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CHILLS. Just thinking about those first few weeks of C-section recovery is giving me chills. I know am a rockstar for making it through my labor and delivery, but even rockstars have help. Basically, you are given major abdominal surgery, handed a newborn and sent on your way. So that’s why I am writing this post! Because if you’re anything like me you forgot everything the nurses told you at the hospital and started immediately googling c-section recovery tips upon getting home!
Today I am sharing essentially my C-section Recovery Tips: The Ultimate Guide – tipsthat helped me heal my body and mind during my first few postpartum months.
C-Section Recovery Tips
Get Up & Walk
Seriously. When those nurses came into my hospital room at 2am (12 hours after my surgery) and told me I had to get up and walk I just about laughed in their faces (except I couldn’t because, well, laughing was impossible with a 6-inch incision in my abdomen). But they won, they coaxed me up and walked me down the hallway. Not going to lie, it sucked. It made me feel defeated plus I was starting to feel just how much pain I was really in.
BUT, I am so happy they got me up and made me take those first few steps. The next time I was forced to get up – the following morning – I already felt better and felt like I could go further, which gave me much-needed motivation. I made a point to walk as much as I could handle during those first days of recovery because it made me feel accomplished, plus it helped to bring down my swelling and lessened the crazy fluid retention.
Use an Abdominal Binder
I swear by these things during postpartum whether you had a c-section or vaginal delivery! An abdominal binder wraps around your abdomen like a girdle, keeping everything in place. They are amazing for a few reasons:
- Helps you move more comfortably and with less plain
- Provides much-need support to weak postpartum abdominal muscles
- Protects your incision site and helps it heal by keeping stitches (or staples or glue) in place
- Promotes quicker healing of the incision and abdominal tissues
I used the hospital-provided girdle for the first three weeks and then switched to my Bellefit corset. Check their sizing chart carefully (I went with the package of two, the XL and L, per their recommendation) and hop on a call with their customer service if you are unsure of your size.
Use CODE CHRISTINE20 for $20 off your Bellefit order!
Not only does drinking water help with your breastmilk supply, it also helps flush out your body of the crazy amounts of fluids and medications that were pumped into you before, during and after surgery. Water is so, so important in helping your body heal quickly and efficiently, I can’t stress that enough.
Don’t Skip the Drugs
You just had MAJOR surgery, don’t forget that. And don’t feel bad about taking the medications – from one c-section mama to another – keep your prescriptions filled and take them ON TIME!
When I was ready to wean off the heavy duty painkillers I started by alternating Tylenol and Advil (one every four hours, make sure you alternate though because Tylenol can only be taken every 8 hours), and eventually just Tylenol.
Gas-X was another lifesaver for me. Those gas pains were almost as bad as contractions! I took Gas-X regularly for almost two weeks after the c-section.
And, remember this if you are breastfeeding: a mom who is in too much pain to care for her baby is worse for his well-being than some medicine in his breastmilk. Studies have shown that these medicines are safe for breastfeeding mamas to use.
You guys know I am a huge fan of essential oils, they honestly help in so many aspects of my daily life. And it was no different during my C-section recovery. Diffusing lavender and chamomile can do wonders for easing stress and even managing pain. I also love the blends Stress Away and Pain Away by Young Living!
Granny Panties, Loose-Fitting PJ’s & SPANX
You’ll have your protective girdle on but you still won’t want anything rubbing against your incision site. I lived in the hospital undies and then upgraded to high-waisted granny panties until my incision stopped being so sensitive (around two months postpartum).
That First Poop
No one likes to talk about this but I’m going to be real with you – prepare yourself. Your abdominal muscles are shot, not to mention if you so much as twitch, let alone push a poop out, you feel like your insides will fall out.
Drink as much water as you can so you’re hydrated (it will be easier to pass this way) and practice your birthing breaths. Trust me – it was like labor all over again and I used my hypnobirthing skills! Also, prune juice can help soften your stool to make it easier to pass.
Check out a great Postpartum Constipation article here.
(Talking about overall body swelling here, see Incision Care below for incision swelling!) Stay hydrated, move around, massage and also do some dry brushing. Fluids help flush your body of water retention (which I had a TON of) and moving around (but not too much) can help as well. I also got this dry brushing kit and used it with my favorite body oil. Alex was nice enough to help brush my legs every night, it felt great and absolutely helped!
Pillows Are Your Best Friend
Use pillows to prop you up, recline, support your arms, legs, whatever – utilize pillows to get your self as comfortable as possible!
Plus – laughing, coughing, sneezing – all these little things you normally don’t think twice about feel like they can just about kill you when you’re healing from a c-section. Keep a pillow nearby so you can press it against your incision site when you’re called to do one of these ab-wrenching actions. And don’t forget to keep your abdominal binder on at all times, this will also help with laughing, coughing etc.
BONUS TIP – you’ll need that pillow when leaving the hospital. I placed the pillow over my lap and put the seatbelt over that. NO WAY was a seat belt going over my bare lap!
See a Pelvic Floor Specialist
I have been seeing my pelvic floor physical therapist for a few years now because (long story short) intercourse has been painful for me for quite some time. My therapist is amazing and has helped me come so far, she also helped me prepare for childbirth during the last few weeks of pregnancy! And now she is helping me heal after my c-section. You wouldn’t think it because the baby was not born vaginally, but the scar and scar tissue (and labor) can cause things to get pretty messed up down there.
If you are local, this is the practice I use!
Restore Your Core
Once you are cleared to do some physical activity I highly recommend starting with Nancy Anderson’s Ab Rehab program (use my discount code found below). You can have your physical therapist check (or you can check yourself) to let you know how severe your diastasis recti is. The way to begin healing your core, contrary to what most people think, is actually simple breathing and pelvic floor exercises!
Nancy also has an amazing C-section Recovery Plan that’s discounted to almost 50% off right now! I highly suggest checking out all her programs and plans!
C-Section Recovery Tips Incision Care
Here are some ways I cared for my incision site and eventually my scar:
Watch for Infection
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Fever over 100
- Pain that does not improve (or gets worse) over time
- Swelling and redness around the incision site or any of your lady parts
- Stinky pus discharge
Ways to Care for Your Incision
- Shower and lightly rinse incision with soap and water, never scrub! No baths until you’re cleared by your doctor!
- Get yourself the Momwasher by Fridababy. Contrary to what some think, you do bleed vaginally when you have a C-section. The Momwasher was great for helping me feel clean down there and also to clean my incision site.
- I iced my incision site (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off) with this wrap, it felt amazing and helped reduce swelling.
- If you are breastfeeding I suggest getting creative with positions. For the first month I mostly did the football hold and afterwards, we did side-lying.
- Collagen, the body’s most abundant protein, is critical to healing your scar. Keeping your diet high in protein will help immensely; bone broth specifically is packed with amino acids which are necessary to help your body build up that healing collagen. You can add it to soups or, like me, warm it up and drink it by the cup full. I also add this collagen peptides powder to my morning shakes!
Ways to Care for Your Scar
- Silicone Scar-Away Strips, I started wearing these as soon as my glue fell off (around 5 weeks) and continued to wear them religiously for four months. I can’t say if it was these strips for sure but I am SO happy with the way my scar looks now!
- Massage the incision site once it is healed but asap. I started around 6 weeks postpartum and still do it every time I shower. Nancy Anderson talks a lot about this on her website and Instagram page and gives you specifics on how to do the massage. I also found a great resource here.
Ointments, Creams and Oils for Scar Care
- Correct-X is an all-natural essential oil ointment specially formulated to reduce the appearance of scars.
- Farewell Scars by Simply Earth is a blend of essential oils (myrrh, helichrysum, lavender, rosemary and lemon) that helps reduce inflammation, promotes cell regeneration and heals skin.
- Mederma Quick Dry Scar Oil or their Scar Cream help improve the appearance of scars.
- Aloe vera is known to accelerate the healing of wounds.
- Honey has been used for centuries to help heal wounds and scars with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Vitamin E oil is great for any kind of skin healing.
Post-Cesarean Mental Health
Ask for Help
On top of figuring out how to care for your newborn you really need to focus on healing your body. Steer clear of heavy lifting and household chores and ask for the help you need! Do not feel bad about it, your friends and family are usually more than happy to help! Ask them to come over and cook, clean and help you with baby. Your main focus should be on feeding the baby and managing your pain.
Grieve If You Have To
And be kind to yourself. It is extremely common for emotional scars to run deeper than physical scars in C-section mamas. If this is you I am so sorry. I wish I could sit with you and listen to your story and cry with you. I was in your place for the first couple months of my motherhood journey.
What helped me was to remember that my baby and I came out of the whole thing HEALTHY. I eventually became filled with gratitude. I was so, so thankful we live in a day and age where modern medicine exists. This is how I navigated the grieving process of the birth I had planned on having with Luca. It was really hard, and I felt like a failure at first, but I focused on what I was grateful for and that helped so much.
The other thing I suggest is writing out your birth story. Physically write it in a journal, type it out and email it to a friend or save it as a Word doc to your computer. Talk about your story. I am still talking about my story and it helps so much!
Its ok to feel disappointment, frustration, and anger. It’s also ok to feel happy, grateful and sad all at the same time. Give yourself grace mama. Motherhood is weird, you will have crazy, whirlwind emotions all at the same time! But you WILL get to a place of acceptance. Perspective is everything.
That all being said, if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of PPD (Postpartum Depression), PPA (Postpartum Anxiety) or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), PLEASE call your doctor immediately!
You are NOT ALONE, 34% of women describe their birth stories as traumatic and 20% suffer from PPD. Here are some resources if you need them:
- Watch this video for a better understanding of traumatic birth.
- Find your local ICAN chapter (International Cesarean Awareness Chapter) to connect with other C-section mamas.
- Postpartum Support Website and Hotline
Always remember, taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby!
I hope you enjoyed my tips, let me know of ways YOU cared for yourself during your C-section (or vaginal) birth recovery below in the comment section!