Like many women, I didn’t plan on having a C-section. I knew that natural is best for mom and baby. In the weeks leading up to my due date, I anxiously did belly mapping to make sure that she wasn’t breech in hopes of avoiding a C-section. I had a complete birth plan and none of it included having major surgery.
Well, things don’t always go according to plan!
Two days of contractions finally got me dilated to 5cm. My water broke after arriving to the hospital and I thought, “Here we go!” But, 7 hours later I still wasn’t progressing past 7cm. Even the strongest allowed dose of Pitocin wasn’t helping.
Labor pains hurt but are bearable if you remind yourself that they will soon be over. When nothing happens though, it is hard to maintain the energy (mental and physical) to get through each successive contraction. So, when the doctor told me we were going to have to do an emergency C-section, my reaction was, “Just put me to sleep already!”
C-Section Recovery Time
Even though my C-section was unplanned, I was still able to have a very quick recovery. Typical C-section recovery is I was up and about after just 4 days, and feeling completely normal after just 2 weeks (though I still was smart and took it easy for a full 6 weeks!).
Here’s what I did to have such a fast C-section recovery. Hopefully these tips will help you through your own C-section recovery.
Even though my C-section was unplanned, I was still able to have a very quick recovery. Here’s what I did to have such a fast C-section recovery. Hopefully these tips will help you through your own C-section recovery.
Squats and Other Strength Exercises
If you are reading this after an emergency C-section, then it is too late for this advice to apply. But, if you know you will have a C-section a few months down the road, then do yourself the favor of exercising during pregnancy.
I went to the gym up until the last month of pregnancy. My reason for exercising was, “I want to have ridiculously strong pelvic and core muscles so I can push the baby out quickly.” It didn’t end up that way, but I’m still glad I exercised.
Having strong thigh muscles, core muscles, and back muscles made it easier for me to move around after the C-section. I was able to get out of bed easier and had an easier time taking care of the baby. Being healthy probably also reduced recovery time too.
Here are some of the exercises I did which helped me with my post C-section recovery:
- Pelvic tilts (cat cow stretch)
- Dumbbell side bends
- Donkey kicks
- Leg lifts
*Note that you should NOT do any abdominal exercises during pregnancy. It might seem like these are the muscles you need to exercise the most, but the abs are already being spread apart from your bulging belly. Exercising them can lead to recti diastasis.
Get the Baby in Your Room ASAP
Yes, you will feel like crap after the C-section. You probably don’t want to add taking care of your newborn to the burden. But I found that having my baby in the room with me was a great distraction.
Take lots of pictures of the two of you together. Even if you think that you look like crap and don’t want to document it, you’ll be happy for those pics later on.
Don’t Fear the First Poop!
Luckily my friend warned me about the first poop post C-section. Pooping requires some work from your abs, and that can HURT like hell when you’ve just been split open.
You want to make sure that your first few poops are very gentle. The hospital I was in had the worst food you could imagine. It was basically white bread and salami (the exact opposite of what you’d want to eat for recovery!).
I had my husband run out and get me an arsenal of fiber-rich foods. Here’s what I ate as soon as I was allowed solid foods:
- Celery sticks and carrots dipped in hummus
- Tomato soup (no cream)
- Flax seed crackers
- Green juices
- Oat and dried fruit energy bars (ones with minimal sugar)
You Need to Fart!
Why are the doctors so obsessed with your farts? It turns out that you need to fart after a C-section.
The reason for this is because your digestive tract also is put to sleep during the C-section. Your intestines get a bit knocked around during the surgery too, and air might get trapped.
Farting is a sign that your digestive tract has started working again. Some hospitals (such as mine) won’t let you eat any solid food until you’ve farted.
To get your digestive tract going (and thus get you farting), try:
- Chewing gum
- Walking around
- Drinking peppermint tea
What to Eat for C-Section Recovery
Once you’ve farted, it is time for some solid food. Hooray! Unfortunately, hospital food is often lacking nutrients you need for C-section recovery.
Your skin, muscles, and uterus have just been cut out. You’ve lost lots of blood. You should be resting, but also have a tiny human being to take care of. Now is the time to take nutrition seriously!!!!
Once you get home, you’ll still need to eat healthy. I credit my good diet with my ultra-fast C-section recovery. Even after I felt completely normal, I still kept up the healthy diet.
- Iron-rich foods such as green smoothies, salads from dark greens, and whole grains. Red meat is also rich in iron but I wouldn’t recommend eating that until your stomach can handle a hard poop. :0
- Protein is important for healing the body. Aim for lean proteins as these are easier to digest.
- Whole grains are a great source of energy and won’t cause constipation.
- Fruits, especially berries, are great sources of antioxidants. They’ll help your body recover and fight off any potential infections.
- Healthy fats such as an Omega 3 supplement, seeds, and nuts are great for skin healing.
- Bone Broth is rich in collagen and probably one of the best healing foods you can eat post-surgery.
- Yogurt and fermented foods contain healthy bacteria to help replenish those lost from antibiotics. You’ll probably want to take a probiotic while you are at it!1, 2, 3
Foods to Avoid After a C-Section
- White bread (will cause constipation)
- Fatty foods
- Foods that cause gas (such as dairy, beans, or broccoli — those post C-section farts hurt!)
- Coffee (now is not the time you want to be running off to the bathroom!)
- Sugary foods (will bind you up and cause inflammation)
Dealing with Phlegm
Something that they fail to mention about C-section recovery is that anesthesia causes phlegm buildup in the upper airways.
Normally, you can just cough out phlegm. But coughing is not something you want to do after being cut open!
The common advice is to hold a pillow over your stomach while coughing. The counter-pressure prevents some pain while coughing – but it still hurts.
What helped me was this:
- Sniff essential oils (I had peppermint and tea tree oil)
- Cough in little bursts
The reason I had essential oils with me was for the hyperemesis gravidarum that tortured me right up until birth. It turns out that those oils actually helped me break down the phlegm so it was easier to get out. You could also make a vapor rub from essential oils to loosen phlegm.
Move Your Body
In most hospitals, they will actually make you get out of bed and walk around the same day as your C-section. The reason for this is to prevent blood clots post-surgery.
Getting out of bed after a C-section sucks (more on this below). But any movement will help you. I did the following C-section exercises to get my circulation and digestive track going while still in bed:
- Move your feet in little circles
- Lift your arms up and down
- Move your head back and forth (good for preventing neck pain too)
Getting Out of Bed after the C-Section
The first time I got out of bed after my C-section, the nurse helped pull me up. Big mistake! My muscles didn’t have time to react and it hurt like hell. I figured out a system to get out of bed with minimal pain (here is where doing all those side muscle exercises during pregnancy helped a lot):
- Use arms to pull one leg over the other. This is the first step to getting on your side.
- Grasping the guard rail or bottom of the mattress, SLOWLY pull yourself onto your side.
- Take a big breath! Just getting this far is hard work!!!
- If you have someone to help, have them put their arm above you. Grab their arm and pull yourself up. Do NOT have them pull you!!! It is better for you to do it at your own pace. Simultaneously pivot your legs as you move your torso up.
- If you don’t have help, then slowly prop yourself up on your lower elbow. When you get to the right angle, start using both arms to push yourself up. Simultaneously pivot your legs as you move your torso up.
- Just stand for a minute or two. You’ll need to get your bearings.
Once at home, here are some of the things I didn’t to make getting out of bed easier:
- Stack a zillion pillows behind you. Then you don’t have to fully recline.
- Sleep on the couch. Then you can use the arm rest to push yourself up.
- Or just sleep in a recliner. This seems to be a popular option with women recovering from a C-section.
Getting Back in Bed
Getting back into bed was actually harder for me than getting out. Part of this was because the hospital bed was so high (and couldn’t be lowered). I devised a weird but effective method for doing it with minimal discomfort:
- Facing the bed, I leaned over the bed so my arms were up on it.
- Then one leg came up. Then the next.
- This got me on all fours on the bed.
- Next I turned around so my head was above the pillow.
- Slowly I lowered my body while simultaneously turning onto my side.
I Should Have Worn Granny Panties
At the hospital, we weren’t allowed to wear underwear at all. Apparently too many women were getting infections from wearing wet pads in underwear (the panties prevented air flow and trapped too much heat). We had to keep pads tucked between our legs.
Once I was released, I was happy to wear underwear again… Except that my underwear waistband was at the exact position of my incision.
I should have gotten some granny panties that I could wear waist-high. Or those mesh postpartum panties. But, after giving birth, I felt like crap. I was leaking from my boobs and vagina, and was covered in baby spit-up. Wearing granny panties would have just made me feel even less sexy.
Instead, I put a really thick layer of bandage over my incision. Then I could wear my normal underwear.
But then the Bandage Tape Started Bothering Me…
Some doctors tell you to keep your C-section incision uncovered. Others (mine included) told me to keep it covered to prevent infection.
Each time after showering, I would put on a fresh bandage.
It turns out that the tape used to hold the bandage in place was even more uncomfortable than the incision itself. I actually LOST SKIN where the tape had been. The area around the incision looked like hell!
I tried different brands of medical tape. Didn’t help.
Tried putting the tape in a different spot each time. That just messed up the skin there too.
Finally, I just went without underwear while in bed. I put a big towel under me to catch the blood. In retrospect, I should have swallowed me vanity and worn granny panties. :/
Watch Your Posture
One thing that I did not anticipate about C-section recovery was the back pain. I went through 9 months of pregnancy without back pain, so it seemed viciously ironic that I’d get the WORST BACK PAIN IN MY LIFE after giving birth.
There are a few reasons that back pain can happen after a C-section:
- Pain at your incision site causes you to hunch over, leading to bad posture
- Breastfeeding with poor posture can lead to back pain
- Scar tissue at the incision site makes it hard to stretch your torso properly, causing you to hunch over in bad posture.
- Pregnancy stretches out your ab muscles, making them weak and causing you to hunch over.
- Hormonal changes cause your joints and muscles to become weak.
See the theme here? C-section women can hunch over and get back pain!
I had my hubby give me lots of back rubs (while laying on my side) to help with the pain. However, watching my posture during the C-section recovery period is what really helped relieve the pain.4, 5, 6
Take It Easy!!!
Finally, the most important thing you can do for recovering quickly after a C-section is to take it easy.
For me (I’m usually very hyperactive), this was VERY difficult. Since I started to feel normal at around day 5, I would forget that there were things I shouldn’t be doing – like picking up the laundry basket.
Then my incision site opened a bit… That was a warning to go easy.
I knew if I didn’t take care of myself now, I wouldn’t be able to take care of my family later. So I call in the troops for help and focus on yourself a bit longer – you deserve it after growing and giving birth to a baby. 🙂
Exercise classes, from U.S. Air Force photo/Karen Abeyasekere)
“Relieved” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Ron Guest
“Baby Emma March-April 08” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Mathom
“451.JPG” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Kelly Sue
“IMG_20120801_074352” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by martin.jessica