A C-section is a major abdominal surgery and it is great to think about your recovery beforehand and have some preparation done. It usually takes about 6 weeks to recover from your c-section but this will depend on your individual situation. If you had any problems during or after your c-section or looking after other children at home, you may feel you need more time to recover.
Here are some top tips for your early recovery.
1. Prepare your home.
There are some things you can do if you know you are having a C-section:
- Set up a number of different baby changing stations throughout the house. Have all your baby items closer to your bed and sofa so you can reach them without getting up.
- Have lots of pillows on the sofa. Use cushions or pillows to make feeding your baby more comfortable.
- Buy cotton pants that are high enough to cover your c-section wound, such as full briefs that come up to your waist.
- Buy a few cotton maternity bras – you may find these more comfortable than underwired bras, whether you plan to breastfeed or not.
- Have comfortable, loose clothes ready – your maternity clothes are ideal.
- Stock up on paracetamol, maternity pads, and breast pads.
- Freeze meals or ask family or friends to make some meals, so you don’t have to cook for the first few days after coming home.
- Have a supply of peppermint tea, which can be soothing and relieves painful trapped wind.
- Plan to get plenty of rest.
Rest is vital for recovery from any surgery. Yet for many new parents, rest is nearly impossible with a newborn in the home. Newborns keep irregular hours and may sleep for only 1 or 2 hours at a time.
Plan to prioritise your own sleep when you get home. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by chores or to want to entertain visitors. But giving up sleep to put away dishes or keep the house clean can be damaging to someone’s health. It is more sensible to try to sleep as much as possible.
2. Ask for Help
If possible, ask friends and family for help when you come home from the hospital. Caring for a baby after major surgery can be exhausting, and it is not possible to manage this alone.
Ideally, you should have someone to help you at home for at least the first 2 weeks.
Practice giving people concrete jobs so they can best support you (this is the best advice we can give you). Family, friends and other people will also probably appreciate you telling them exactly what you need. For example, you could say, ‘Could you pick up some bread and milk on your way to visit today?’ Or ‘Thanks for offering to pick up some shopping, but I really just need someone to hang out the washing today’.
It’s important that you get rest while you’re healing and caring for a newborn. Limit visitors, and prioritize those who will provide practical help, such as making meals, doing dishes, and doing laundry.
If your other children are used to being picked up, there are other ways for you to be close. For example, your toddler could sit next to you on the couch while you have a cuddle and read a story together.
3. Stay on top of Pain relief
Your wound will feel sore and bruised for a few weeks. Some women need prescription painkillers for up to a week after surgery, gradually transitioning to only over-the-counter pain relievers. Most pain-relief medications are safe for breastfeeding moms but ask your doctor if you have questions.
It’s important to take your pain relief regularly and on time, even if you don’t have pain at the time. Waiting until you have pain to take painkillers only makes life more difficult for you.
You may also find that a heating pad or an ice pack helps relieve pain.
4. Avoid constipation
There are many reasons for constipation after a C-section, including the effects of pain medication and being less active. The combination of hormonal shifts, weaker stomach muscles, and spending lots of time lying down can lead to constipation. Severe constipation can be painful, and straining can hurt the C-section incision.
Drink plenty of water. It might seem like simple advice but it is easy to forget your own needs when you are tending to a newborn.
Eating plenty of fibre-rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables, can help to prevent constipation too. Discuss this with your partner and family so they can support you in getting the nourishment your body needs.
Don’t be afraid to ask a doctor about taking a stool softener.
5. Getting in and out of bed
Getting in and out of bed can be difficult or uncomfortable while you’re recovering from your c-section. To make it easier to get out of bed, you should continue to get in and out of bed like you did while you were pregnant for a minimum of 6 weeks:
roll on to your side
drop both legs over the side of the bed
push yourself up sideways into a sitting position.
Try to stand up as straight as you can. You can do the opposite to get back into bed.
6. Physical Activity
Getting up and walking around once you are home will help you heal faster and can help prevent blood clots. Short walks are an excellent way to increase strength and stamina. Avoid anything more active until you have no pain and you feel ready example, avoid driving, carrying anything heavy, or doing heavy housework, such as vacuuming until you feel able to. You will need help with carrying your baby in their car seat and with lifting their pram.
Slowly increase how much you do.
It is not recommended to return to high impact exercise such as running, jumping, gym work until 12 weeks post c-section. This does not mean that you cannot do anything. As your pain settles it is a great time to begin some gentle exercises to gradually strengthen your body.
Check out our free resources section for safe exercises to begin in the first 6 weeks after a c-section.
7. Watch for signs of infection
You need to be mindful of signs of infection, such as swelling, intense pain, red streaks coming from the incision, increased body temperature or chills. Contact a doctor or go to the emergency room if these symptoms appear.
8. Consider an abdominal binder
Some women report a reduction in pain and discomfort with support around the belly area. The hospital will sometimes provide tubigrip which is an elasticated binder. Rigid binders are not recommended after a c-section as they tend to pull on the scar.
A tummy support can stabilise the area around your incision to reduce pain with movement.
SRC Recovery shorts and leggings are ideal for women after c-section as there are no rigid seams to pull on the scar.
9. Go slow on driving
Don’t drive if you’re taking prescription pain medication. You’ll be ready to drive when you’re done taking prescription painkillers and when you don’t experience pain from the motions of driving (turning to check your blind spot, stepping on the brake pedal, and steering, for example).
In many instances, it is not the driving but the extra lifting and pulling that is involved in getting a newborn in and out of the car that creates pain and discomfort for the mom. Always ask yourself is it necessary to drive and if you can take a few more weeks to rest your body.