8 things to expect after a C-section
No two women have the exact same recovery from childbirth, and for those recovering from a C-section, there’s even more variability. But although every experience is different, there are still some very common things that many recovering from a C-section might experience.
- Tired, tired, tired, sore, sore, sore
The level of exhaustion might differ from mom to mom, but you just had major abdominal surgery as the cherry on top of your 9-months-of-carrying-a-baby sundae. Unless you’re a character right out of the Marvel Universe, chances are you’re going to be pretty wiped, and very sore. It’s a good idea to rest as much as you can over the next few weeks as your body builds itself back up to strength, but you probably don’t need anybody to remind you of that.
- Gas build-up, cramping, or constipation
Because of slowed digestion immediately following a C-section, it’s incredibly common to notice a gas buildup and constipation in the hours, days, and weeks after your baby’s birthday. This build-up can cause back pain and general discomfort, including cramping, but it’s completely normal. If gas build-up persists for more than a week or so, it may be a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider to help you come up with a strategy of management. There's a good chance your healthcare provider will talk to you about diet changes or stool softeners to combat constipation.
- Encouragement to get active
While it’s true that you don’t want to be too active in the first few days after your C-section, there’s much to be said for some regular light movement. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, light exercise can do wonders to help you regain some energy, and alleviate some symptoms, like excess gas.
- A no-go zone
Many healthcare providers recommend avoiding sex, tampons, douching, and the like for the first 6 weeks or so after a C-section, or at least until your post-delivery visit. This time allows your body to clear up any bleeding, and lets your cervix close again.
Even if you’re the “grit your teeth and get through it” kind of person when it comes to medication, it’s likely that you’ll need a bit of help of the medical variety after a C-section. Many hospitals will put you on an IV and allow you to administer your own pain medication, but if this isn’t your arrangement, you should feel free to let a doctor or nurse know when you’re uncomfortable. Pain medication can make a huge difference in the first few days or weeks after your baby is born. Pain in the incision area is common and expected after major abdominal surgery, and internal pain and cramping is common as well. Pain medications prescribed after a C-section are generally considered to be compatible with breastfeeding, but if you have any concerns, your healthcare provider will be able to discuss them with you further.
- Bleeding and discharge
Just because you didn’t deliver vaginally doesn’t mean you won’t notice some of the same physical effects. It’s very common to notice a bloody discharge called lochia for the first 4 to 6 weeks after a C-section, as your body rids itself of the extra fluids and tissue that it put on during pregnancy. You can use sanitary pads to deal with the discharge, but avoid tampons (as we know from #4).
- A fading scar
Scars are scars, and so in some shape or form, your scar is here to stay a while. The good news is that it’s going to constantly fade and shrink, and may even virtually blend into your skin. It’s best not to check the scar for signs of fading every 15 minutes, but stay patient, and it’ll happen.
- Better every day
Between the soreness, fatigue, and incision, the first few days after a C-section aren’t always the most pleasant or comfortable. Fortunately, the body is a pretty amazing machine, and will recover faster than you know. With a lot of rest and water, a little activity, and as much pain medication as you need, the recovery process will get better and better every day.
- Larissa Hirsch. “Recovering From Delivery.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, June 2015. Retrieved October 24 2017. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/recovering-delivery.html.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “C-section recovery: What to expect.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, May 20 2015. Retrieved October 24 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/c-section-recovery/art-20047310.
- “Recovering from birth.” Women’sHealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 1 2017. Retrieved October 24 2017. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-and-beyond/recovering-birth.
- “Recovering from delivery (Postpartum recovery).” FamilyDoctor.org. American Academy of Family Physicians, January 2017. Retrieved October 24 2017. https://familydoctor.org/recovering-from-delivery/.
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