C-sections are becoming more and more common, some women even elect to have one instead of a vaginal birth so that they can plan out the exact date of their baby’s arrival. While I would not suggest having one unless absolutely necessary, I do feel that they have become less of a major surgery than in years past. This is mainly because they typically no longer require women to go under general anesthesia, and modern technology allows for a much smaller, precise incision. The negative aspect of this is that most people do not realize that a C-section does still require a much greater recovery than a vaginal birth.
I was one of those people. After going through a C-section, I feel that going in with a full understanding and awareness of what recovery will be like will help you be better prepared. After my experience, these are the most important pieces of wisdom I have to pass along.
Eat Healthy and Continue Light Exercise During your Pregnancy
Most doctors will tell you to watch your calorie intake during pregnancy, but many fail to explain why this is so important. For me, I had always been thin and it was nice to finally have a time in my life where everyone did not find it their duty to tell me how skinny I am. I took full advantage of this situation, and when I stopped vomiting with every meal, I ate whatever I wanted. What I soon realized, was the reason your doctor does not want you to gain too much weight is to prevent you from having to have a C-section. If you gain a considerable amount of weight, your baby may be too large for a vaginal birth. It also can increase your risk for gestational diabetes. Also, if you are trim and healthy before surgery, your recovery time is much less. This is true for both a vaginal birth and a C-section. When your body is in good shape it will heal quicker and you are less likely to incur problems such as your incision re-opening. So the road to recovery actually begins while you are still pregnant.
Take Pain Medication at the Onset of Pain
Except for emergency cases, most C-sections use a local anesthetic instead of a general anesthetic that puts you completely under. After surgery you may have a pain pump or be given IV pain medication. The one thing that I learned is to not wait to take pain medication. I do not like to take medication, so I tried to put it off. However, if you take medication at the onset of pain, then it is much easier to get it under control. I tried to wait too long, and by the time I finally decided to take something I was in a lot of pain and it took more medicine to alleviate it. It is okay to take pain medication while you are recovering and then gradually switch to over-the-counter medication. Proper pain management will allow for a quicker recovery.
Use a Pillow to Support your Incision
Your nurse will show you how to support your incision with a pillow when coughing, sneezing or laughing. This is very important; it will reduce your pain and help your incision heal properly. Your incision site will be sore at the beginning and this is completely normal. What you want to watch for after you are released from the hospital is increased pain in the incision site, it should be decreasing over time. You will also want to watch to make sure that it is not red or warm too touch as this could mean an infection. Most doctors remove the staples at the incision site before you leave the hospital. You want to make sure that it does not re-open. It is very important that you do not lift heavy objects or add extra strain on the incision site before you are ready, this is very difficult when you have other young children.
Begin Walking as soon as Possible after C-section
One of the things that helped me the most was walking around the hospital as soon as I was able. The nurse had me up walking the same day. It is important to make sure the nurse is there to assist you the first time you get up on your own, sometimes you feel stronger than you actually are. While you do not want to take on too much activity too quickly, walking will actually help speed your recovery. After surgery, your intestinal tract will be sluggish causing you to feel gassy and bloated. Walking will help with this and aid digestion, allowing you to get back to a normal diet quicker. Not drinking carbonated beverages or from a straw for at least the first 24 hours will also help decrease gas pains.
Don’t Be a Hero
This is a tough one for most women, I know it was for me. I have a hard time asking people for help; I am much more comfortable doing everything on my own. This is one of those times that you have to tell yourself that it is necessary to take any assistance offered. This is very important if you have other young children, because you will end up trying to do too much, too soon and end up slowing down your recovery. If grandparents offer to come over and help out, let them. Siblings are going to enjoy the extra attention. Let your body take the time it needs to recover so you can get back to being the mom who does it all.