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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, I am proud of my labor and delivery story, but even rockstars need help!
Postpartum with a cesarean is not easy — you are recovering major abdominal surgery, handed a newborn and sent on your way. It can be a bit overwhelming for a first time mom so that’s why I am writing this post! Also 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 my C-section Recovery Tips: The Ultimate Guide – tips that helped me heal my body and mind during my first few postpartum months.
C-Section Recovery Tips: The First Few Days
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!
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 at least for the first week!
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 worse than contractions! I took Gas-X regularly for almost two weeks after the c-section.
Gas pains after a cesarean are two fold — Gastro: you get stopped up from the anesthesia, and surgical: they pump air into your uterus during the operation and sometimes (most times) air gets left and trapped inside you and can cause major pain! I had a gas bubble in my shoulder that KILLED, it was terrible.
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.
The First Pee Post-Catheter Removal
God this was so painful and frustrating. After about 12-18 hours from your surgery the nurse will come in and remove your foley catheter — that’s not the painful part, I actually didn’t feel a thing when she removed it. It’s trying to pee for the first time after it’s out. I spent 4 hours on the toilet after mine was removed because I had just drank a ton of water (they tell you to drink water to flush your system) but then I could NOT pee.
It felt like the worst UTI ever and it was not fun, but here’s what helped me finally go:
- A few drops of therapeutic grade peppermint essential oil in the toilet (it diffuses up to your lady parts for a cooling effect)
- Spraying warm water down there with the Frida MomWasher
- Running the water nonstop from the sink
- Bending my body slightly forward and pulling myself up to stand then sitting back down — this was hard because you can’t use your abdomen at all to stand up, you feel extremely weak, but every time I did this stand up sit down movement a little more pee would finally come out.
Not the most fun but you HAVE to pee I think 400ml with in the first few hours or they will straight cath you again!!
The 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, your incision stings, not to mention if you so much as twitch, let alone push a poop out, you feel like your insides will fall out.
Number one – drink as much water as you can (literally drink a TON) 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 no joke used my hypnobirthing skills! Also, eating prunes can help soften your stool to make it easier to pass.
Other things you can try are Senna tea, Miralax and Colace but check with your dr first!
Check out a great Postpartum Constipation article here.
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).
C-Section Recovery Tips: The First Few Weeks
Drink Water & Eat Healthy Fats
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.
Healthy fats and a nutritious diet will also help you milk supply but in addition it can help your incision and muscles recover better AND support your mental health. Don’t discount that!
Continue with Your Vitamins & Probiotics
Don’t forget to continue taking your vitamins! Especially your fish oil, this is is important for your recovery, your breastmilk and again your mental health!
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 can do wonders for easing stress and even managing pain, I also started using lavender and frankincense neat (topically/undiluted) on my scar when it was healed for extra skin-healing support. My doctors during my second cesarean said they’ve never seen such a well-healed scar!
I made a postpartum contraction roller as well that I used over my uterus for postpartum soreness, it was so soothing, recipe below!
- 10 Geranium
- 10 Helichrysum
- 10 Frankinsense
- 10 Lavender
- 4 Jasmine
- Fill rest with carrier oil (10ml roller)
Stay tuned for an entire post on pregnancy and postpartum oils and how I used them my second time around!
*Disclaimer for oils, I only use Young Living because of their purity and those are the only ones I share about because I can personally attest to their quality and functionality!
(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.
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!
Use code CHRISTINEABS10 for 10% off Nancy Anderson’s Ab Program!
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
- Claraderm spray by Young Living
- Make an essential oil roller of lavender, frankincense, jojoba and vitamin e oil and roll it on morning and night!
- 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.
- 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!