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You’ve been waiting for your little one for the last nine months. As you are waiting for a natural birth, sometimes things do not as planned. So, whether you had a surprise c-section or a planned one, recovering from your baby’s cesarean birth can require extra time and care. Some normal post-birth symptoms include postpartum bleeding or lochia and cramping. If you had a c-section, you’ll also have a sore incision that will have to heal. You have to deal with all of this while caring for a newborn. But how do you properly recover after a cesarean? Well, we’ve got everything you need to know to help yourself fully recover after a c-section! So, keep on reading!
Bleeding After a C-Section
Experiencing vaginal bleeding after a c-section is normal. The bleeding, that you see, is a sign that it’s healing as it should be but it shouldn’t bleed excessively. If you’re bleeding through a pad every few hours or if you’re not bleeding several weeks after birth, let your health care provider know. Make sure that your incision isn’t bleeding as it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the wound to fully heal, and during that time it’ll likely be tender. Put a cloth pad on it to keep it from getting sweaty, if the skin from your belly folds over the incision. Also, consult your doctor if you develop a fever or if the skin surrounding the incision becomes painful, turns hard or red, starts oozing green or pus-colored liquid because this could be a sign of infection.
Swelling After a C-Section
A big part of c-section recovery goes towards managing pain, and you don’t get any bonus points for avoiding pain medications. Specialists encourage women to take whatever they’ve prescribed, on schedule. You’ll not feel the pain right away because medications delivered through the epidural ease any pain immediately after delivery. Once those wear off, you’ll be prescribed some oral anti-inflammatory medications, which will help with incision pain and gas discomfort, and uterine cramping. Also, the hormones which are released during breastfeeding can trigger cramping.
C-section Recovery Timeline
Here’s are some of the things you’ll be able to do during your c-section recovery:
It depends on the mother because you can either breastfeed as soon as you feel comfortable or right after you give birth. The pain medication that you received during the procedure does not interfere with breastfeeding. However, picking up a baby after a c-section can be a little painful. Simply sitting and holding a baby in a chair and nursing isn’t a challenge but lifting a baby out of the bassinet may be one. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance from the nurses or your partner, when you’re ready to breastfeed your baby. Since stretching your abdomen hurts, you should opt for a positioning pillow because it supports your back and will make things easier. Also, experiment with different breastfeeding positions that will not put a lot of pressure on your surgical scar. You could do the side-lying position, where you can rest your tired body while the baby feeds, or the football position, where there’s less rubbing on the incision.
You can’t walk around right after delivery, but you should be able to do it within a day. But why do you have to wait? Firstly, the medications which cause numbing have to wear off. Secondly, before the c-section was undertaken, a catheter was inserted so that, during delivery, your bladder wouldn’t be damaged and it is usually removed the very next morning. Also, before undergoing a c-section some women had to go through long labor so they need extra time to regain their energy. If the cesarean section was uncomplicated, most patients are encouraged to walk within 12 to 15 hours after surgery. Admittedly, it might hurt a bit at first, but getting back on your feet is important for a speedy recovery. Women are encouraged to move around because it helps lower the risk of any post-op complications, like blood clots forming in the legs and body functions (especially your bowels) get back into the swing of things.
3. Going to the bathroom
When you’re ready, your health care provider will most likely want you to take a stroll to the bathroom (don’t be surprised to see some postpartum bleeding, once you’re there). Doctors mention that, once your bowels start working normally again, women might experience severe constipation and gas pains and they are extremely painful. Since distended bowels can irritate the diaphragm, you might feel the pain extend to the shoulders. To make bowel movements easier for the next few weeks, your health care provider might prescribe some laxatives, and remember to drink lots of fluids and eat plenty of fiber-rich foods.
Usually, the day after your c-section you’ll be able to eat solids, that is, once your bowel movements have returned to normal. Try to start with something that’s relatively bland, non-greasy foods within the first few days after surgery.
Initially, you should not carry anything that is heavier than your baby, or about 10 pounds. If you want to do some heavier weights and workouts, you will most likely get an all-clear after six weeks, assuming an examination shows your c-section recovery is on track. Until then, depending on your level of comfort do some light walking. Pay attention to your body and consult your doctor if you are extremely uncomfortable, even after the green light.
6. Having sex
Typically, you can start having sexual intercourse after a six-week postpartum visit. Always listen to your body and go slow and try positions that don’t put pressure on your incision.
Bathing depends on how your incision was closed. If you opt for showering, just pat your incision, don’t scrub it. If your wound was closed up with staples, you should hold off on taking a bath for about a week. However, if it was sewn up, feel free to enjoy a soak in the bathtub right away.
Proper Care For C-Section Scar
Your scar will be painful at first, however, with proper care and time the pain will gradually lessen. Here are some things you should be aware of in the weeks following your c-section:
It will take at least three months for it to completely heal. Remember to keep your incision clean and avoid scrubbing or irritating it. Wear breathable fabrics to give your scar a chance to air out because allowing your incision to breathe helps with healing. Until it’s fully healed, stay away from any treatments for fading the scar’s appearance.
You might also experience cramping as your uterus is shrinking. If you’re feeling sore, you can go for over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. They are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding or consult your doctor about which pain relief is right for you.
3. Doctor visits:
Do not miss any appointments for getting your incision checked and removing stitches (if they’re not the dissolvable kind).
4. C-section infection:
If your incision turns red, swollen, or has pus, you most likely have an infection, so consult your health care provider immediately.
Some C-Section Recovery Tips
It’s hard to take care of yourself while simultaneously taking care of a newborn, however, you need to take care of yourself so you can heal properly. Here are some items that can be helpful while you’re recovering:
- Constipation is common after a c-section, so go for stool softeners and/or a fiber supplement or fiber-rich foods.
- Use doctor-recommended pain relief medications.
- Use a heating pad on a low setting.
- If you’re experiencing itching around your incision area, use an ice pack.
- For postpartum bleeding, opt for super-absorbent menstrual pads.
- If it’s recommended by your doctor, use antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly for your incision.
- If your doctor recommends covering the incision, go for gauze pads and first-aid tape.
- Keep a water bottle by your side to avoid dehydration (for constipation issues).
- While you’re healing, use a belly band or belt to support your abdomen.
When to See Your Healthcare Provider?
It’s important to consult your health care provider if you suspect you’re not healing well or you could be experiencing an infection. Some signs of infection might include:
- Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pus or liquid at the incision
- Redness at the incision
- Swelling at the incision or in your lymph nodes
If you experience severe or unusual pain, you should talk to your doctor right away. If you experience:
- Severe pain in your abdominal, or
- Your groin or legs are paining, which could be a sign of a blood clot.
Some other reasons to consult a doctor might include:
- If you have trouble breathing.
- If you experience troubling thoughts, unusual sadness, or depression.
- You are soaking through more than one pad every two hours, which means excessive vaginal bleeding.
- If your vaginal bleeding is getting heavier or is bright red.
- The incision has come open.
- If you experience vaginal blood clots that are larger than a golf ball.
- There’s difficulty going to the bathroom.
When you’re in doubt about any symptom or problem, it’s OK to consult your health care provider. They are there to help you have a speedy recovery following your c-section. So, get well soon and take care of yourself and your new baby!