Postpartum recovery care after cesarean
By Cradlewise Staff
Postpartum recovery care after cesarean
By Cradlewise Staff
Childbirth is beautiful and meaningful — and it’s also physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. This is perhaps especially true if you’re delivering via a cesarean section or C-section. Although C-section births are generally safe, they can be more complicated than vaginal deliveries, and recovery may take longer.
Read on to learn more about caring for your mind and body for a faster and smoother recovery after cesarean.
How long does it take to recover from a C-section?
The recovery time for a C-section can vary from person to person. It depends on several factors, like your overall health, the reason for the C-section, and whether there were any complications during or after the procedure.
Mothers usually stay in the hospital for two to four days after delivery (or longer in the case of certain complications). On average, your body takes six to eight weeks to heal after a C-section surgery.
You may experience some pain, swelling, and discomfort around the incision site during this time. You may also feel tired and have difficulty moving around, especially during the first few days after surgery.
During recovery, it’s important to let your support network step up to help care for you and your baby. Rest and support can help speed your recovery, whereas your recovery may take longer if you’re unable to get the rest you need.
Tips for postpartum recovery care after cesarean
Here are some tips on recovery care for C-section births:
1. Prioritize rest and ask for help
You just had major abdominal surgery, and rest is vital for your body to heal. Remember that recovery from a C-section is a gradual process, and you should allow yourself time to regain your strength before resuming your normal activities.
“ On the one hand, C-section is the most common surgery worldwide. It’s routine for us. On the other hand, it’s still major abdominal surgery, which means complications do happen. So ensure that you have the time and the support to be able to recover. If you were having abdominal surgery for any other reason, you would take six to eight weeks to recover.”
Dr. Chitra Akileswaran MD, MBA, a board-certified OB-GYN and Cradlewise’s maternal health advisor.
She adds, “Make sure you have people around that can help care for you, make sure you’re fed and can bathe, can make sure that you have your pain medicines, that you don’t have to lift heavy things.”
Resting can be a challenge, considering you have a newborn to care for. Ask your family and friends for support, like keeping an eye on your baby while you take a nap, changing diapers and clothes, giving baths, and helping with feedings (cleaning bottles or breast pump parts, filling a water bottle you can sip while you breastfeed, or giving baby a bottle if you’re bottle-feeding).
2. Take care of your body
For the first eight weeks, you’ll have to ensure you don’t physically strain your incision site. Some guidelines to follow:
- Avoid taking the stairs as much as you can.
- Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby.
- Avoid any strenuous household chores like vacuuming or scrubbing.
- Avoid stretching, bending, or lifting in a way that impacts your incision site.
- Avoid driving, because the motion of the car and any sudden braking can cause strain on your incision.
- Avoid any form of exercise that strains your abdominal muscles.
That said, it’s important to keep your body (gently) moving. Slow, short walks are a great way to get in movement. If you have a park nearby, fresh air will also help lift your mood (and your newborn’s).
Take care of your incision by keeping it clean and dry. You can use warm water and mild soap to clean the incision site and pat it dry with a clean towel. Avoid applying any ointments or creams unless recommended by your doctor. Wear loose clothing to prevent friction or irritation around the incision site.
3. Focus on your mental and emotional health
When a baby is born, it’s common for the family’s entire focus to shift onto the newborn. We often forget that along with the baby, a mother is also born. This new period of life can be emotionally overwhelming as you’re trying to be there for your baby in every possible way while figuring out your new body and identity, all while the hormones run high.
Your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health. A C-section can be a physically and emotionally demanding experience for many women. Here are some tips to help you focus on your mental and emotional health after the surgery:
- Seek support: Reach out to your partner, family, and friends for help. They can take things off your plate so you don’t have to carry the mental load of meal prep, cleaning, scheduling, and caring for the baby.
- Talk to someone: It’s normal to experience a range of emotions after a C-section, including sadness, anxiety, and frustration. Talking to a therapist, counselor, or trusted friend can help you process these feelings.
- Practice self-care: Take a soothing shower, listen to music or a podcast, watch a feel-good show, or practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
Sometimes, even when you’re doing everything you can to focus on your mental and emotional health, you may still feel a sense of depression and anxiety. Don’t hesitate to seek help from a medical professional. They can provide you with the support and resources you need to feel better.💛
4. Manage pain with medication
Recovering from a C-section surgery can be challenging, and managing physical pain is a crucial part of the healing process. Your incision and the area around it can often cause pain and discomfort.
Talk to your doctor about recommended pain medications, especially if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding. You can also try using a heating pad on the surgical site to relieve pain.
5. Understand your body’s postpartum signs and symptoms
The 12 weeks after you give birth are often called the fourth trimester. And just like in pregnancy, your body will continue to experience physical changes. Knowing about these changes and how to take care of them will help you recover better after your C-section. Some of the changes you’ll experience will be:
- Involution is the process by which your uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size. During this process, you may experience cramping and mild discomfort.
What can help: The cramping caused by involution usually goes away on its own. However, your doctor can prescribe you medications if it’s causing you pain and discomfort.
- Lochia is the vaginal discharge that occurs after childbirth. It can be heavy and last for several weeks.
What can help: Lochia also subsides on its own. Use pads instead of tampons during this time and change them regularly to prevent infection and discomfort.
- Breast engorgement occurs when your breasts become swollen and painful as they fill with milk.
What can help: Breastfeeding your baby will help relieve pressure in your breasts. Warm compresses or warm water showers are also helpful. If you’re experiencing discomfort, use a breast pump to remove excess milk.
- Night sweats are also common during the postpartum period. They can hinder you from getting quality sleep.
What can help: Wear loose, breathable night clothing. Using lightweight bedsheets and blankets will prevent overheating.
- Vaginal dryness is another common symptom you might experience postpartum.
What can help: Estrogen-based vaginal creams or lubricants. Avoid using scented products in your vaginal area.
6. Eat for nutrition and energy postpartum
Your body needs energy and nutrients to recover from a C-section surgery, and the best way to ensure that you’re getting it is through your diet and supplements. Ask your partner to help you with prepping nutritious, vitamin-dense meals and snacks that include lots of green leafy vegetables and fruits.
Protein is essential for tissue repair and recovery, so focus on lean proteins like chicken, fish, beans, and nuts. Eating fiber-rich foods can also help prevent constipation, a common post-cesarean complication. Avoid processed foods as they are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, which can negatively impact healing.
Finally, drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, which helps boost your milk supply and flushes out toxins from your body.
7. Get regular postpartum checkups
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “All women should ideally have contact with a maternal care provider within the first 3 weeks postpartum. This initial assessment should be followed up with ongoing care as needed, concluding with a comprehensive postpartum visit no later than 12 weeks after birth.”
These routine visits will help your doctor check how well you’re recovering from your C-section surgery and your mental and emotional health. The doctor will also discuss your sleep and your baby’s sleep schedule.
8. Call your healthcare provider when needed
While many changes that your body will go through after your C-section are normal, some require immediate attention from your doctor. If you notice any of the following symptoms, get on a call with your healthcare provider because these could mean an infection:
- High fever (more than 100.4°F)
- Swelling and redness in one of your legs
- Swelling, redness, or pus around your incision site
- Pain in your belly or calf
- Foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
- Feeling anxious and depressed or struggling to care for or bond with the baby.
- Warm, redness, and pain in one of the breasts
- Chest pain
Your body needs rest after delivery! Easily control the motion and sound settings on your Cradlewise crib from bed while you’re recovering from birth — so you can take care of yourself and your baby at the same time.
Incision care after your C-section
It’s important to take care of your incision wound after your C-section surgery. Proper incision care is essential to prevent infection and promote healing.
Here are some tips to take care of your incision after C-section:
- Wait until your incision is fully healed before taking a bath, usually around 4-6 weeks after a C-section.
- You can take showers to keep the incision site clean.
- Wash your incision every day with mild soap and warm water.
- Let the shower water run on the incision wound. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing it.
- Gently pat it dry with a clean towel.
- Change the dressing once a day or sooner if it gets dirty or wet.
- Remember that it’s important to keep your dressing dry.
- Avoid applying any ointments or creams unless recommended by your doctor.
- Wear loose clothing to prevent friction or irritation around the incision site.
While taking care of your incision, keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or drainage from the incision site. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.
This is a crucial period of your life, and feeling exhausted and overwhelmed is natural and completely normal. Each person’s pregnancy and postpartum journey is different. With the help of the right resources and support from your partner, family, friends, and doctors, you can recover quickly.
Learn more about pregnancy nausea and its remedies.
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Q: How long do you bleed after C-section?
A: After a C-section, you can expect to bleed for up to six weeks. This is because the body needs to shed the lining of the uterus that built up during pregnancy. The bleeding will start out heavy and become lighter over time. It’s important to use pads rather than tampons during this time to avoid infection.
Q: When can I start bending after a C-section?
A: Avoid bending, lifting heavy objects, or doing any strenuous activities for the first few weeks after a C-section.
If you need to sit, try sitting upright in a chair with a straight back and keep your feet flat on the ground. This will help to keep your spine in a neutral position and avoid putting any strain on your abdominal muscles. Avoid slouching or crossing your legs while sitting.
Since supporting your weight while sitting can be difficult, you can prop up with pillows, sit semi-reclined, and roll onto your side before sitting up from a reclined position. Lying down as much as possible is also recommended. It’s best to consult with your doctor before starting any physical activities.
Q: When can you drive after a C-section?
A: Driving is generally not recommended for at least two weeks after a C-section, or until you can comfortably wear a seatbelt and perform an emergency stop without discomfort.
Q: How long does a C-section take?
A: Generally, a C-section can take between 30 minutes to an hour from the time the anesthesia is administered to the delivery of the baby. After the baby is delivered, the surgeon will then close the incision, which can take an additional 30 minutes. However, it can depend on various factors, such as the reason for the C-section, the surgeon’s experience, and the patient’s individual circumstances.
Q: How many C-sections can you have?
A: The number of C-sections a person can have depends on various factors such as previous surgeries, health conditions, and the reason for the C-section. Generally, it is safe to have up to three C-sections.