Tips for c-section recovery

by Ginger on October 19, 2009

in Mom Thoughts

One of the things I found really frustrating about my c-section was the lack of information I could find on recovery. Oh, sure, there was stuff about the first few days–the days in the hospital, and the first few days home–but I found it hard to find those little tips and tricks that I had stockpiled about a vaginal delivery. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places, but for whatever reason I  didn’t see that wealth of mom-to-mom hints that I was looking for.

So I’ve put together a list of tips and tricks that I came up with should any of you ever need them. Enjoy.

  1. Get up and walk. Ok, so this one is everywhere, but it’s so important that I thought I’d reiterate it. As soon as possible, get out of bed at the hospital and walk. Even if it’s just to the bathroom, or to another chair, or to the baby. It makes a huge difference in the days that follow, even though it will not be comfortable or pleasant those first few times.
  2. Do whatever it takes…to alleviate gassiness and avoid constipation in the early days. This was one tip that a relative gave me, and I have to say truer words were never spoken. Obviously, don’t do anything without your doctor’s ok, but you do NOT want to fight that battle.
  3. Pads are your friend. In the early days, when my incision was still oozing a little, I found that putting a pad lengthwise across the incision was the perfect solution. They were held in place by my underwear, provided a little padding from any pressure issues, and were the perfect size to cover the entire incision with a little room to spare.
  4. Be careful with positions that may work your abdominal muscles. Once home, I realized that there were positions that I needed to be more careful with than others. Sitting up in bed and getting out of bed were two big ones. Getting in and out of the car was a little tough. Another one that surprised me (but shouldn’t have in retrospect), was getting up from a sitting position with the baby in my arms. Whoo, that one was a dozy in the early days. Whenever possible, use your arms to help you out of those positions in the first few weeks. If you have the option of having someone else grab the baby so you can get yourself up, even better.
  5. Also, be aware of stairs. Stairs work your core more than you might realize, and if you’ve got a baby in your arms doubly so. A lot of people may set up camp on one floor if they live in a two story home, but that wasn’t an option for me. Instead, I made a point to go up and down slowly and deliberately. I think in the long run the stairs will have been good for me, but I did have to be very conscious  of how I moved up and down them in the early days.
  6. Your belly may hurt, and not the part you might think. In the weeks after my c-section, the absolute most painful part for me? The skin above my incision and below my belly button. It felt like that area had been sanded off with sandpaper–it was so tender that my clothes brushing against that area would hurt. In hindsight, it makes sense–the skin there was very stretched from being 9 months pregnant, there were several different kinds of adhesive put on that area and then ripped off, they shaved that area, etc.–but it was a shock to me how much that hurt. I started putting a mixture of vitamin E and heavy duty lotion on twice a day just to try and alleviate that tenderness. It took about 4 weeks before it didn’t hurt me anymore.
  7. Bring on the granny panties. It may have been only me, but underwear was (and to an extent, continues to be) an issue. Because though my incision didn’t hurt to touch, pressure…well that was a different story. And almost all underwear I had, the band hit right at the incision, putting the maximum amount of pressure right where I didn’t want it. After about 2 days of that, I finally broke down and bought the granniest granny panties I could find, so that they came up over my belly and didn’t roll down to the incision. There was still the issue of the tender skin in #7, but it was really the only option (since going commando in the first weeks after giving birth really isn’t feasible!).
  8. For that matter, over the belly everything rules. I can technically fit in the jeans I wore pre-pregnancy…if it weren’t for the pressure that they put on my incision. Again, maybe only me, but if you can find stuff that will fit over your belly without pressure, you’ll feel better.
  9. The football hold will be your friend. If you’re going to breastfeed, the football hold is pretty much the way to go. The other positions (with the exception of the side lying hold) will tend to put pressure on your abdomen, so for those early days in particular may not be feasible. I found I wasn’t comfortable with the side-lying hold for a few weeks either, because laying on my side was really uncomfortable for my belly, so we got pretty good with the football hold.
  10. Breastfeeding pillows may not work for you. Because the football hold works the best, the breastfeeding pillows may not be feasible in the beginning, as they are really more suited to the front facing holds. I just used extra pillows we had around that could be configured however I needed them on the side.
  11. A few random tidbits. I used Cetaphil to  gently wash my incision, and put a little bit of vitamin E oil on it when it would start to feel like it was “tugging” from getting dry. Be careful if you want to do belly binding–some hospitals will send you out with a binder, and I know I tried to use one at home (mostly for support), but it put some crazy pressure on my incision that I couldn’t handle. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little woozy or weird when things touch your incision just so. If you can, have your significant other check your incision every few days or so to make sure there’s nothing that has changed or looks off–if so, let your doctor know asap. It may be nothing, but you don’t want to take the chance!
  12. Finally, don’t overdo it. I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but seriously, don’t overdo it. Cesareans are major abdominal surgery, and even though you have a new baby, and laundry to do, and a house to take care of–you have to let yourself recover. Make your significant other pick up the slack. Accept any and all help you can. Don’t try and do 3 hours of errands the week after your surgery. Let the house get messy. None of that is as important as taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your new baby.

As always, more lists can be found over at Anna’s at abdpbt!

abdpbt October 19, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Great tips here. I didn’t have a c-section, but those first few weeks are so tough physically anyway, you really get used to that biting your lip instead of screaming in pain reflex. And yeah, just be glad you don’t have to wear Depends, because I did for a while after my v-birth. 🙁 It’s kind of humiliating.

Bluebelle October 20, 2009 at 9:03 am

I am not having babies anytime soon but I’m sure this will spring to my mind when we do get there. Thanks!

Becky N March 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Hi. Your info has been really helpful as i had a cesarean 3 weeks ago and have had trouble with knowing what i can & cant do. I too have had th skin pain above my incision (almost like sunburn) and i wanted to let you know that since looking into this ‘pain’ it seems to be that its caused by nerve damage. And it can cause this pain while the nerves are healing. Most people say it goes after about 8 weeks but some say it lasts a long time 🙁

Mary July 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I have not had a child yet…& from everything I read about vaginal delivery or C-Sections, I think more & more adoption is for me!!!!;) Moms are amazing, how did you manage to take care of your new baby with this post-op pain?! *Bows to you*!

Hannah July 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I am so glad I found this!! I’m experiencing the pain you describe in number 6 and I am miserable w it!

Annie August 10, 2013 at 10:16 am

Wow, you’re on point with all the things you mentioned. I am experiencing the same thing. Too bad I stumbled upon your post so late. I did the pad over the incision and wore granny pants like few weeks after the surgery, really wish I found your post sooner! Thanks for sharing!

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