C-Section Recovery: Our Top 5 + 5 Tips And The Things No One Tells You

cesarean section birth

Written By Mandy Rempfer-Kuncio, MScPT, BSc, CD(DONA)

My name is Mandy Rempfer-Kuncio and I am passionate about the pelvis! As a pelvic health physiotherapist and a birth doula, my dream is for everyone to feel strong at their centre.  Thank you for visiting the Nurturance Health blog!

December 4, 2021
***This article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare/maternity care professional.***

C-Section Recovery: Our Top 5 + 5 Tips

And The Things No One Tells You

If you are planning a c-section,

or if you just got home from the hospital after one,

this post is for you.

A C-section is the MOST common major surgery performed across the world. They are a formidable and amazing procedure, and in many instances they are absolutely life giving and life saving.

But they are still a major surgical procedure. A surgical procedure through which a baby is born via incisions into the abdomen and the uterus.  That is a pretty big combo: MAJOR SURGERY + BIRTH!

surgeon delivering baby during c-section

And just because it’s common doesn’t make it easy.

Unfortunately, many times birthers are sent home after such a major event feeling like they don’t have a lot of guidance on how to take care of themselves.  Often, the only advice given when you leave the hospital is:

 

  • Don’t drive for 6 weeks
  • Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby for 6 weeks

Often that’s it! And quite frankly, that guidance is NOT ENOUGH.

There is so much more that I wish I knew after my c-section, and so much more that I like to share with my patients. Knowing more about c-section recovery can make a really big difference.

Here are 5 tips you need to know to help optimize your C-section recovery…

(and if you would like another 5, sign up for my Top 5 + 5 list below ⬇️)

1. Prepare For The Pain

Pain can be a normal part of c-section recovery. Which is crummy when we have a lot on our plate already – like feeding and caring for a newborn, and adapting to an ever-changing body and hormones.

So, after a c-section, it can be normal for it to hurt when we get in and out of bed, or take a shower, or get up and down from a chair. HOWEVER, it is vitally important that you stay on top of your pain.  Even if you are a person who typically doesn’t take pain medication, have a plan.  Know your options.

Keeping your pain well controlled is essential to decrease the stress on your body.

We need to decrease our fight-or-flight response and stress in our bodies in the postpartum period for two very important reasons: 

    1. To help establish lactation (feeding and bonding with our infants is not particularly helped by pain).
    2. To heal well (higher levels of stress slow the healing process)

Again, to optimize your c-section recovery, know your options and have a plan for pain.  Now is not the time to be tough.  Now is exactly the kind of time pain meds are meant for. 

black woman breastfeeding baby

2. Move Slowly and Cautiously

During your c-section recovery, it’s totally okay to feel like you’ve aged a hundred years.  You definitely might feel like you have to move slowly and cautiously.

Movement could really feel different for a while.  Maybe it’s going to be awkward. It could hurt.  All of that is okay and normal.

So here’s a tip: When I say move slowly and cautiously, just try “inching” around.  Little bits of movement by little bits.  In bed or on the couch.  Day by day, it will slowly get better.

DO NOT try to just sit up in bed. Trust me, it hurts.

Instead, one strategy to try is the log roll.  Try and keep your trunk (shoulders to hips) moving together, and roll onto your side (like a log!).  Use your hands to help push you up to sitting in bed, then stand up. Have lots of pillows to support you in bed, for sleeping and sitting. Getting in and out of bed can be difficult for the first 2 weeks (or more).

3. REST, REST, REST

Did I say REST yet?  Seriously though,  please remember there is a formidable amount of healing going on right now. C-section recovery is recovery both from birth and a major surgery!

For some people this sounds crazy, but: Stay in bed as much as possible for the first week.  Have the baby and your food brought to you.  Only get up to go to the bathroom regularly. This is genuinely a time to take care of yourself and baby, and get help with everything else. This might seem conservative, but clinically I see it work really well to have people stay in bed as much as possible the first week, and then stay around the house for the second week.

 

What they may not have mentioned at the hospital is that they had to cut through many layers in your abdomen in order to get from the outside of your body all the way inside your body to your uterus and then to your baby.

Woman under surgical drape in the OR
Different sources will tell you different numbers of layers, because it depends which anatomical structures you count as a layer (even the uterus itself technically has 3 layers) – that being said, I’ve seen it described as anywhere from 5-9 layers.  Some of those layers the surgeon will cut through, some they will pull apart, and many of them (but not all) they will stitch back together.

What I like people to understand from this idea of layers is that there are a lot of different kinds of tissues that get opened up to allow the cesarean birth.  And what often isn’t talked about is that different kinds of tissues heal at different rates.

Regardless, in the first two weeks after birth – all of the tissues are undergoing major healing and they need REST. 

But after those two weeks, some tissues (like muscle) will heal faster and some tissues (like connective tissue) will need more time to heal.  You might still need a whole lotta rest!

cesarean section recovery
And to this day in my clinical practice, I have NEVER met a postpartum person who reflected on the early weeks after their birth and said “I wish I didn’t rest as much”

NO ONE SAYS THAT! 

But lots of people wish they had taken it easier and rested more.  Friends, please take home this message from those of us who overdid it in the beginning.  You don’t need to make the same mistakes during your c-section recovery!  Rest, rest, rest!

4. Use A Step Stool

Along the same lines as getting enough rest, and moving slowly and cautiously, here’s another easy tip:

Use a step stool!

During your c-section recovery your body does AMAZING healing work at the cellular level that you can’t see (and some that you can see – your scar’s appearance will change a lot over the coming months).  Just because you can’t see it though doesn’t mean major stuff isn’t happening.  Make life easier for yourself whenever you can.

Therefore, use a step stool to help you climb up into bed.  Use a step stool in the kitchen to get down a glass. Use a step stool under your feet to support your legs and pelvis when you are going to the bathroom (hello squatty potty!).

 

It’s not forever, its just for now.  Making movement easier can really help you feel better.

***SIDE NOTE***

It’s also worth mentioning at this point that there is a lot of variability in how people recover from c-sections.  That might be why it looked so easy for your neighbour, and why it might seem way more challenging for you – or vice versa.  Emergency c-sections after a long labour may also be more challenging to recover from  a planned c-section, but that also depends.  There are a lot of different factors that apply to us as individuals and to our individual healing.

Because of this, if it feels like c-section recovery is hard for you – that’s because it totally can be SUPER HARD.

Make it easier – use some supports – including the step stool 😉

5. Get A Stool Softener

Speaking of stools… let’s change tracks a bit and talk about the version of the stool otherwise referred to as poop.

There are a lot of scary stories floating around the internet about that first poop after having a baby.  The stories exist after both vaginal births and cesarean births.  However, this is one area you can also make it easier on yourself.

Constipation
It’s really important to consider all the tips and tricks possible to banish constipation in the postpartum period. After a C-section we are prone to constipation for a number of reasons:

  • fluids going to milk production
  • a lack of physical body movement
  • the use of pain meds

All of this can all be constipating. 

However, your pelvic organs need as much support as possible during this time.  The ligaments that hold up your uterus and pelvic organs are by no means healed yet and they are still soft and stretchy.  Your organs also had to move a lot to accommodate the growing baby in your belly.  And, your organs were likely moved around again a bit during surgery.

So be nice to your organs!

 

And that means no pressure or straining to have a bowel movement!  Don’t wait for your stool to become large or hard before you address constipation.  Be proactive in this area and get a stool softener in advance to help your c-section recovery.  Not sure what kind or which brand? Talk to your doctor or pharmacist (if you are lactating, you will want to consider what’s safe, so definitely ask an expert).

 

And don’t forget the step stool! 😉😉😉

C-section recovery involves healing from a major surgery and from giving birth.  Your body has been through a lot, but it is truly amazing.  Our bodies have this miraculous capacity to create and give life, and they also have a breathtaking capacity to heal.  I hope these tips help you feel better as you go through your healing process and your c-section recovery.

~Mandy

 

And guess what, there’s more!!! 

I’ve put together a great pdf that includes these 5 tips + 5 more!  You can sign up and grab it below.  There are many things you can do to optimize your c-section recovery! 💗💗💗

Get It Here! ⬇️

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***This article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare/maternity...