Recovering from a C-section

C-section recovery can be full of challenges. You have to manage your pain, your scar, your movement—oh, and not to mention your new baby! Here, Park Slope Parents members share their Cesarean section recovery tips and experiences.

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Important Message from Park Slope Parents (PSP): Just a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. www.parkslopeparents.com is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP groups or on the www.parkslopeparents.com website.

 

RECOVERY 101: Go easy on yourself!

 

Give yourself time.

“Within 2 weeks, the pain was manageable without prescription drugs. Within 4 weeks, I was back to most normal activity. And within 6 weeks, I pretty much felt like myself again. Other friends have had similar recoveries. Just make things as convenient for yourself as possible.”

"Some people recover sooner and some takes longer. For me it took about 6 weeks (with some kind of complication) to start being able to do thing like normal self. I think that is longer side of recovery than most but I think it might be a good idea to prepare for the idea that you might be having a limited mobility for a while-longer than you think. It’s a major surgery and put quite bit of a stress to your body, in general, so make sure you give time to your body to recover..."

"People bounce back at different paces - I think a good rule of thumb is to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit, but not too much. Rest when you need to. I had a 2 week follow up with my OB and he said I should be about 90% back to normal by then and I literally wanted to punch him in the face. For me personally, I was probably about 25-40% of the way there at that point, 90% by 6 weeks, and not a full 100% until closer to a year."

 

Take shortcuts.

“Don't be hard on yourself, you will feel better eventually. I called a car for the first pediatrician checkup even though it was only 5 blocks away. It took about 4-6 weeks before I felt human again, but a little better every day.”

 

Get help for everyday tasks!

“If you have other children at home the recovery can be difficult. I had my Mom stay with me for 3 weeks and after she left I had to take my older son back and forth to nursery school, prepare meals, give baths etc. That physical work was more difficult longer than my vaginal delivery. Within a week of my vaginal delivery I was able to walk, run errands and do house work without discomfort. Where the pain, even though it isn't severe, lingers on with a c section.”

"You can’t lift stroller/baby up and down to stairs during recovery, which prevented me to get outside from my 3 stories up apartment back then unless my husband is home. Bending and picking things up were difficult, so it’s better to get changing tables and places to put stuff around at the same level."

"I would set-up your home so you need to lift as little as possible. I just converted my daughter’s crib to a toddler bed so I don’t have to lift her."

 

The help of your partner, family, and friends is necessary!

“I wasn't anywhere near prepared for how long the recovery would take or how much of a wreck I'd be. If you have help, take full advantage of it, if you don't, figure out how to get it! I was lucky that my mother in law was here for 10 days after we got home and my husband was home with us too. Otherwise a post-partum doula or a baby nurse is definitely in order. She cooked all our meals, and made sure I always had a full glass of water with a straw within arms reach. She took the baby for several hours in the afternoons while we took a nap.”

 

Talk it out, and know that it's normal to feel a range of emotions around the experience, especially if the C-section was unplanned.

“The emotional part is just as hard as the physical. If it wasn't a planned c-section definitely give yourself a chance to process that experience by talking it through with someone and journaling. My doula shared this link on Facebook, I found it and the author's birth story really helpful.”

"I know bodily recovery times vary, but in terms of the psychological impact of birth, having a birth that is so drastically different from the one you expected can take a big toll and has a high correlation with PPD/A. I wonder to what degree knowing you are having a c-section and going to the hospital on schedule changes the overall perception of birth."

"I get that birth literature wants to be empowering with 'your body will know what to do' mantras a-plenty but it leaves out that there's another little person involved and they may not be on board with your birth plan. It's ok to be sad and disappointed if it didn't go how you hoped (I still am sometimes) but what's most important is that everyone makes it through safely."

 

MANAGING YOUR MOVEMENT: What helps and what hurts your recovery.

 

Go for walks!

WALK WALK WALK…I know it sounds crazy but every day i was able to get around just a little bit more and by 1 week i was able to walk over to a girlfriends in the neighborhood. It was hard and I had to take breaks but it was worth it as i bounced back faster than i could have ever thought possible.”

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“Walking as much as I could was very helpful in getting me on the way to recovery, and my doctor credited my speedy recovery to all of the walking that I did all around the hospital.

 

Wear your belly band!

“Wear the belly band…I swear it is the #1 reason I would say my body got back to as normal as it could have…”

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“Wear that belly binder as much as possible, even when sleeping if you can (I didn't start that right away and now wish I had).”

 

Need to sneeze? Grab a pillow!

“I had a horrible time when coughing or sneezing, and found out later by looking on the internet that you should press a pillow against your incision if you need to cough or sneeze.”

 

Give your abs a break.

“Don't rely on your abs for the next 4-6 weeks. I needed a little step-stool to get into my bed at home, because I couldn't feel my abs (but felt the pain from the surgery) every time I tried to use my abs to lift myself up. Of course, stepping on the stool kind of hurt, too - so maybe just a large phone book would be good!

 

Be careful getting in and out of bed.

When getting out of bed, roll to one side, push yourself up with your arms only (no abs!), and carefully slide down as you breathe out. This helps with the pain and keeps you from straining your abs.”

 

MANAGING YOUR PAIN: Remember a C-section is major abdominal surgery!

 

You don’t have to be on narcotics long, but don’t skimp at the beginning.

“The meds are needed! especially at the beginning…but I did ween myself off of them by day 5 as they were so strong and I am not used to that type of dosage.”

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“The first few days were pretty painful, but by the time I left the hospital I only needed Motrin, and by the end of the second week I was off pain killers
completely.”

 

Don’t be a hero — Taking care of your baby is harder if you’re in terrible pain!

“I was on percocet for about a week and then tylenol with codeine for another week. I'd definitely make sure you go home with pills in hand or a partner who is planning on getting them immediately upon getting home. I'd also recommend something to deal with constipation from the pain killers as you won't want to struggle. I think this goes for any way you give birth, though. Percocet messes me up a lot, in particular, but everyone is different in drug tolerance. But don't be a hero and try to avoid pain killers. It's major surgery. These drugs are approved for breastfeeding. And you can't possibly be a good mom if you're in excruciating pain.”

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“Take the pain medication!!! :) I thought, I'm tough...I don't need it. But a c-section is serious stuff, take the pain med and be at the best for your baby!”

 

CARING FOR YOUR SCAR: How to promote better healing.

 

Try massaging your scar.

“It's extremely unpleasant, nay, painful! But to minimize scarring (and the attendant problems now and down the road) you need to dig into the scar and knead it as much as you can stand (a little here & there is, I think, still useful). No fun, but whatever scarring is there, say, a year from now will be with you always.”

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“I had a C-section nine weeks ago. My OB told me to start applying creams and lotions like Mederma and massaging at six weeks. 3 weeks sounds early! I just gently rub toward my heart in that area. It is still tender and hard from the scar tissue underneath.”

 

Consider getting professional help with scar massage.

“I didn't start working on my scar until 11 months post-surgery, and wish someone had told me sooner! I actually had some other issues, and so I began physical therapy for the scar at Renew PT. They are a regular PT office but specialize in women's issues. I was so much further along the healing than you are now, and so could tolerate a lot more tugging and pulling. But to start, try just running your finger along the scar from one side to another and back. As you tolerate it, you can increase the pressure. Because I didn't do anything as early as you are doing it now, I don't want to recommend anything that might cause damage. Ultimately, you'll get to the point where you can manipulate the scar like any other section of skin and have the same movement and mobility in the tissues. I had a ton of scar tissue that had to be broken up, so we were really aggressive. You do not want to be aggressive this early! Please, if you can afford it, try to seek professional guidance on this. I highly recommend Renew PT.”

 

Ask your doctor about available cortisone injections.

“I've had 2 C-sections, and my OB asked me to tell her when my incision started to feel itchy so I can make an appointment for her to inject "Kenalog" to the incision. I think it's some kind of corticosteriod. She explained that is the most effective measure but of course you will suffer from the pricking of the injection needle.”

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“I tend to get "keloid" scars (very raised, rope like) so my C-sec scar did not heal well. However, I have been seeing my dermatologist for I think - nice that I don't actually know! - cortisone injections - and the scar is now completely flat and the redness is going away...this is just to say, if you don't like how your scar is healing... there is hope down the line. The injection is an ouchy moment or two, but once you have endured having a baby it is really not that bad!”

 

Some PSP-ers found scar creams were effective.

“I did nothing except basic moving around (we are in a 4th floor walk up) and after a few more weeks it became perfectly flat once again. I used some over the counter scar cream on the scar at night and that really helped the stitches area fade, too.”

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“The second line of treatment to help healing (reduce keloidal scars) is the use a corticosteriod cream. She prescribed it to me and I got the generic version and it's called "Fluocinonide 0.05%". She said even if I don't use it on the scar, it is WONDERFUL on mosquito bites - and she's right!”

 

Use scar-healing tape.

The 3rd line of treatment, less effective, is to use tape. In drug stores they sell scar healing tape that you can apply to the incision which will reduce the scarring.”

 

Give coconut oil and cocoa butter a try!

“I had a c-section and didn't do anything special. I rubbed coconut oil and other luscious cocoa butters into the scar and now, 18 mos later, it's barely noticeable.”

 

Vitamin E can help too.

"One thing that was recommended by my OB at the time because she felt that my scar was looking a little dry was to buy vitamin E gel pills, pop one open, and massage the oil on the scar. I was kind of lazy about doing this consistently but an oil (I saw that coconut oil was recommended by another mom) vs lotion makes sense if you can keep the area exposed for a little while (I would do it post-shower in the evening)."

 

Other moms found their scar healed well on its own.

“I've had two C sections and I didn't do any massage nor was that recommended. I left everything alone and it healed beautifully both times.”

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“I've had two c-sections. Short of some vaseline or unscented moisturizer, I've done nothing special to treat the scar. As someone prone to keloids, as well as major infection (I have some pronounced medical conditions that make me susceptible to complications), I can say with absolute confidence that my scar has never posed a problem. In fact, it's barely visible. As your belly shrinks, the scar sinks to well beneath the panty line, and unless you're heading to a nude beach, will not be visible to anyone besides you and your partner. And even then, it's slight.”

 

Further Reading on Park Slope Parents:

 

Preparing for a C Section

Tips for Managing the Family - Before, During and After Giving Birth

 

Further Reading from around the web:

Breastfeeding after a C-section