Recovering From a Cesarean Section: Timeline and Tips
If I only knew that a cesarean recovery was that difficult, I would have done everything I could to avoid having a c-section delivery. You see, I am a mom of five children. I had already gotten away with normal vaginal deliveries for my first four children. Unfortunately, the last one had to undergo a caesarean delivery.
I believe I could have had a normal delivery for the 5th time, but why did it happen? God must have allowed me to go through this so that I could learn from this painful experience and be able to share with other pregnant moms what it is like to have a cesarean recovery and what can be done to help ease the recovery.
Avoid It or Live Through It
Let me just say this first before I describe the recovery process I went through: If you can avoid cesarean delivery, AVOID IT! After having gone through both normal and cesarean childbirth, I can say that it is much better to have a normal delivery. Here are my reasons why:
- Cesarean delivery is a major abdominal surgery, therefore, recovery is a much longer (minimum 6-8 weeks) and more painful process than if you had a normal delivery.
- There are complications like excessive bleeding, reaction to anesthesia and medications, possible injury to the baby especially if the operation was done prior to 39 weeks.
- Cesarean delivery is a lot more expensive since you have to pay extra for the operating room, the anesthesiologist, and the extended stay (usually 3-4 days after delivery) at the hospital.
It is said that 1 out of 4 childbirths now are done in the cesarean section. I don't have anything against it. If it is necessary as pointed out in the video above, do it by all means.
However, you've got to live through the pain as I have. It is easier said than done. The doctors and those who've gone through it including my mom who had 3 CS make it seem so easy to recover. I've even read some testimony by moms in forums that their recovery is not that bad. But when you're in that predicament, it is quite different. Of course, it is a still case by case basis.
Recovering from a C-section delivery is really a challenge. I needed to rest as much as I could and muster all the strength I could to recover faster.
The First 24 hours
After the surgery, these are the typical things I had that are to be expected.
- I had gas pains in the abdominal area. In fact, this was more painful for me at this time compared to the incision. Rubbing Aceite Manzanilla (a mixture of Chamomile oil and Citronella oil) on the affected area helps soothe the gas pains. Some say peppermint oil will also work. Otherwise, you can ask the doctor to give something for the gas pain.
- I also felt numbness in the abdominal area. It really was weird and awkward, but this was quite normal.
- The nurse removed the catheter within 12 hours after delivery, so I was forced to go to the toilet early on. It is really difficult getting up and lying down at first, but it will get better.
- Movements like shuffling your legs and circling the ankles and slow, short frequent walks are encouraged. This helps move the gas through and prevent stiffness around the incision area thereby recovering faster.
- Just like with vaginal birth, there was bleeding (similar to menstruation).
- I was given a soft diet (soup and juice) until my gastrointestinal system was working normally.
Next 2-4 Days in the Hospital
- Now, the effect of the anesthesia had worn off, therefore, it was helpful not to wait for the onset of pain before taking some pain medications.
- I was able to get up from the bed, walk farther, sit, and lie down more easily now but the abdominal area and the incision were not without pain. Coughing, sneezing, and laughing caused pain to this area. Holding a pillow against it lessened or controlled the pain.
- I got to hold and carry my baby at this time. They say the heaviest that a mom should lift after the cesarean is her newborn. I got to breastfeed my baby only on the 3rd day because it was only then that I had breast milk. For moms who have breastmilk after giving birth, they can breastfeed their baby right away.
- I started to have itchiness on my back. This was a terrible reaction to the anesthesia. This actually grew worse and spread to all of my body and extremities for more than two weeks. I itched so much that sometimes I cried. I tried all sorts of things from calamine to lemon water to fennu Greek tea to antihistamine but it did not help much. Some don't experience this though. Good for them.
- The OB examined the suture and cleaned and covered it with a waterproof dressing. I actually got to take a bath on the 3rd day. They said it was all right.
- When I was able to pass gas, they adjusted my diet to a regular one.
- On the 4th day, I was discharged from the hospital with some medications and instructions until next follow-up appointment with the doctor.
- At home, it was good that my husband and four children helped with the other chores. While I concentrated on caring for the new baby. I had to forego most of the chores for 2-4 weeks especially those that required bending, stretching, or stooping. Doing heavy work might cause heavy bleeding or the suture to re-open.
- I found wearing abdominal support or a cesarean belt helpful in keeping the wound from being moved and aching. When I want to do something and tried to do it and felt no pain, I went ahead with the activity. A good rule of thumb is to listen to your body.
- It took a while before I could do any exercise routine. I waited at least eight weeks after the Caesarean and did only very light exercise.
- The healing of my incision and overall recovery went well except for the itching. However, if you experience any bleeding or oozing from your incision (sign of infection) or your suture re-opens, contact your doctor immediately.
Recap of Lessons Learned
- If you can avoid having a cesarean delivery, avoid it.
- If you have to go through a cesarean delivery, be prepared to have a lot of patience and endurance.
- Rest. When possible, sleep when the baby is sleeping so that when she is awake you have all the energy you need to take care of her. Despite the pain you are still feeling, ENJOY YOUR NEW BABY.
- Take care of your body and listen. We moms like to do a lot of things around the house especially when we have other children to take care of. But we have to take things slowly during the Caesarean recovery period, or we might find ourselves going back to the doctor for complications. When doing an activity and you feel pain, STOP.
- Don't hesitate to seek help and support from family and friends. If they can help do some of the chores for you or take care of the other children, take their offered help to allow more time for your self to rest and heal.