As April is C-section awareness month let’s talk about the recovery.
This blog post tells you everything you need to know about the recovery if your baby was born through your sun roof!
Having a caesarean section to give birth to your baby can be a blessing if it allows a safe, healthy baby to be delivered into your arms.
However it can take many forms:
It can be gentle.
It can be traumatic.
It can be planned.
It can be an emergency.
Whatever the reason for HAVING a C-section, it is still MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, having your abdominal wall muscles CUT means that there will be a healing period of time until your muscles KNIT back together again.
When you have surgery on any part of your body, the aftermath period is the time when you reflect and appreciate how well your body works “normally” and what a tremendous job it does that we often take for granted.
We use our abdominal muscles for many things that we are unconsciously aware of such as maintaining an upright posture, standing up, sitting down, rolling over in bed, coughing, sneezing, laughing, pooing, etc, etc. All these functional tasks cause changes in our intra- abdominal wall pressure and its not until these muscles are cut, that we realise how much work our amazing abdominal muscles really do.
I’d like to think I’m pretty well qualified to give advise about coping with the after effects of a C-section not just because I’m a women’s health physiotherapist but also because I’m a mum who has had two of them myself.
I’ve treated many women recovering post C-section and I’ve been the patient and recovered twice over. Both experiences have been enlightening and my personal experience is not what every other post c-section woman experiences.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, knowledge is power. The more we know, the better informed we are to make educated choices and decisions in our recovery. And also occasionally the more we can frighten ourself when we know to much! It doesn’t always work in our favour.
C-section recovery like the surgery at birth is also about making informed choices.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first , the PAIN factor.
For every time I’ve heard those few mums say they found recovering from a C-section easy, I utter disbelief in my head as it really wasn’t for me and the majority of mums I see struggling straight after or weeks down the line. It is possible that these females have very high pain thresholds or that their love hormones are super strong in those early days with a newborn. Either that or they were on shed loads of pain relief that the rest of us missed out on!
Given the amount of “jobs” that the abdominal muscles do when they are surgically cut, it is sore for a period of time and there is no avoiding it I’m afraid. It doesn’t matter how strong your core was before, FACT – I can testify to that one.
So what did I do to help manage my post op pain?
I highly recommend good pain relief.
Take it regularly.
Take it 20 minutes before something that requires a lot of abdominal effort like a shower or a walk.
Ask for STRONGER pain relief if you need it.
YES – you can do that!
And, an even bigger YES – it is ok even if you are breastfeeding baby.
Ok – it might make breastfeeding harder with medication in your system – I certainly struggled with both my babies but I can’t say if it was all down to this or the fact that they had tongue ties that were missed with my first and delayed diagnosis with my second.
A little tip to avoid even more pain post C-section is don’t let your GP give you Codeine. It will undoubtedly make you constipated. No new post natal mum ever wants to experience that! Ask for alternatives as YES there are many.
If you can take anti-inflammatories that are stronger than ibuprofen (over the counter meds) then these are preferable as they wont bung you up. If you suffer with gut issues or have asthma for example and these are not safe for you to take then you do need to discuss your options with your GP a bit more.
There are always alternatives. Try to remember to ask your GP for the benefits and risks so you can make an informed decision. What ever you do, don’t suffer in silence. Remember the old saying: “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” as this is very true here.
Another tip to help reduce abdominal discomfort is DON’T CARRY anything heavier than your baby.
Let me put this into context for you.
A full loaded up washing basket, wet washing, pushing shopping trolleys, carrying car seats with baby in to soon, vacuuming, picking up your toddler, etc, etc is anyone else wincing at the thought of this yet imagining if you have had major abdominal surgery?
You wouldn’t expect anyone else to do it and yet most mothers do as we feel compelled to cope and do it all way before our body is physically capable or ready.
First time round I felt I needed to get back to doing everything asap. Second time round I milked it for all it was worth and purposely avoided it all.
If you are a single mum and don’t have any support at hand then pace yourself and cut the washing loads into smaller chunks to carry. Take out wet washing a bit at a time. Better still if you have lovely do-gooder visitors that “offer to help” delegate them a household task. You can even get creative by replying to “can I have a baby cuddle” with yes after you’ve helped me put the washing in the dryer or done the washing up!
You have permission to DELEGATE. It’s ok.
Another important thing to know post surgery is WEAR YOUR TED STOCKINGS for the recommended time frame to reduce your risk of getting a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Nobody wants one of those!
If you are squeamish like me and hate needles then the daily dose of blood thinners post op for seven days were enough to last me a life time. They stung and I literally had to deep breath and mentally compose myself before, during and after those injections. Wearing your TED stockings although yes I’ll admit they are not glamorous – they are a short term pain for a long term gain.
Getting them on and off can be tricky as they are tight they can cause you to put a lot of pressure on your abdominal wall. Don’t suffer in silence and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help taking them on and off for showers or a wash. Would you rather have the inconvenience of sock assistance for a few days or heparin/warfarin injections for months?
Get MOVING little and often.
Listen to your body as to much movement = Pain and to little movement = stiff and sore bits. In this modern day world and fast paced society that we live in, a lot of us have completely lost touch with what position our body is in and so this is a very tricky one to master.
Be patient and look for signs that your body is tired before you hit the pain barrier. taking regular pain relief will allow you to keep more active and mobile in those early days.
Do CIRCULATION exercises – move your ankles and feet up and down, round and round, little and often. Try and avoid staying still for long periods of time as you will find moving again very difficult and sore. Many of us fall into that viscous cycle here of it hurts to much so I must be causing damage – when actually you stayed still for to long and have seized up a bit.
Our bodies are designed to move.
Movement nourishes us.
Staying still does not.
The last thing I want to mention is about your c-section scar and it’s recovery.
Normally a surgical scar post operatively is pink/red as it has a blood supply and is healing. Many months down the line you may notice your scar turns pale and white, this is a sign there is no longer fresh blood flowing to it.
During the healing phase of your scar it’s important you allow air to get to it. So if you have the classic mummy pouch or flap having over your scar, make time to lie down in your day and gently pull the excess skin away from the scar tissue area.
Once your scar is no longer open or oozing then it is safe to start scar tissue massage. This will help improve the scar healing and appearance of it by helping the scar tissue to remodel itself better. Use a moisturiser or oil type product to massage the scar with and spend 1 – 2 mins each day doing this. It is so important we touch our scar to help desensitise it or remind our skin what normal touch is like. Many of us post c-section report areas of numbness around our scars or our tummy area but if more ladies were encouraged to touch and massage it I’m certain there would be much less talk of this being “normal”.
SO as a round up, get good pain relief, delegate heavy housework, get moving and massage your scar. These would be my top tips to help aid c-section recovery.
If you have any other pearls of wisdom do please leave a comment below.
If you are planning to have a c-section in the near future or you are recovering from one then I hope this blog post helps a little to empower you.