The postpartum stage becomes extra challenging when it involves a C-section recovery, a process that requires some extra care.
Having a surgical incision in your abdomen and uterus, so that your baby can come to life without any risks for either of you, isn't easy to cope with. It may take weeks, and some patience, for you to feel comfortable doing certain activities, though that depends on what pace your wound heals at. After all, C-sections are major surgical procedures and, without intending to alarm you, they need to be faced that way.
If you think that, because of your particular situation, you may have to undergo a C-section when going into labour, you might as well gather some useful information on what to expect after such a procedure. Keep reading to learn many details about c-section recovery.
C-section recovery: How will the first days be?
After having a C-section, you'll have to remain in the hospital for longer than you would under normal circumstances (a vaginal birth), but it usually takes between four to seven days. During these, you'll be carefully monitored in order to prevent any complications, like the C-section scar getting infected. When the surgery is successfully carried out, you'll be sent to a postoperative room, where the health-care providers will check your vaginal bleeding, temperature and blood pressure regularly.
You may be under anaesthesia for the next 24 hours after surgery, either if you are given an epidural or a spinal block. Morphine is also used to provide postpartum pain relief, but such a 'cocktail' may leave you shaky, dizzy and, of course, numb for a little while. You should expect to have liquids delivered intravenously (IV), as well as a catheter that collects your urine while you can't go to the bathroom.
By the second day, you may have both the IV and the catheter removed, so you'll be able to get up and walk a little bit, even if it's just to make it to the bathroom. You'll start a quick diet based on liquids, mainly juice and soup, until your body is 'clear' to let solids in. Also, you may be given massages on the uterus to help it shrink faster.
On the third day after the day of the surgery, doctors will encourage you to be more active to improve blood circulation and bowel movement (constipation is a common side effect caused by the narcotics taken after birth). Actually, don't be surprised if you are given a stool softener that allows you to poo without making big efforts, which aren't recommendable when having an abdominal incision. By now, you should be able to start eating soft foods, like pasta, and have showers. What's more, water and soap are all you need to take good care of your C-section scar, so don't worry about the area getting wet.
Before going home for the rest of your C-section recovery, you'll have the staples removed from the wound and replaced with paper sticking-plasters, which will eventually fall off. Your doctor will probably advise you against certain activities: lifting weights, having sex or douching until you've had the next check up, around six weeks after surgery.
C-section recovery: When will I be able to breastfeed?
C-section recovery won't keep you from breastfeeding at all. Actually, you can start doing so right after surgery, but obviously you need to be careful. You can ask the nurse for advice, like the best breastfeeding positions to adopt while being on such a delicate state. Though it can be challenging in the beginning, take it as an opportunity to practise the side-lying position and the rugby ball hold or underarm, which will avoid any contact with the scar area. If you still have trouble to breastfeed your child properly or you are suffering from sore nipples, you should consider talking to a lactation consultant, who will recommend the best fit given your situation.
C-section recovery: What will it be like once I'm home?
When you leave the hospital, you'll need a lot of support and help from Dad, relatives and friends. Your body will still be exhausted, as it will be focused on recovering and healing from birth, so any help will be more than welcomed. As for the scar, it may be tender for a few weeks, but you'll notice how it gets better pretty much day-by-day. Of course, during the first days you'll have to keep painkillers at hand, which will also imply drinking a lot of fluids and taking stool softeners to avoid the resulting constipation. You will be expected to have vaginal discharge (blood, mucus and tissue) for a few weeks, but it'll diminish little by little, so don't worry too much about it.
Remember that resting (while taking care of your little one) will be essential for your C-section recovery, as well as walking around very often. Being active is proven to speed the healing process and prevent problems such as blood clots.
During your C-section recovery, watch out for signs of infection. If the scar gets swollen and red or it's oozing, you should call your GP right away. Other symptoms to be aware of include worsening pain, fever and foul smelling vaginal discharge.
C-section recovery: How to take care of the C-section scar
Taking care of a C-section scar doesn't present many difficulties. As mentioned previously, it only takes for you to clean the wound properly, using neutral soap and then rinsing it out with water. You need to dry the incision well, but do it carefully to avoid hurting yourself. You can also apply topical creams and ointments that are meant to promote healing. Remove the sticking-plasters or the bandage from the scar regularly to let it 'breathe' and, above all, don't scratch it (it will probably get very itchy!).
In short, C-section recovery won't be pretty, especially during the first days. Medication will definitely help you cope with the pain, but you need to be careful as well! Don't try to prove a point by doing more than you should right now, because that may only make things worse. Rest, take your time and before you know it, you'll be dancing in the living room while holding your munchkin.