In a previous article, I discussed the issues surrounding C-section social stigma. In this article, I would like to follow up with tips for managing your cesarean section (CS) recovery regardless of the circumstances that led you to the operating room. There are many dos and don’ts after a cesarean delivery, which influences the postpartum care plan you may receive.
Perhaps you were already aware that you would have a C-section and it may be part of your prenatal care. Alternatively, you may have had an emergency cesarean, in which case your postpartum care plans will change significantly. Maybe you are just wondering how long it takes to recover from a C-section or simply how to look after your incision wound.
Whatever your questions are, I hope you find these C-section recovery tips useful in helping you through this tough time.
Incision care after a C-section
After a CS, you are going to find a lot of things more complicated than usual. You may find yourself trying to lift yourself off the bed without using your tummy muscles and even learning how to cough after a C-section. I found gently pressing a pillow to my tummy to support it helped. Still, you can also get yourself a belly band for C-section recovery to help with this. Belly binding will keep gentle pressure on the wound, which aids in the healing process by providing support and minimizing pain from coughs, sneezes, or laughter.
Your healthcare provider will advise you on steps to gently clean and dry the wound every day to minimize the risk of infection after C-section. The C-section recovery time varies. Generally, during the first 3-4 days, you will likely be in the hospital with a nurse who will check your wound and show you how to care for it. When you’re sent home, you may still have stitches or staples that the midwife will remove after about a week.
Make sure to wear loose breathable clothing that will not irritate the incision site and keep an eye out for any redness or hotness as that’s a sign of infection. Make sure to take appropriate painkillers for pain relief and don’t exercise until your doctor has given you the all-clear.
Can C-section scars can go away? While there are many ways on how to treat C-section scars, they will never entirely disappear. The most critical factor in reducing your C-section scar is keeping it clean and dry to prevent infection.
If your wound gets infected, it will not only slow down the healing process but will increase the likelihood of scaring. It is vital to ensure that you consume a healthy diet rich in vitamins and drink plenty of water. This will help boost your immune system and speed up your body’s natural healing processes.
You can use natural remedies for C-section recovery once the incision wound has fully sealed and healed up—approximately 4-6 weeks following surgery. Gently massage the area to increase circulation bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the area. While you’re massaging, you can use essential oils for C-section recovery. These may include lavender, rosemary, chamomile, or frankincense oils.
If you find that you have nerve pain after your C-section, a warm water bottle pressed to the area will increase blood flow to relieve pain and aid healing. Some women may find that they can not feel very much from their belly button to their pubic bone. This nerve damage may gradually get better with time, but personally, I still have some numbness in this area 5 years on.
When can you lift after a C-section? You should try not to lift anything heavier than your baby after delivery. At around 6 weeks, your doctor will finally clear you to resume some light activities. How soon can you drive after C-section? If you drive, you will finally be cleared to get behind the wheel again.
Your care provider may also advise you to do some C-section recovery workouts to help you return to fitness. You should ease your way back into exercise gently and avoid abdominal exercise (crunches and sit-ups) as well as heavy running in the beginning. You may want to try out yoga for C-section recovery. It will help you build up your strength and flexibility without risking damage to your wound.
Stick with calmer positions that don’t put too much strain on the abdomen. You can even use a yoga ball to help modify some positions. Gently increase your poses or activities, putting a light strain on the belly, but never overdo it. When you reach the 8-12 week mark, you can ask your doctor if they feel it’s safe for you to do more intense physical activities such as weightlifting, jogging, or abdominal exercises.
How to help a CS mom
Did you come across this article and wondered how to help a new mom after a cesarean section? There are lots of C-section recovery gifts available to help her get back on her feet. In addition to the belly bands and essential oils mentioned above, you could also get her a C-section recovery pillow or a multifunctional pregnancy pillow. Or go all out and get her C-section recovery kit.
It is also a good idea to offer to do any heavy lifting and strenuous tasks such as wrestling the baby carriage in and out of the car. Make sure to give her a little space and breathing room to take care of herself, as this has been an exhausting, painful, yet rewarding experience. Offer to help with the new baby where possible and, of course, share these tips for a speedy C-section recovery with her.
And if you decide to make her laugh, make sure she has a pillow or belly band handy!
Cesarean delivery is a major abdominal operation that has a significant impact on your body. Emotionally you may not have been prepared for this outcome and that is okay too. Please know that no matter how you got here, looking after yourself the most important thing. Don’t let the pressure to return to normal or regain a flat tummy push you harder than your body is ready.
Everything will heal and return to a new normal with time, so take it easy and don’t rush. If you are struggling to process your emotions and keep up with your mental wellness, please reach out and talk to someone you trust. Many women have been right where you are, and you are not alone.