Whether a cesarean is planned, unplanned, or an emergency, moms are left wondering what is the recovery process.
This procedure is major abdominal surgery as it goes through multiple layers of abdominal muscles and the uterus to reach baby. Following a c-section, you will likely have a longer hospital stay so that you can be monitored and be given pain relief.
I encourage both moms and dads to read through this so that there is an understanding on what recovery looks like.
1. The first 24 hours. Be kind to yourself. You have gone through the labor stages as well as had abdominal surgery. Both of these require healing and recovery. It will be important to accept help from hospital staff and your support person such as holding and feeding baby, rolling over, sitting up, walking and going to the bathroom. Also, say yes to pain medication.
2. At home. PJs or sweatpants time! Find the most comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and underwear that you have.
3. Rest, Rest, Rest! Napping often will accelerate the healing process as our body heals during sleep. Listen to your body and take breaks as needed.
4. Enjoy the fresh air. Short, frequent walks around the house or to the end of your driveway can help increase circulation and increase digestion.
5. Gently move your body. Very gentle exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing, heel slides or ankle exercises can help increase circulation in the abdominal area and in your legs.
6. Look at your scar. Acknowledge it. This may be a challenge for some as you may have not had a chance to accept that you had a c-section.
7. Keep in touch! Gently touch areas around but away from your scar until it is healed. Using different fabrics and textures, you can gently go over your scar to desensitize the nerves in that area. Once the area is healed and you are cleared by your doctor, you can progress to deeper massage to help reduce scar tissue. Some massage therapists are trained in scar tissue work.
8. How are things with your pelvic floor? Gentle exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor. Going through a c-section does not mean that your pelvic floor didn’t go through labor as well. There are physiotherapists who specialize in pelvic floor therapy who can assess and give you specific exercises.
9. Breathe in, pause and exhale. Getting into the habit of practicing deep breathing can help keep your body relaxed and provide you with renewed energy as you breathe in all of that fresh air!
10. Eat healthy. Consuming nutritional foods can help with digestion and keep your energy levels up.
11. Ask for support. Modify activities with baby to help limit strain on your abdomen. This means asking friends and family to support you until you feel stronger.
12. Use the log roll! Rolling over onto your side and pushing yourself up with your arms can help limit strain on your abdominal muscles.
13. Check in with yourself. There may be an emotional recovery needed following a c-section. It is very normal to grieve after a belly birth as many women find that they didn’t have a choice and were left feeling like they failed. Debriefing your labor experience with a friend or professional can help answer some questions that you may have about the procedure.
The healing time from a c-section can vary from person to person. Check in with your doctor if you have any questions. There are a lot of amazing resources out there. Be kind to yourself and check out the Louis and Léa online baby shop for thoughtful gifts.
Ashley Benjamin RMT, Doula
References: Simkin, P., Whalley, J., & Keppler, A. (1991). Pregnancy, childbirth, and the newborn: The complete guide. Deephaven, MN: Meadowbrook. Melissa Desaulles BScPT, BScKin, Cert Pelvic Health (2020). Pelvic Floor: An Online Course for Doulas, MommyBerries.com