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How to heal and recover after your C-section

how to heal and recover after your c-section


By Ruth Gordon-Martin, CODDLE founder and postpartum doula. She gives her personal take and recommendations on healing and recovery after cesarean birth. 

Over thirty percent of women in the United States have cesarean birth yet moms get very little education or support on how to recover. As a postpartum doula and c-section mom myself, I’m here to help you with a full guide of how-to recover and steps you can take to speed up your healing and recovery. 

Prior to my cesarean birth, I had a myomectomy – a surgery to remove fibroids. Later on, when I became pregnant the only option for me to deliver my baby was via a cesarean section. There are many other reasons why a c-section may be necessary and should never be judged solely on being the easy way out. 

RECOVERY AFTER C-SECTION: 

  1. You can start your road to healing and recovery right from your hospital by doing belly breathing. Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing (inhale –> belly rise, exhale –> belly falls). 
    Drawing in your abdominal walls to your spine are safe movements which send oxygenated blood flow to your incision to help speed up healing.
  2. Your incision may be sore, swollen and you might feel a burning sensation. You can soothe and cool all three with CODDLE’s perineal balm also known as witch hazel balm. Along with witch hazel, the balm is made with peppermint which provides even more cooling relief. 
    Here’s a c section recovery hack; apply perineal balm on a cotton pad and gently dabbed over your stitches.
  3. To help speed up healing, take a warm bath soaking in a sitz herbal bath 2 – 3 times a day. Sitz bath soothes c-section soreness and swelling. A full submersion tub bath is not recommended until about 4 weeks after a cesarean birth or when your doctor gives the go-ahead
  4. Moving around is important, even if it’s from one end of your room to the next. Moving is a must! It helps prevent blood clots, lung congestion and minimizes gas and constipation.
  5. Try and stand as straight as possible. When you do, make sure to support your belly with your hand.
  6. At home use a pillow(s) to help with any discomfort you feel while lying in bed. To move from sitting to standing and vice versa, use the pillow to hold against your abdomen and support your incision. This also works for riding in the car in the first few days after your c-section. Pillows make excellent splints when you need to cough, laugh, or sneeze. Just hold it firmly over your belly.
  7. When you have a c-section you might find it difficult to raise your arms above your head without pain. Don’t plan on reaching for anything high up for the first few weeks. You’ll want easy access to the things you need by keeping them at waist height.
  8. If your house has more than one floor in the first week – I advise keeping the amount of times you go up and down to one per day.. You can come down and hang out with guests/family & friends then head up later. No constant up and down because even though you may feel awesome, remember they had to cut through more than 5 layers to get to your baby. 
  9. Drink plenty of water especially if you’re breastfeeding/bodyfeeding. Keep your incision clean, your doctor or nurse will advise you regarding care.

WHAT ISN’T NORMAL AFTER A C-SECTION

Do NOT ignore or wait until your scheduled postpartum checkup to report any of the following:

  • Multiple blood clots, or a blood clot the size of a golf ball
  • Heavy bleeding that fills a pad in 1 to 2 hours
  • Lower-belly tenderness
  • Fever above 100.4° F
  • Foul-smelling or green/yellow vaginal discharge or from the incision
  • A severe headache
  • Blurry or spotty vision
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Nausea and vomiting, pain or burning during urination
  • Pain, swelling or tenderness in your legs usually accompanied by warmth, redness and hardness 
  • Severe pain in your lower abdomen

The HOW TO List, AFTER YOUR C-SECTION.

How to:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Take a bath: the general rule is wait, wait until 4 weeks postpartum, as long as you had an uncomplicated recovery. 

Exercise: general rule: at 4 weeks and if your recovery is uncomplicated you may be ready. Everything you read will tell you to talk to your doctor and you should but I want to add here to talk with a physical therapist (PT) as well. Most people skip this step and just talk with their OBGYNs who are not typically focused on or trained in abdominal separation and recovery the way a PT is. 

Have sex: sex is one of those things you have to feel ready for mentally/physically. The same 6 – 8 weeks is general guidance, but I remember at 8 weeks I wasn’t ready. This is a question for your midwife or doctor at your postpartum visit. 

Heavy lifting: “You should not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds or your baby for the first 6 weeks postpartum.” 

There’s so much more you need to know such as, what questions to ask at your pre-op visit, how to breastfeed after your c-section and how to prevent scar numbness – which many c-section moms report having after. I’ve written an eBook telling you everything you need, so you feel prepared and empowered. Grab a copy on my website. ⠀

CODDLE, is a postpartum self-care company giving moms the resources, education and products they need to survive one of the most life altering changes they may experience – postpartum recovery!

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