If you’ve delivered by caesarian then not only are you a new mum, with all the excitement, joys, challenges and post-partum discomforts that entails, but you’re also recovering from major abdominal surgery. Women have different experiences of recovering from caesarians, but generally you can expect some pain around the incision for several weeks after the birth and it’s usual for the wound to take six weeks or even longer to fully heal. With all that you can expect the recovery period to be significantly longer than after your average vaginal birth, but there’s plenty you can do to make the recovery period more positive, both for you and your baby.
1. Coping with the pain – More likely than not there will be abdominal pain after a c-section, which will be at its worst for the first two days, after which it usually subsides significantly. However, the painkillers you are given are usually very effective. This is great, of course, but it can also lull you into a false sense of security: In the first day after the section you may think that you won’t suffer much from pain, as the painkillers do such a great job, only to later have an unpleasant surprise when the painkillers wear off. So do accept the painkillers you are offered – you can decide later what you do or don’t need but at least you’ll have them to hand. When you are in pain don’t wait until it is very bad before taking medication, as this will make it harder for the painkillers to work.
If you’re worried about taking painkillers while breastfeeding then talk to your doctor.
2. Be realistic – It will help you enormously, mentally and emotionally, if you’re realistic about the progress of your recovery after a c-section. If you expect to simply bounce back within days then you’re likely to end up feeling frustrated and negative – emotions which will be picked up on by your baby. So make sure you’ve read widely on what to expect during recovery and pay attention to the advice handed out by the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
3. Avoiding wind – You may have thought you’d be seeing the end of excessive wind with the end of pregnancy, but painful wind is common in the first few days after a caesarian and may be felt elsewhere around the body, not just in the abdomen. The same tips that eased the problem throughout pregnancy will help: avoid greasy and spicy foods as well as carbonated drinks. Warm drinks such as fennel tea can help relieve the wind, as can taking gentle exercise, such as a short walk, or rocking in a chair.
4. Get support – Now isn’t the time to strike an independent pose, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, health professionals and, if necessary, counsellors. If you’re concerned about anything to do with your recovery then do ask questions and seek help. It’s far better to take a few minutes of your doctor’s time to ask whether something is normal than it is to worry about it, which will disturb both you and, by extension, your baby.
5. Move around – Now we’re not talking about getting out the aerobics tapes or going for long walks in the park right away, but as soon as the doctors tell you it’s ok to move around a bit then do start to incorporate gentle activity into your day. Get up and walk around a little, rather than staying in bed, and encourage your circulation to get the healing process going. At first the idea of getting out of bed might seem daunting, but with each day that goes by you’ll be able to do a little more.
Save proper exercising for a few weeks after the operation when you’re feeling a bit more normal and are healing well. When exactly you can start exercising again will depend on how you’re recovering and for many women it will be about six weeks. Once you do start exercising it will give you an important pick-me-up and help you on the road to recovery, but take it very easy at first and get the go-ahead from your doctor before getting out your trainers.
6. Caring for baby while avoiding straining – In the hospital there will probably be constant reminders to avoid straining your wound, once home however it might not be so easy. Getting up out of bed can strain your stitches and lifting anything remotely heavy, not to mention numerous household chores, will be simply out of the question in the first few weeks. Even lifting your baby may be difficult at first but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to care properly for her, and the development of intimacy between the two of you needn’t suffer because of a the operation.