10 top tips for recovering from a caesarian section
If you have ever had a caesarian section or any form of abdominal surgery the main sticking point or memory is the pain. Let’s not beat around the bush here, having your abdominal muscles cut is painful.
This is because we use our abdominal muscles everyday for all sorts of things. They help us to stay upright, they assist with deep breathing and you will not forget how much they are involved in coughing, sneezing or laughing once they have been cut. Your abdominal muscles help you to move around especially when you change position from lying to sitting and sitting to standing for example.
You might find this makes you more reluctant to move as its painful. A lot of people think hurt = harm, however movement holds to key to recovery.
If you don’t move, your joints become stiff and new blood does not get moved around your body. This means the area that needs to heal does not receive any nourishment which is so vital to it’s recovery.
So here are my top ten tips to help aid recovery following a Caesarian section. These are based on my own experience of having a Caesarian section and my knowledge as a physiotherapist to aid movement post surgery.
1. Get moving.
This is by far the most important thing you can do.
Movement allows new blood to nourish and repair your abdomen muscles.
Ideally you should move little and often and not stay still in one position for to long.
You should not perform any heavy lifting during the first six weeks as this will not help your scar to heal. Likewise high impact exercises should be avoided for twelve weeks including sit ups, aerobics, circuit training, spinning, etc.
Gentle walks, circulatory and small range of movement exercises will help you get moving in the first few weeks following your surgery.
2. Take your pain relief.
Having your abdominal muscles cut is painful and unlike labour that may be intense for upto 72 hours for example, having a Caesarian section takes a lot longer to heal.
As mentioned above, your abdominal muscles help you to function and move so pain relief is essential to allow you to start returning to your normal function.
Take everything that the healthcare staff give you in the hospital regularly and time your movement for 20 minutes after to maximise the pain relief potential to allow you to move easier.
If you are really struggling with pain, do not suffer in silence. Tell somebody. There are stronger pain relief medications you can have post birth.
3. Do circulatory exercises
Keep your circulation moving around your body even though you are not as mobile is key to helping you avoid getting a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) post surgery.
You should circle your ankles x10 every hour in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions and ideally you should point and flex your ankle x10 every hour to keep your circulatory pump working in your lower limbs. Try to do these exercises on your bed so that your feet are elevated as doing them with your feet dangling down from a chair/sofa for example will not give you the same effects.
4. Pace yourself Your recovery takes time. Pace yourself and listen to your body and its needs. Allow it the time to heal by being kind toyourself. Slow and steady wins the race following abdominal surgery. You may need to take three trips to carry things places and not the usual one trip. Try using a back pack with two straps that you can where over both shoulders to distribute the weight if you are carrying things for a distance.
5. Protect your scar
Your scar can be sensitive in the early days to touch whilst it is healing. Try and wear loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t cause any rubbing. Skinny jeans are out for a bit longer! My top tip to avoid your scar rubbing against your clothing is place a sanitary pad in your knickers that lies in line with your scar to cushion it. Avoid chaffing at all costs as this will slow down your scar healing process. You should also once your scar has fully healed, massage it to improve the scar tissue and your sensation around it.
6. Use your bigger body muscles to aid movement
Prior to giving birth it is so important that you remain fit and active so that your muscles can help you out post delivery of your baby. Working your bicep/tricep and quads/hamstring muscles will really aid your recovery following abdominal surgery. The stronger your arms and legs the less work your tummy muscles have to do. So far example when you stand up, push down using your arms and push down through your legs to aid the movement and reduce the amount of work your tummy muscles are doing.
7. Don’t lean onto shopping trolleys or prams
Forwards leaning onto things post abdominal surgery is a bad idea. You may get into that position ok but trying to get out of it will be super hard work and your tummy muscles will not thank you for it. Get your shopping online following your surgery or by all means go shopping but take someone with you to push and steer the trolley. If you are out walking your newborn get other to push your pram – people love doing this one for you so delegate the job.
8. Little and often should be your new mantra
This is so important. Slow and steady definitely wins the race. If you can do a little bit and often every day you will soon start to move better and the pain will diminish quicker. Keep moving but break down tasks into chunks and do them little and often. For example, folding the washing; don’t do it all in one go, do half or a third. Do something and not nothing is of equal importance. Listen to your body but rest more often to.
9. Delegate heavy housework
I know everyone wants their house clean and tidy for all those visitors dropping by unannounced post baby but I know friends who have hoovered within the first two weeks of their surgery and split their stitches or caused problems with their scar healing. Its not worth it. Ditch the housework and delegate those heavy jobs. Walk round in sunglasses so you cant see the muck if you need to but leave it. You will not die because your house is messy.
10. Support your cough
If you smoke having abdominal surgery is ten times harder for you guys. When you cough you create an increase in intra-abdominal pressure so the muscles contract, hard. This is involuntary – you can’t stop it. Following surgery it is inevitable you will likely need to cough at some stage or sneeze. When you do the pressure created in your tummy is painful if these muscles have been cut. It is so important that you support your cough using a towel or you hand to apply pressure to your tummy muscles from the outside to counteract the pressure caused from the cough on the inside. This is not pain free by any means but hurts a lot less believe me.
These are just a few tips to aid your recovery following a Caesarian section.
If you would like more information and visual images to assist you with the exercises recommended you can get your copy of my free ‘The Caesarian section survival guide’ which is available via my website www.thepilatesphysio.co.uk.