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  • Jordan Quinn

Navigating Your C-Section Recovery: 10 Gentle Reminders from a Mom Who Has Been There

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

If you've had a cesarean section (c-section), you know that recovery can be tough. Whether it was planned or an emergency, the recovery process can be painful, but a few tips can go a long way in helping you feel better sooner. Here are 10 things to be aware of for your c-section recovery:

woman wearing c-section recovery clothes

1. Take it slow

Unlike most surgeries, this one typically includes the added pressure of launching into the 24/7 job of taking care of a newborn. Don't try to be a superhero - bodies require rest to recover and heal. Your body has been through a major surgery, so it's important to take it easy during your recovery.

Don't try to do too much too soon, even if you feel like you're ready. Listen to your body and take breaks when you need to.

2. Keep an eye on your incision, swelling, and bleeding.

Your c-section scar will need time to heal, so be sure to keep an eye on it while keeping it clean and dry. It's shocking how quickly our healing becomes an afterthought when tackling the around-the-clock needs of a newborn, so it's important to be aware of signs of postpartum preeclampsia, infection (such as redness, swelling, or discharge), excessive bleeding (one pad per hour), or excessive swelling (one leg larger than other). Don't overlook these symptoms -- contact your doctor right away.

It never hurts to be proactive if you have concerns -- you'll either get the necessary care earlier in the process or you'll hear confirmation that it is healing fine. Both are great outcomes!

3. Prioritize pain management

There's no getting around it: c-section recovery can be painful. Ask your doctor about pain medication options, and consider using heat or ice therapy to relieve soreness. When sitting up in bed, roll over to your side and use your arms to push yourself up rather than relying on your abs.

The best advice we got from nurses was to stay ahead of the pain for at least the first week because once you miss doses and the pain seeps in, it can take time to feel better again. Take your pain medication like clockwork and use pill organizers and timers to ease the mental load of remembering.

4. Get plenty of rest...or at least... well, some.

Sleep is important for your recovery and, you know, general human functioning... so make sure you're prioritizing rest. If possible, enlist the help of friends or family members to help with household chores and childcare so you can focus on recovering.

If you are having trouble sleeping, consider using a blackout eye mask or earplugs when others are watching the baby. That way every little noise won't wake you up. If you are dealing with a racing mind or intrusive thoughts when trying to sleep, be sure to look up postpartum mental health symptoms and talk to your doctor.

5. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is important for your overall health, but it's especially important during your recovery. Staying hydrated can help prevent constipation, which is a common issue after c-sections.

And those big, swollen post-surgery legs? Drinking plenty of water also helps with decreasing the swelling too. Keep a water bottle handy wherever you spend most of your day -- whether that's in bed, on the couch, or on each level of the house, so it is always within reach.

6. Eat a healthy diet

This is a hard one if you are a comfort eater like us. BUT, eating a healthy diet can help speed up your recovery and give you the energy you need to take care of your new baby. Focus on foods that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

Warm foods that are easy to digest will help your body recover faster after surgery. And pregnancy and delivery take a lot of minerals from your reserves, so treating food as medicine to help you recover can help you feel stronger faster.

7. Consider compression garments

Some women find that wearing compression garments, such as a belly band, recovery shorts, or compression leggings can help relieve discomfort and support their abdominal muscles during recovery.

They should be firm, but not too tight, as you don't want to put too much pressure on your pelvic floor.

8. Attend your follow-up appointments

Everything may seem to be about the baby, but you are also an important patient right now. Be sure to schedule your follow-up appointments to check on your recovery progress. If this step feels overwhelming, ask a partner or a friend to help you schedule it, to help you get there, and to make sure your care is a priority.

It's important to attend these appointments and ask any questions you may have. Ask your doctor to check for diastasis recti, discuss your mental health, and bring a list of any other questions that have been on your mind. Ask for referrals that can help with the next phase of your recovery, such as pelvic floor and core rehabilitation, postpartum mental health, or body strengthening programs.

9. Ask for help

Recovering from a c-section can be tough, so don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You should be doing as little as possible in the first few weeks. Where possible, have others fully take over the laundry, cooking, cleaning, or taking care of other children.

We know that is not always possible, but this is the time to reach out to friends and family members for support or to splurge on convenience services such as grocery delivery, delivered meals, cleaning services, and childcare. This is not the time to prove you can "do it all". You've done enough. Let your partner or others step in and take care of things, or if you are totally solo, let your standards slide for now. You, your recovery, and your baby take priority right now. Everything else can slide for a while.

10. Celebrate your strength

You may be feeling amazing or like you got ran over, then they forgot something and reversed back. But you've already conquered the hardest part and that is worth celebrating. Recovery looks different for everyone, so try your best not to compare your healing journey to others. Our bodies (and minds) all react differently to pregnancy, delivery, interventions, and healing, so just go at your own pace.

You may not be viewing yourself as very "strong" at this moment, but trust us, you are. You have been through so much already and please know that if you need help with the current stage you are at, please reach out to your provider, your community, or join a c-section community where they share tips, resources, and shared experiences.

In conclusion

Recovering from a c-section can be challenging, but with the right mindset and support, you can get through this. Remember to take it slow, keep an eye on your incision, and use pain management techniques. Stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet, and attend your follow-up appointments. Don't be afraid to ask for help, and celebrate your strength and all of the small wins.


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