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RECOVERY 101: Go easy on yourself!
Careful in the car.
"Ride home from the hospital after a c section - you will feel every bump in the road! and it hurts. Take the smoothest roads (no FDR!!) and try and avoid abrupt stops / stop start traffic. It hurts ! Take longer to get home for a smoother ride - less pain."
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."
“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.”
Prepare for limitations on mobility.
“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."
"Make sure changing table, bassinet etc. do not require bending - it will be very hard to bend at the waist ; reduce or eliminate any stairs required"
"Have a side table near where you are mainly sitting with your basics (water, phone etc.)"
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.”
"Get help with meals etc. post c section recoveries are significantly less mobile and you want be wanting to get up down, reach etc. consider a food delivery plan or a food train with friends."
"Have people bring you your baby if needed. Lifting is rough and asking for help is going to be more necessary than with a vaginal delivery."
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."
If you have an older child as well, here are some ways to stay connected even when you're not operating at 100%.
"With toddler at home - schedule 1:1 time when you can, with someone taking the baby out of the house or to another room. simple, low intensity things - a special snack, reading, listening to music. It can feel very sad not to pick up your big kid when you are trying to make them feel so loved and when even their sitting on your lap can hurt. learn what kind of touch might feel ok - brushing hair, etc. and try and do."
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.”
“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."
"Try to walk - will be slow slow going at first, but even taking a walk around the block every day or every other helped with recovery. Going up steps was difficult at first as well - if your bedroom is on a different level from your living space, you may want to consider sleeping on the couch for the first few days."
"Go for slow gentle walks when you can but hills, curves etc. can be rough."
Wear your belly band!
"Ask the nurses for the belly band at the hospital. you can buy more afterwards if needed."
“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…”
“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).”
"In retrospect I wish I had tried some form of a band around my stomach, not because of any weight or aesthetic issues but more because after the intervention your scar will be quite sensitive for a while and I think feeling “held in” helps that feeling of vulnerability. (Nothing too tight of course! And you may want to give yourself a bit before starting with it.) Even though it was covered, I would always feel like it was vulnerable, because it is in such a vulnerable part of your body - especially when you’re obviously going to be dealing with a lovely though squirmy little being. :) Invest in clothes that won’t bother that area - I wore maternity jeans and my Nesting Olive nursing dresses well into my postpartum period, as well as some other bigger fitting pieces. (Leggings for the win!)"
Similarly to the belly band, some parents recommend a corset—such as the Bellefit—to help hold everything together and make moving and lifting easier.
Get comfy clothes.
"Wear loose fitting clothing that doesn’t have clear and low waist line, no tight waist bands."
"Button down shirts are lifesavers. You may not be able to lift your arms without pain and anyway button down easiest for breast feeding if you’re doing."
Need to sneeze? Pinch your nostrils to lessen the impact, and/or 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.”
"Ask the nurses to teach you the Log Roll to get in and out of bed."
"If you have a higher up bed, consider step stool for getting in."
Physical therapy and core work can be helpful once you are cleared for exercise.
"Pelvic Floor physical therapy sessions and Revolution Motherhood (on demand core rehab videos) - once you are cleared for exercise by your OB."
A breastfeeding pillow can help support the baby and avoid overstressing your core.
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.”
“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
"Unless you have a history of addiction insist on the pain meds. There is no need to suffer and the new protocols are horrible. With strong pain meds a C-section is unpleasant. Without it is horrible (I will also allow that with a toddler and a second c-section it's possible that this would have been more uncomfortable regardless, but not to the level it was without narcotics)."
"Accept whatever pain management allows you to be with your baby and feel ok. Ask for more if needed. Have your meds ready when you get home. Day 5 post c section can be more painful than day 3 and then you won’t be in the hospital."
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.”
“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!”
Ask at the hospital for a stool softener recommendation or prescription. You don't want to be dealing with any unnecessary pain in that department!
CARING FOR YOUR SCAR: How to promote better healing.
Get XL disposable underwear to avoid uncomfortable friction on your scar, and/or protect the scar with a gauze pad or maxi pad.
Careful with showers.
"After a c section you have to be careful with showering ; consider having a shower head etc. and asking for someone to shower you; keep incision site dry. Infections are more common than one thinks."
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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!”
Other recommendations from parents include the C-Section scar treatment from Brooklyn Herborium and Earth Mama scar cream.
Use scar-healing tape or sheets.
"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.”
Aroamas Professional Silicone C-Section Scar Removal Sheets were also recommended.
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)."
"Patience and grace and all of that goes without saying.. Vitamin E and massaging the scar helped a *lot* with the itchy long term sensitivity. And to be honest, I have since tried a scar cream or two, but have kind of given up on it. I had a strangely emotional relationship with my scar for the first year, but now with everything else going on with our little sweetheart of a dude I just really can’t seem to remember about that part at all. :)"
Other parents 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.”
“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:
Further reading from around the web:
Video with tips on How to Get Out of Bed After Surgery