Your C-Section: A 5-Step Recovery Guide
Whether you're planning a C-section or want to prepare for a surgical delivery "just in case," knowing what to expect during recovery—both physically and emotionally—can help you through the postpartum period.
Homeward Bound: Three to Five Days after Delivery
You’ll be going home from the hospital. “The first week or two you’re home, don’t push yourself,” says Connolly. “This is your time to be pampered.” In addition to coping with the aggravations all new moms face (such as constipation, night sweats, and mood swings), you’re recovering from major surgery. If you have visitors, put them to work running errands and doing household tasks so you can rest and get to know your baby.
You can also ease your recovery by continuing to be gently active and remembering not to lift anything heavier than your newborn, says Dr. Hamm.
Having a pillow on hand can help tremendously during these days after surgery. Press it gently against your belly to help soften pain when walking or sneezing, and tuck it behind your back to help you feel more comfortable when sitting. If you’re just not feeling well physically, don’t get discouraged, says Connolly. “With each day that goes by in the first two weeks, you typically feel a little better.”
Your Postpartum Checkup: Six to Eight Weeks Later
You’ll have your final postpartum checkup, and your doctor will release you for normal activities such as exercise and sexual relations. “[Most patients] are doing very well,” says Dr. Hamm. “You may feel some pulling around your incision. You’ll also probably have some numbness, as the superficial nerves have been cut, and if they are starting to grow back, you may be feeling some burning.”
Connolly notes that for many women, there is an emotional recovery in addition to the physical recovery. “It’s OK to grieve,” adds Connolly. “A lot of women say that if they tried to express their disappointment about having a Cesarean, they were told, ‘Well, you had a healthy baby, and isn’t that the goal?’ But you can feel both happy that you had a healthy baby and disappointed that you didn’t deliver vaginally.”
“My [first] C-section baby is now entering the second grade, happy and healthy and perfect,” says Muller. “I look at my incision as a well-earned battle scar, in a fight I fought for my child. [It's] more of a battle scratch now, and I wish that it was bigger to reflect how important it is. It is a visible, tangible sign that we belong to each other.”
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