Recovering from a caesarean birth

The road to recovery after a C-section

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Be prepared
You may have the chance to plan your C-section or it may not be what you’d planned at all! Dr Daghni Rajasingam, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says it’s important to be prepared for all eventualities. ‘Raise any Caesarean issues with your midwife beforehand, so you won’t panic if labour does change course.’

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Immediately after
If you’ve had a general anaesthetic, you may feel groggy and nauseous. Start by taking sips of water and progress to light snacks, says midwife Nikki Khan. ‘Hold a pillow to your Caesarean wound so if you cough or laugh, your stitches are supported.’

Another side effect of a Caesarean birth is trapped wind – surgery can irritate the bowel and stop it working as well. Samantha Gillard, a physiotherapist specialising in women’s health, suggests, ‘A pelvic tilt, where you lie on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat. Tilt your pelvis forward and backwards. This should help move the wind back down.’

It may be a while before you walk for the first time, so try some gentle circulation exercises from your bed, says Melinda Nicci, Prima Baby’s fitness expert. ‘Circle your wrist and shoulder joints while lying down, and repeat with your ankles, moving in circles one way, then the other.’

The next day
Wait until you’ve got someone with you before you try to stand for the first time. Turn onto your side and use your hands to push yourself up, then swing your legs over the side of the bed. Samantha says, ‘You might feel dizzy, so rest before you step off the bed. Posture is key: think of a puppet on a string, and pull up the string!’

Keep your Caesarean wound clean and dry. ‘If it gets infected, it’ll become red, painful and may swell – tell your midwife if you’re worried,’ says Dr Daghni.

Three days later
A full bladder puts pressure on your C-section wound, but it’s also important for your bladder to stretch and hold urine, says Samantha. ‘Go to the toilet every two hours at first, then start to trust the call of nature after a few days.’ Once you’ve passed urine naturally, you’re safe to do pelvic floor exercises. ‘The pelvic floor is connected to the stomach muscles, so exercises can pull on your scar and may feel uncomfortable,’ she says. ‘Start doing them lying down, building up over time.’

A week later
At home, use a change table rather than kneeling and bending to change nappies. Samantha says, ‘This could hurt tender tummy muscles after a Caesarean and cause back pain. Also, when feeding, it’s common to develop pain between your shoulders if you aren’t in a good position. Put a pillow against your lower back and another under your arm to support your baby.

Three weeks later
You should be starting to get more used to your C-section scar now. Bio-Oil and vitamin E creams will help to reduce the angry appearance of your caesarean scar over time.

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Your six-week check
You might still be coming to terms with your C-section delivery, especially if it wasn’t what you planned. ‘It’s best to talk through any feeling you have after a complicated delivery,’ says Dr Daghni. ‘Try to do this at your six-week check to tackle any issues.’

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