When my water broke early, we knew the chances of having a Cesarean birth were high. And since my body had a hard time going into labor naturally so early, we had to have an emergency C-section. But what was the aftermath like? While I knew it would be difficult, I didn’t know just how difficult it would be. Whether you’re already recovering or prepping your mind and body for C-section recovery, here are some of the things I learned about the healing process—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t worry though—it does get better!
C-sections are major surgeries: You’ve heard it time and time again—C-sections are major surgeries. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) explains the procedure as, “a delivery of a baby through incisions made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.” With that in mind, it’s no wonder it takes us a good bit of time to recover. Be patient with yourself and try to remember that your body needs time to heal.
It’s hard to sleep for a week or so: Our daughter was in the NICU for two weeks following her birth, so I can’t say that I have as much experience with newborn care at the beginning of recovery. I can tell you though, that sleeping (no matter what the circumstance) is going to be hard physically, in addition to the sleep deprivation that comes with around-the-clock feeding, pumping or bottle sessions, your abdominal incision is going to need time to heal. But you’ll also need to do whatever you can to rest.
Sleeping in an upright position was a lifesaver. I’m extremely lucky to have a reclinable bed, and a husband who’s also willing to sleep sitting up for two weeks post-birth. To be blunt, my abdomen felt like it was going to separate and rip apart every time I tried to get myself out of bed or whenever I attempted to lie flat.
Propping yourself up with pillows or sitting in a comfortable chair would also work. Or you could lie flat or on your side (left side if possible) and elevate your legs to make it more comfortable. Any way you lay, be sure to turn your body to one side and push yourself up with your arms when getting out of bed.
Having support is the key to getting better: Support is essential no matter what type of delivery you have. Because you’re also recovering physically after a C-section, there are many things you simply cannot do. And the emotional rollercoaster that comes with that is also very real.
Make sure you have a family member, friend, or postpartum doula to support you for a couple of weeks or months after your C-section. If your child is home with you, having someone to bring them to you for feedings, or to cook, help out with laundry, or wash bottles is extremely helpful while you’re limited with what you can do.
Pain management is different for everyone: I had no idea how difficult the recovery would be pain-wise. I remember looking at the nurse in the hospital while sitting in a wheelchair sobbing and telling her I didn’t know how I was going to get through the pain.
The reality? With guidance from your healthcare provider, do what you need to do. While everyone is different, there are many options for managing pain: prescription and over-the-counter pain medications safe for breastfeeding, heating pads and rest are all good remedies.
Supportive clothing helps a LOT: Since your abdominal area has just carried a pregnancy, and also endured major surgery, it may feel like your organs need to be put back together. Supportive but comfy, high-waisted leggings and undergarments helped me feel secure and allowed me to move around more easily.
Going to the bathroom is hard: This may be TMI, but I figure since we’re getting real about what’s happening, why not share everything? Your doctors, nurses, doulas and midwives will likely warn you about painful bowel movements and constipation post-C-section. Stomach muscles stretch during pregnancy, hormones are going haywire and you’re likely…stressed. All of these factors play into bathroom troubles. You can try moving around if you feel up to it, drinking warm or room temperature water and decaffeinated teas and adding more fiber-rich fruits and veggies to your diet.
Olivia DeLong is a writer, editor, and content strategist with over a decade of experience crafting health and lifestyle content. Her own fertility experiences, paired with many years of researching and writing about women’s health topics, has led her to believe that now, more than ever, we need to be our own health advocates. She strives to share real, accurate information with the world so that we can all learn more about the health issues that affect us each and every day. She lives with her husband Jeff, daughter Amelia, and dog McCoy in Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not sharing health content online, she enjoys long walks with her family, dancing in the kitchen with her daughter (while drinking a good glass of wine!), at-home workouts and podcasts…lots of podcasts.