Delivering a baby via Cesarean Section (AKA C-Section) is a major abdominal surgery that requires you to give your body a lot of extra TLC during the first few weeks postpartum. However, there is often very little guidance given prior to discharge from the hospital on how to recover after a C-Section. Below are some tips and recommendations for a healthy and safe recovery.
Controlling and managing inflammation during the initial postpartum period is essential. Ice and compression garments are easy ways to keep swelling and pain under control. Icing can be performed every 2-3 hours for 15 minutes at a time. The ice pack should be wrapped in a clean towel before applying it directly to the skin.
Support leggings are also a great tool postpartum. They provide gentle compression to the abdominal and pelvic area, help reduce swelling and discomfort, and can potentially aid in the healing process by promoting blood flow. Our favorite compression leggings are the sculpt and recovery leggings from Baobei.
Furthermore, it is important to know the signs that your wound may be infected. Remember, a fever may not always present with infection. Inform your health care provider immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Your c-section scar may be infected in the incision is
Firm or hot
Red or swollen
Is leaking or oozing blood or pus
Has a foul smell
Has red streaks around it
Begins to open
The goal of desensitizing the c-section scar is to help reset the sensation. During surgery nerves are disrupted and many women often feel numbness or sensitivity at the incision site. Starting soon after discharge, you can start scar desensitization AROUND the incision site with different fabrics and textures. Things that you already have laying around the house are perfect for this- makeup brush, towel, cotton ball, satin, q-tip, paper towel, etc. Around 3-6 weeks postpartum and with approval from your doctor or midwife, you can begin to do gentle scar desensitization on the incision.
Don’t forget about the log roll so soon! Although this was probably your only choice for getting up out of bed while pregnant, it is still super helpful to use this technique post c-section. To get up from laying down, roll to your side and bend your knees as you let them hang off the side of the bed. Using your arms, carefully and slowly pushing your body up into a sitting position while exhaling. Take a second to get your bearings and then stand. To lay down, do the exact opposite! This technique takes pressure and extra strain off the abdominal wall while healing.
Staying hydrated postpartum helps to replenish fluids lost during childbirth and can aid in the healing process. Drinking water and being hydrated has been shown to help patients return to normal eating habits and light activity, such as walking, sooner. Getting back to both of these activities is vital for an on-time discharge from the hospital. Water intake is also important to reduce the risk of infection, regulate milk supply, and reduce constipation. If drinking plain water isn’t for you, using an electrolyte mix, such as LMNT or RE-LYTE, may be nice options for you.
This may feel like a big feat after having a c-section but try to get moving as soon as you and your postpartum nurse think you are ready. A 2022 study found that patients who walked more during their post-cesarean hospitalization had fewer postoperative complications. Walking after a c-section is a great way to slowly introduce activity, increase strength and stamina, and promote good circulation. Increasing circulation in the body not only promotes healing by bringing nutrients to your abdominal wall, but also helps prevent blood clots.
It is important to note that you should not rush back into your pre-baby and pre-pregnancy activities. Take it easy during the first few weeks postpartum as your body is participating in a major healing journey. Gradual return to exercise, once you are cleared by your healthcare provider, is pivotal for a safe and healthy recovery.
Get the bowels moving
Research shows that 52% of new moms deal with constipation after childbirth and those who delivered via cesarean have a 10% higher chance of constipation when compared to women who had a vaginal delivery. Staying hydrated, especially if breastfeeding, and being mindful of fiber intake are two easy ways to manage constipation. Including foods that have insoluble fiber can help soften the stool and help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. Foods that contain insoluble fiber include almonds, brown rice, leafy greens, legumes, pears, quinoa, and whole wheat bread products. Taking a probiotic, with the approval of your healthcare provider, is another way to help keep your digestive system healthy and regular.
Now is not the time to be an overachiever around the house. Give your hardworking body a break and delegate household chores to friends, family, or any other visitors that you may have. Using a meal delivery service (and there are so many good ones now!) is a great option to decrease the stress of cooking. You may even consider using a laundry service for a few weeks to stay on top of the never ending pile of dirty clothes that we all deal with.
Postpartum doulas are also a great resource and can help guide parents through the early weeks after childbirth. They can teach skills, such as swaddling or soothing your baby, offer rest to new parents by providing infant care, teach breastfeeding and pumping techniques, perform light housework, provide resources and referrals, and give gentle support through all the challenges the first few weeks bring. Postpartum doulas can work during the day or evening, daily or a few times a week, and around 4 or 5 hours per shift depending on the family’s needs and schedule. While some new parents want a postpartum doula during the entire fourth trimester, others opt for a few weeks.
Don’t compare your recovery to others
Although we may be tempted to compare our healing process to others, it is important to remember that everyone’s healing journey is unique. Healing and returning to activity is not a competition. Everyone’s body recovers at a different speed for a number of reasons, some which may be out of your control. If you have concerns about your progress, a call to your OBGYN, midwife, or pelvic floor PT may provide you with the reassurance you need.
Engel O, Haikin Herzberger E, Yagur Y, et al. Walking to a better future? Postoperative ambulation after cesarean delivery and complications: A prospective study. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2022;157(2):391-396. doi:10.1002/ijgo.13815
Malhotra N, Khanna S, Pasrija S, Jain M, Agarwala RB. Early oral hydration and its impact on bowel activity after elective caesarean section--our experience. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2005;120(1):53-56. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2004.08.009