I've now had two cesarean birth experiences - one emergency C-section and one planned cesarean procedure. Recovery can be painful and very trying - especially with another child already at home - and doctors may not always fully prepare you for what lies ahead. These are some of the best tips and tricks I’ve collected from friends, social media, research etc. that I wish someone had shared with me before I went through a cesarean for the first time.
Be kind to and gentle with yourself. Recognize that while C-sections are very common, that doesn’t mean the procedure isn’t still major abdominal surgery. You will have your organs removed and put back in your body after they pull a human being from inside of you (!!!) - that’s a really big deal. Acknowledge that you are recovering from an operation and treat yourself accordingly.
Take the pain medication. We are all conditioned now to be afraid of narcotics and opiates - and there is good reason for that - but this is not the time in your life to be a hero. The pain meds are prescribed because you need them. They will help lessen the hurting but they'll also help you do the things you need to do to heal, like walk and go to the bathroom.
Accept help and don’t plan too much for 4 weeks following your procedure. If you push yourself too hard, your recovery will take longer and you’ll be in pain for longer. After Daisy was born, I took my recovery seriously and stayed in bed whenever I wasn’t visiting her in the NICU. After Ella was born, however, we had a steady stream of visitors and I was cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping and cooking the day after I left the hospital - not smart. I’m still experiencing pain around the incision and I realize now this could’ve been avoided.
Stock up on the big mesh undies they give you in the hospital. The area around your incision will be super painful to the touch for several weeks. You won’t want anything rubbing against it and the mesh hospital undies are so thin they’re barely there. Post-hospital, invest in high-waisted undies in the thinnest fabric you can find. I’ve found great options at Target, Gap Body and people love these Victoria's Secret high-waisted no show undies.
Get up and walk 12-24 hours after surgery. The sooner you start moving, the more quickly you will heal. Don’t overdo it, but, make sure you’re walking every few hours in the hospital. I timed my walks for an hour after each disbursement of medication so I knew I wouldn’t be in terrible pain and I’d set goals like walking from one end of the hall to the other twice.
Bring a long scarf, piece of fabric or rope to tie to the footboard of the hospital bed to help pull you up. I read this suggestion on a social media post recently and it blew my mind - the most painful part about the days following C-section recovery is sitting up and getting up out of the hospital bed. Every time feels like your incision will rip open and your insides will come pouring out. This would make getting up so much easier!
Take the stool softeners offered to you in the hospital and drink a combination of warm apple and prune juices as soon as you are allowed and keep that diet going. You will be constipated (I never thought I would write this much about poop in a public forum but parenting really changes everything!) and when you do finally go, it’s going to hurt. A lot. Read this and this. You’ll also experience a lot of painful gas. Letting anything go from your body - even pee - is really hard when it feels like your organs are falling out - so you will need lots of help getting things moving again. Don’t be proud. This is not the moment for that.
Have a pillow ready for the ride home - holding it over your incision will make the bumps in the road less painful. It also helps to have an extra in the hospital to hold over your pain area if you have to cough or sneeze - or when you laugh.
Invest in a belly wrap like the Belly Bandit. These can help close your ab muscles which have separated and can help the uterus shrink back to its normal size - in addition to helping lessen the feeling that your organs may fall out of your body at any moment. If you’re self-conscious about wearing the belly band in public, high-waisted yoga pants with a support band are amazing. I love the LuluLemon Align II pants but Old Navy makes affordable ones too.
Buy a nursing pillow if you plan to breastfeed. A big bummer about breastfeeding immediately after a cesarean is that the baby will always be hanging out right around your abdomen which is healing from major surgery. A nursing pillow will keep the baby away from your scar and protect you from any kicking while you get settled into breastfeeding and during the nursing sessions. The Boppy brand has always worked well for me.
Remember that recovery is temporary. I needed this reminder a lot during both postpartum periods. It can be so, so hard to force yourself to rest - especially if you are an active person or have other children to take care of - but this is just a few short weeks you’ll be sidelined. The pain and discomfort are temporary, too, and lessen a little bit every day.
Use scar cream or tape once the incision has begun to heal if you're concerned about the scar. Lots of moms recommend massaging the scar area with scar cream or cocoa butter. Some moms also recommend Scar Away Tape. I’ve never used this but people swear it works. I personally wear my c-section scar like a badge of honor and don’t mind if it is a prominent part of my body but not everyone feels that way and I can understand that too!
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less of a warrior for having had a C-section. There’s a lot of low-key mom shaming that happens and this is one focus of that shaming that drives me nuts. I totally get that us c-section moms avoided the awfulness of labor and I don’t want to take away from the majesty and strength of all the mamas who muscled through that sh-t because it’s not easy(!) BUT, c-sections are births too and there is a lot of pain and yucky bodily stuff that happens to us C mamas also. Our recoveries are painful and messy and inconvenient and usually take even longer than the recovery from a natural birth. You carried a child for many months and delivered them into this world the best way you could - you are INCREDIBLE!
Hope this is helpful to all of you amazing fellow mamas. Take care of yourselves ♥