Written by Kate Rich of Southwest Ohio Family Doulas
So you just found out that you will need to schedule a cesarean, or maybe your birth plans unexpectedly changed in the middle of labor? While all birth has some recovery and healing time afterward, the challenges faced by women recovering from cesarean can be unique. As a labor doula, I support all birthing women through their experience, and often am there alongside families giving birth by cesarean. Here are five things I’ve learned about recovering from cesarean birth that you might like to keep in mind:
- Get some granny panties. Super sexy, I know, but your incision site will thank you! Get some extra large panties, preferably seamless with no elastic around the waistband (those can dig in and hurt!). Nice and big around will give you plenty of room to wear them up high and avoid your incision site while it heals.
- Ask for an abdominal binder at the hospital. They don’t always offer one, but you can ask for the hospital to give you a basic binder, which is basically a giant, stiff piece of elastic with velcro that you can wrap around your belly and incision for added support as you start to walk and move around. It feels like a giant, comforting hug for your healing belly. You can also find brand name versions of these binders online which some people find a tiny bit more comfortable, but you might as well get it covered on your hospital bill while you are there!
- Take your time. This is true for all women who have just given birth, but is especially important for women who have just had a cesarean. Remember that the incision on the outside is just as important as all of the healing going on inside, and the best thing you can do is take it easy, rest, and try not to push yourself in the first several weeks. Think about what it is you need as far as meals, errands, cleaning, etc. Keep a running list, and anytime someone asks to stop by to visit, consider asking them to do one thing off the list. Most people are happy to help!
- It takes a good 6-8 weeks before you feel like you won’t split in two. Every week you will notice yourself feeling better and better, but it takes a while for that edge to melt away. It might seem like a long time, and some days may feel frustrating, but I promise eventually you will be able to run and jump and get around just as easily as before.
- Consider physical therapy and/or massage therapy for your muscles and scar mobilization to get your body to its most healthy state. Pregnancy takes a toll physically on your body, and adding major abdominal surgery to the mix certainly can intensify that toll! Take your time resting and recovering before trying out any sort of exercise, but once you are ready and cleared by your doctor or midwife, there are some things you can do to help facilitate proper healing. You don’t have to go out and work for six pack abs, but find someone who has experience with women’s pelvic floor health and can gently help you restore your connection to your core muscles for day-to-day life. This can also help you minimize long-term issues related to cesarean.
Have you had a cesarean? If so, tell us what you learned, and tips you would add to this list for any other women who are recovering from cesarean.