20 Tips for a Smooth C-Section Recovery
While C-section recovery can be a bit tougher than recovering from a vaginal birth, you can smooth the way with these 20 tips for a successful recovery from a Cesarean birth.
1. Schedule Pain Medications
Don’t try to be a hero when it comes to pain relief. “Make sure the nurses put your pain meds on a schedule for you and stick to it!” says Heidi Danos of Evanston, Illinois. “I say that because sometimes they will just tell you, ‘Ask me when you need your pain meds.’ I tried to be tough and didn’t always ask for meds as soon as I should have and I was
not a happy camper as a result.”
Once you’re home, stick to your schedule by writing down the times you take the medications so you can take the next dose on time. There’s no need to suffer.
2. Avoid Constipation
Narcotics can cause very severe constipation, and straining after abdominal surgery can put extreme pressure on your tender, healing tissues. Eating plenty of fiber and making sure you’re well hydrated will help keep things moving, but also talk to your doctor about putting you on stool softeners. Stool softeners are gentle, painless, and non-addicting. So avoid the need to take laxatives by not getting constipated in the first place.
3. Sleep Downstairs
If you sleep in an upstairs bedroom, avoid trooping up and down stairs by sleeping in a downstairs room or on the couch for a week or so after your surgery.
“I try and limit the amount of stairs patients do for the first week, as it can be very difficult for some to go up and down steps,” says Dr. Robert Atlas, an OB-GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “Steps can put quite a bit of pressure and strain to the muscles in the lower abdomen.”
4. Use a Step Stool
If your bed is a little high off the ground, try a step stool to keep from having to over-stretch getting in and out of bed. Just a step or two can keep you from having to hop up into bed, which could be extremely painful. You might find you also need a stool to reach things that previously only required standing on tip-toes, at least until your tummy muscles get a little tougher.
If lying down proves uncomfortable, trying sleeping slightly upright on pillows or in a recliner. This will take some of the pressure off your incision and keep you from stretching tender abdominal muscles too much. It will also make it easier to get up and down.
6. Use Your Arms
Movement, such as going from a seated to standing or lying to sitting position, will be hard after a C-section, so use your arms whenever possible to pull or push yourself into position without straining your abdomen. Rolling can also help, such as gently rolling off a low couch onto your hands and knees on the floor. Then use your arms to push yourself upright with the couch or coffee table for balance.
7. Keep It Loose
After a Cesarean surgery your incision is going to be sore and painful for a while, possibly making even your favorite pjs uncomfortable. “Plan ahead,” suggests Allyson Phillips, a mom from San Diego. “Purchase extremely oversized comfy underwear that will not hit the incision site and comfy/loose pants with elastic or drawstring waistbands (you don’t want anything touching the incision site).”
A clean cloth diaper or soft burp cloth over the incision can also prevent rubbing and irritation that can occur when moving around.
8. Keep It Tight
Laughter may be the best medicine, but after a C-section, those chuckles can literally be a pain. Holding a pillow tightly to your incision area when you laugh, cough, or sneeze, can help keep you from feeling like you’re going to rupture something.
9. Use a Belly Binder
Another way to keep your abdomen supported is to use a belly binder. “They make super-wide elastic waist bands,” says Jennifer Hancock of Ellenton, Florida. “It helped keep my stomach in so that a) the gas wasn’t too bad and b) the wound could heal without the trauma associated with laughing and coughing. Totally recommend one.”
Some hospitals will provide C-section patients with a belly binder if they request one, so be sure to ask.
10. The Football Hold
After a C-section, you’re not going to want anything putting pressure on sore abdominal muscles and incision, including your baby. This can make breastfeeding tricky. “I had never seen anyone breastfeed using a football (or clutch) hold position,” says Lynnette Harris of Millville, Utah. “But I was glad the hospital lactation specialist taught me. The football hold let us get the knack of breastfeeding while keeping the baby off my tender stomach.”
To use the football hold, tuck Baby’s body under your arm like a football, resting her on a pillow to put her at proper height to feed comfortably.
11. Multiple Diapering Stations
Set up several areas around the house stocked with diapering supplies. That way, no matter where you and Baby are in the house, you’ll just be a few steps away from being clean and dry.
12. Grab a Mirror
For several weeks after surgery, you’ll need to check your incision for separation of the stitches, redness, drainage, and other signs of infection. It may be difficult to bend over to see your incision, so use a hand-held mirror to do the work for you.
13. Scratch That Itch (Gently)
As you incision heals, it will likely be very itchy. Scratching it will be impossible because it will still be painful as well. Lynn Smith, a mom from Houston, says “taking a wad of toilet paper, loosely balling it up and very lightly rubbing it over my still-sore incision was heaven.”
14. Load a Basket
Save yourself (and your helpers) trips back and forth through the house by filling a basket with useful items you can carry with you from room to room. This could be things like:
- A book
- Emery board
- Your medications
- Bottle of water
- Cordless phone or cell phone
15. Drink Up
Staying hydrated is super important during recovery. Make sure to take in plenty of fluids—though not carbonated or too cold. Fluids will keep you hydrated, help with milk production if you’re
breastfeeding, and keep your bowels moving after the surgery. Keep bottles of water or a pitcher of water or juice close by to make it easier to get in all the fluids you need.
16. Get Walking
In the hospital, nurses will have you up and moving as soon as possible and will prod you to walk the halls. When you return home, keep it up, even if it’s hard. Moving after major abdominal surgery is very important. Besides helping with circulation to prevent blood clots, walking will help relieve gas, keep bowels functioning properly,
give you energy, and help you sleep.
17. Plan-Ahead Meal Prep
If you know you’re going to be having a C-section, start filling your freezer with easy meals ahead of time. Many items like soups, stews, casseroles, lasagna, and other pasta dishes freeze really well and can make lunch and dinner prep easier either for you or for any helpers you might have.
18. Ask for Help
Asking for and accepting help can be tough, but family and friends will be more than happy to lend a hand. Keep a list of things people can help with like meal preparation, laundry, childcare for older children, or grocery shopping while you’re on driving restrictions. You need your rest and people love to feel helpful.
19. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk
Postpartum depression can be a problem for any new mom, but perhaps a bit more so for C-section moms, especially if it was unplanned. Feelings of inadequacy or sadness can really hit hard. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with a trusted friend or relative. And be sure to let your doctor know if you suspect you may be developing postpartum depression.
20. Follow Driving Restrictions
Your doctor will tell you to avoid driving for two to four weeks or until your incision is healed and you are completely off pain meds. This recommendation is not only for comfort but for safety reasons. Narcotic pain medications can make you sluggish and your reaction times slower, making driving dangerous. You should also wait to drive until you can make sudden movements and wear a seatbelt without causing pain to your abdomen.
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