There are some weird things about post-partum recovery after a cesarean birth that are different from a vaginal birth. Here are some tips to help get more comfortable as you recover from a c-section.
I had planned for a natural birth with my firstborn son
I had read up on post-partum care for vaginal deliveries. All of the natural birthing books friends recommended were read and bookmarked. I had “padsicles” and vaginal spray all ready to go for my post-partum recovery.
And then my little boy turned breech at 35 weeks.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I tried all of the things to try to get him to flip back, but ultimately he was born via c-section with two days notice. Most of that two-day notice time was spent getting everything at the house ready and meals prepped instead of researching c-section recovery and postpartum care.
After my cesarean, there were things that absolutely shocked me about post-partum care, and having this knowledge will definitely help YOU if you’re preparing for a c-section or end up needing one.
After my first c-section I learned quite a few things via the “here’s what NOT to do” way. But I learned more about what to do after my second cesarean. I was much better prepared, and had that previous c-section to compare it to, so I know what actually worked better in my recovery.
I will warn you, there is a bit of TMI in this post, so if you’re squeamish or ended up here on accident some how, go ahead and skip this post NOW.
Related post: 7 Must-have Items for Post-Partum Care
Here are the six things I wish I knew before having my first c-section:
1. You will still have a lot of post-partum vaginal bleeding
For some reason I thought that a lot of the blood and uterus lining would be “scooped” out during surgery with the placenta and all. Call me hopeful, naive, whatever, but I just wasn’t aware that I’d still have A LOT of bleeding down there. You need to be prepared for this: C-section means major abdominal surgery recovery WHILE having the heaviest period of your life. In the hospital they’ll have giant pads for you to use. You’ll need them for the first 48 hours (at least)! Just embrace them. But once you go home and the bleeding lessens a little bit, having a giant diaper is the worst. I personally just felt swollen everywhere from my waist down, so having thinner pads made me feel SO much more comfortable. These ultra thin overnight pads will safe your sanity and bring some comfort.
2. You MIGHT (probably will) have a muffin top over your incision
It’s true. You
might probably will. The momma pooch from having the baby almost has a cinch under it from the c-section. Take deep breaths. It’s okay! Remember that every mama has some form of baby pooch for some amount of time. It can heal. When you’re prepared for it, it’s not quite as daunting. After my first c-section I was horrified by how it looked and it honestly took OVER A YEAR to flatten things out between my incision and my belly. With that in mind as I prepared for my second c-section, I purchased a belly band to combat it. This is the style I got that really helped my recovery go much faster after my second than with my first. Learn from my mistake. Get a belly band. Grab one HERE.
3. Your incision will be itchy as it heals (and get ingrown hairs)
Delightful, right? Just writing that sentence made my insides squirm a little bit. But I want you to know what’s up. As your incision heals and becomes a scab, it can get itchy. And because it is at the down-there hairline, those hairs can get trapped (WHY is this a thing?! I feel like that hair should just stop growing for a month during surgery recovery). I’m usually all-in for natural treatment, but I found this spray to be worth it for the relief it brought. Nothing natural quite compared. Although I did also like aloe vera gel mixed with lavender to help combat the itch when it wasn’t quite so intense. To help with the hairs, I found a personal electric shaver to be really helpful to keep things “tidy” and to keep hair from getting trapped. Having a good pair of tweezers is important so you can get those ingrown ones out with as little pain as possible.
4. Sitz baths actually still help soothe even if you didn’t have a vaginal birth
From my reading, I thought that sitz baths would only help after a vaginal delivery, but boy was I wrong! Because you’ll still be having heavy bleeding down there, sitz baths can still be very helpful and bring you much needed comfort. But as you probably know, you can’t bathe with your incision. However, if you prepare a warm sitz bath that is only 2-4 inches deep, making sure you can sit in the bath without the water coming up to your incision, it is perfectly fine. As a heads up, you are still bleeding. So this isn’t something you want to stay in for a very long time and you’ll definitely want to shower off after. I’ve made my own sitz bath concentrate before, but I’ve also used this store-bought one that also worked grand!
Extra tip: Drape a towel over your shoulders so that you stay cozy while you soak.
5. Regular underwear won’t work for a while
You’ll probably want to wear these mesh undies from the hospital for, like, a month after your cesarean. I’m not even joking. Regular underwear can hit your incision just right (not really right) to rub it or dig into it. Plus, things are a bit swollen and there’s still a lot of blood going on down there. Having disposable ultra-comfy underwear, albeit massively unsexy, will be a game-changer. Just embrace it for a while. You’re healing from a pretty significant surgery. You brought life from your womb. You should absolutely allow yourself as much comfort as possible.
They’ll have the mesh undies for you at the hospital. I had a really sweet nurse who sent me home with two extra packs (so, like, 12) of these underwear. Be bold and don’t be afraid to ask if you can take home extras! If hospital policy just doesn’t allow it, you can purchase extras here.
Extra tip: during the first couple days after your surgery, your insicision might bleed slightly. You can put a pad horizontally over your incision with the mesh undies holding it in place. Instant bandage.
6. It will hurt to laugh, cough, sneeze, and “stuff”
While I was recovering from my c-section I watched Parks and Recreation and ended up nearly crying from pain from laughing. It hurt! We use our ab muscles for so much more than we realize! Laughing, coughing, sneezing, and, uh hem, tooting, will all cause some abdominal discomfort. Having a warm rice pillow or heating pad can help tremendously. You can also alternate with ice packs if you prefer. For me, ice on my stomach made me want to punch someone. But I hear some people prefer it. So have a rice pillow in the freezer just in case!
Post partum recovery is always a bit messy, and surgery recovery from a c-section can make it a tad bit more difficult. But with these tips and a lot of help from a good support person, your recovery will go much more smoothly.