How to Recover After a C-Section: 12 C-Section Recovery Tips No One Tells You

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She showed the scars left after the cesarean section and the other hand hugged her baby

How to recovery after c section is no joke. It’s easy to forget that a c-section is serious abdominal surgery because the birth of your beautiful baby overshadows the seriousness of the procedure. Not only do you have to take care of a brand new baby, but you also have to know how to recover well after a c-section. 

I’ve had four c-sections, so I’m accustomed to the recovery part. As my husband says, I’m a seasoned c-section veteran, and all of my friends always ask me how I recover so well after each of my kids. Typically, I feel myself within a short period after I have my babies, and I attribute that to how I focus on recovering and healing.

It’s important to note that not focusing on recovering well is dangerous. You can reopen an incision if you disregard instructions. Incisions can become infected, leading to a life-threatening problem. Don’t laugh off the recommendations of your doctor and nurses; take your healing process very seriously.

Everyone heals differently after a c-section. That’s the most important thing to remember. Try your best not to compare your recovery with someone else’s experience. You both have different bodies, different doctors, and different experiences, so it may has different c section recovery time.

In general, doctors say that it can take up to eight weeks for you to get back to your regular routine. That’s why it is recommended that mothers take eight weeks off from work.

However, just because you are eight weeks post-operation doesn’t mean you will be pain-free. Many women report having some discomfort from time to time for months after. You will have numbness in the area, as well. Everyone heals differently; don’t forget that.

When Can I Drive After a C-Section?

This is a great question and one that you need to ask your doctor because you can get varying answers. Women have reported everything from 2-6 weeks. Some doctors tell you to wait to start driving until you are no longer taking pain medicine, which is typically two-three weeks postpartum. Others will tell you that you need to be pain-free and healed before driving.

Here are a few things to consider.

  • You need to be able to get in and out of the car without significant pain?
  • Can you buckle your seat belt over your abdomen without pain?
  • Can you turn your torso from side to side, allowing you to look over your shoulder and in all directions?

How Soon After a C-section Can you Exercise?

Always speak to your doctor about exercising after a c-section. Most doctors recommend waiting until you are six weeks postpartum to start any regular exercise routines. Everyone is different, and you might need to wait longer.

Once your vaginal bleeding stops and your scar is totally closed, you can swim. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for those recovering from c-sections because it doesn’t apply stress or pressure on your body.

When Can You Have Sexual Intercourse after a C-Section?

You can resume sexual intercourse when you feel ready, but the standard recommendation is six weeks. You don’t want to risk infection while you are still healing. It’s easy to forget that you still have a large wound inside of your uterus even though you had a cesarean section.

You need to make sure that you are no longer vaginally bleeding before you resume sexual intercourse. Once you stop bleeding, your uterus has healed, and your cervix should be back to standard size. The risk of introducing bacteria and causing an infection is much lower.

12 Tips to Help You Recover Well After a C-Section

1. Take Plenty of Pain Medication

When you leave the hospital, your doctor will give you pain medicines to take at home. Now is not the time to try to be brave and not take pain medicine. Typically, your doctor will prescribe a pain reliever, such as Ibuprofen 800mg, along with Percocet or something strong as well.

I suggest that you set a schedule for taking the pain medicine. You can change it over time, gradually extending the time. In the beginning, take your medication regularly. Otherwise, you will find yourself in too much pain. It can be particularly important to take medicine before you go to bed; it’s common to be sorer after a whole day awake and moving.

2. Try Other Methods of Pain Relieving

You can try other methods of relieving pain, as well. One of my favorite ways to take away the discomfort is to use a heating pad at the surgical site.

3. Get Out of Bed As Soon As Possible

When you come out of the operation room, you will still be numb for several hours due to the spinal epidural. It takes around six to eight hours or the spinal epidural to wear off entirely.

After that, it’s time to get out of bed. Some women are afraid to get out of bed, and I understand why. Yes, it’s painful. It doesn’t feel good to get out of bed; it might feel as if your incision is being ripped open. It’s not; I promise, but it doesn’t feel good at all.

However, you need to get out of bed for a few reasons. One, it gets digestive tract gases working. Most hospitals want you to pass gas before you eat, and you want to eat. So, walking will help you pass gas for the first time, and then you can dig into some food.

Also, cesarean section mothers have a higher risk of pulmonary embolisms and blood clots. Getting up and moving reduces that risk.

4. Rest as Much as Possible

Let me repeat it; a c-section is major abdominal surgery. Your body requires time to heal afterward. Depending on the hospital where you deliver, you might stay for two to four days after your delivery or longer if you have complications. I waited 48 hours at my request, but many mothers prefer to stay longer.

Once you’re home, you might be tempted to do laundry, make dinner, or clean the house. Ignore those temptations because you need rest. Rest is crucial for recovery, so chill on your recliner and binge on Netflix shows or movies with your kids.

5. Walk Slowly But Often

It feels like contradicting, but it’s not. You need to rest a lot, but you also need to walk. Try to walk slowly but often. Take a short walk to the kitchen for a drink of water and then rest for a while. Walk to the bathroom or step out onto your patio for a breath of fresh air.

It gets easier over time but take your time. You aren’t running a race; this is a marathon.

6. Avoid Lifting Anything Heavy

Your doctor will let you know that you cannot lift anything heavier than your baby for several weeks. That means you need help from your partner, friends, and family. You shouldn’t even lift your baby’s car seat!

7. Hold a Pillow Over Your Incision for Support

You never realize how many times you use your abdominal muscles each day until they’re cut during surgery. Laughing, coughing, or sneezing can be painful.

One simple tip I learned is to hold a pillow over my incision for support, and this works if you want to stand up as well. The counterpressure makes it hurt less.

8. Accept All the Help Given

Newborn babies are a lot of work by themselves. It’s a 24-hour rotation of eating, sleeping, and pooping. Plus, you need to sleep as well.

People love babies; it’s just part of human nature. So, if someone offers to come over and help you clean the house in exchange for some baby snuggles, say heck yes! If your friend says they’ll come over and watch the baby so you can take a shower and a nap, tell them you’re ready to see them.

Accepting all the help given isn’t a weakness; it’s being wise and letting your village take care of you.

9. Take Stool Softeners

One of my scariest moments in life was pooping after my third baby. I didn’t poop for five days, and I was scared out of my mind. I spent too much time in the bathroom, but I came out victorious yet changed for the rest of my life.

Taking stool softeners is vital for proper recovery and c section healing. You don’t want to be like me and see your life flash before your eyes on the toilet. Stool softeners make it easier, so take them daily. Hospitals typically give you them when you’re waiting to go home, but grab a bottle to keep at your home.

10. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet with Fiber

Having proper nutrition is just as important after you deliver as it was when you were pregnant. If you’re breastfeeding, you’re your baby’s primary source of nutrition, and eating varied foods, keep you and your baby strong and healthy.

Fiber is necessary to have regular bowel movements. Any mother who had a c-section can tell you that it can take time to have regular bowel movements again. So, make sure you eat plenty of fiber.

11. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Drinking fluids is another essential tip for having regular, not painful bowel movements. Plus, if you’re breastfeeding, you need plenty of fluids to help with your breast milk supply.

Aim to drink 8-10 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Now that you aren’t pregnant, you won’t have to pee every 30 minutes, and drinking that many ounces of fluid won’t make you feel like you’re floating.

12. Wear Comfortable Underwear and Clothing

I’m all about comfort, and finding comfortable clothes after a c-section can be troublesome. You don’t want anything that is going to rub on your incision. So, avoid jeans or tight pants for awhile. Leggings and sweat pants are comfortable choices, as well as nightgowns.

Grab some large underwear from the store before your c-section. First, bigger underwear help hold your gigantic pads in place. Second, they need to go over your incision comfortably. When I had my first c-section unexpectedly, my mom had to run out and get me larger underwear to cover my incision.

How to Take Care of Your Incision After a C-Section

Your incision will be along or just below your bikini line. In rare circumstances, it might be straight up and down your stomach, but that’s not the usual choice for doctors. Most doctors use either dissolvable stitches or staples.

The most important thing that you need to do is keep your wound clean and dry to prevent infection. You can shower and let the soap run over the incision, then pat dry.

The dressing is typically removed when you leave the hospital. You can place gauze over the top of the incision if you want. Another tip is to take a sanitary pad and stick it to your underwear over your incision. Sometimes, the incision might seep some blood, and the pad will catch that. Small amounts of seeping are normal.  

Be sure to keep the area dry. You can leave it uncovered to air dry. If your wound is under a tummy fold, you need to take extra care to keep this area dry.

Some bruising is common around the wound. I didn’t have any bruising until my fourth cesarean section (which shows you that they all are different), and my doctor let me know that it is prevalent. Numbness and itching are normal; healing wounds often itch. This can last quite a long time for some women.

Vaginal Bleeding After a C-Section

Even though you had a c-section, you’ll still have vaginal bleeding after birth. Bleeding is normal because it comes from where the placenta was attached to your uterus. Removal of the placenta leaves a large wound in your body, and your uterus has to shrink down to size gradually.

You need to have plenty of sanitary pads on hand at home to handle the vaginal bleeding. Never use tampons the first six weeks after birth.

Don’t be worried if you have heavy bleeding during the first week, similar to a substantial period. You just had a baby! You might also notice that the bleeding becomes heavier if you move around more. For example, you might have had light bleeding, but then an afternoon walk around the block led to heavier bleeding. That’s normal.

After the first week, your bleeding will gradually get lighter and change from red to dark-red to brown and to yellowish-white. It’s normal to have bleeding for up to six weeks postpartum.

If you soak through a pad in one hour or start seeing lots of blood clots, call your doctor.

Doctor Visits After a C-Section

You will visit the doctor one week after your surgery. At this doctor’s visit, if you have staples, they will be removed. Don’t worry; staple removal does NOT hurt. In fact, staples typically are itchy by the time one week postpartum arrives, so removal is welcomed.

If you don’t have staples, your doctor will take a look at your incision site to be sure that it is healing appropriately. Now is the time to ask if you have questions about your recovery and what to expect.

Then, your next doctor’s visit will be at six weeks postpartum. At this check-up, your doctor will perform a routine pap smear just like you had at your first OB visit back at eight weeks pregnant. Your doctor will talk about your recovery, check your incision site, discuss birth control options, and make sure you are feeling emotionally healthy.

If all is well, your doctor will schedule your one-year visit for your next pap smear. If not, your doctor will schedule a follow-up to discuss your concerns and questions.

Signs That You Need to Call a Doctor

It’s normal to feel soreness around your incision. You will bleed vaginally for several weeks, and you might have some discharge as well. All of that is normal.

However, some symptoms aren’t healthy and warrant a call to your doctor. These signs might indicate an infection has formed at your incision site.

  • Redness, swelling, or pus coming from the incision site
  • Chest pain
  • Pain in your breasts
  • Pain around the site
  • Fever of more than 100.4F
  • Bad-smelling discharge from the vagina
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Redness or swelling in your legs
  • Difficulty breathing

Also, don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you feel sad or if your moods never seem to lift. These could be signs that postpartum depression is developing. Don’t be ashamed; you can get the help that you need!

Healing After a C-Section

Having a c-section can be tough. There might be times that you cry and feel uncomfortable, but that’s to be expected after serious surgery. Plus, you now have a new baby that is the light of your life, and that’s quite a significant change as well.

Take it easy, walk throughout the day, stay up on your medicine, and eat a well-balanced diet to heal and recovery after c section well.

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