the method of delivery your body has just carried and birthed a brand new human being. You need to make sure you are well hydrated and have enough energy to face motherhood. As always a balanced diet is essential, but drinking plenty of water and eating fibre-rich foods can help alleviate the chance of constipation.
Embrace loose clothes.
The last thing you want is to be wearing clothes that are tight and press against your wound/dressing. Stay in your maternity clothes for as long as possible, and make sure you are wearing knickers that are a size too big (think granny pants). This will help accommodate your sanitary pads and wound dressings. You might even want to consider wearing a pair of boxers for added comfort.
Clean your wound.
In the majority of cases your dressing will be removed the day after your caesarean and you won’t need to have it replaced. It is important that you wash and pat dry your wound properly every day to reduce the chance of infection.
Get up as soon as possible.
Even with a vaginal delivery, getting out of bed following birth can be the last thing you want to do, and this is even more daunting after surgery! However, it is important you get up and move around as soon as you can, definitely within 24 hours. Being mobile increases your circulation and decreases the chance of blood clots.
Get help with breastfeeding.
If you want to breastfeed then there is no reason you won’t be able to following a c-section. It can be harder to find a suitable position because of your wound, but your midwife will be able to support you and find ways that don’t hinder your recovery.
Take your time.
This applies immediately after surgery, but in the weeks that follow too. You may want to be superwoman, but we’re sorry to say you’re not! It is important that you make slow, deliberate movements – especially when it comes to getting out of bed (which will quickly become an Olympic sport!). It can take some time to find a way to move without taxing your abdominal muscles, but you will get there, and it will help.
Ask for help.
This applies to all new parents but is always worth mentioning again – never be afraid to ask for help. You will be sore, and tired, and emotional. If someone can watch your other children for an hour to give you time to have a bath or shower, then jump at the chance. Exchange baby cuddles for cooked meals or ironing favours. People always want to help, but often don’t know how to, so make a list of chores. And always make sure they make their own cups of tea (and bring you one in the process).