SO MANY TIMES I've come across articles and posts about what to expect from a c-section, but no one really touches on the recovery from them.
I'm no expert, but I have had 3 c-sections (one emergency after laboring and pushing, and two scheduled ones) so I feel like I'm pretty well-versed in this area to provide some insight to some other mamas about what to expect. All of my c-section recoveries have been very similar and yet totally different! Confusing for ya?! I mean, you're recovering from the same surgery but the circumstances each time are different (like going from just having a newborn to take care of to having a newborn + a 21 month old and a 3.5 years old). Regardless, it's 110% worth it. SO WORTH IT.
Anyways, I thought I'd write up my personal opinions regarding the 10 truths about c-sections and recovery so that maybe they'd be beneficial to an expectant mama.
- Stool softeners become your best friend. I warned you above -- this is detailed and TMI. But I'm going to say it (because I wish someone would have told me before I had my first) -- TAKE THEM. And take them a week or two before you plan on delivering and then religiously afterwards, even after you've stopped taking your pain meds. They help A LOT. Even though when you have a c-section you aren't birthing a baby out of your lady bits, it still is super SUPER uncomfortable to try and go #2 after birth because HELLLLOOOO you push poop out with your abs and those have just been through the ringer, literally. And after birth your insides are kinda shut down for a few days, so when it's time to go you want to be able to go easily. Taking these bad boys makes that process more tolerable. I cried like a baby going #2 with my first, and by my third it was no big deal at all -- no tears shed. And I thank stool softeners for that.
- You bleed still. For some reason I think people assume that if you don't have a baby coming out of you lady parts that nothing else comes out of them cause "they got it all" when they cut the baby out. NOT TRUE. You most definitely bleed. It may not be as heavy as if you had a baby naturally, but boy, it's still there. So stock up on some lovely pads from Target before your kiddo gets here cause you will most definitely need them.
- Mesh undies and granny panties are your new best friend. For all 3 of my c-sections my OB cut RIGHTTTTT at my natural waist line, you know the spot where your undies and pants lie?! Yep. There. So for several weeks (honestly, like 8 weeks postpartum) nothing feels good sitting there, so everything gets pulled up higher to belly button level, meaning you want to invest in some big ol' high waisted undies and snag as many of those mesh undies from the hospital as possible (especially for the first week or two home) because those are way more comfortable than anything you probably normally wear. And with that, make sure you have some really loose-waisted sweatpants and yoga pants too, cause again you don't want anything tight or constricting against that healing incision.
- Coughing/sneezing/laughing are the worst things EVER. For the first several weeks after your c-section anything that involves constricting of your abs hurts like hell. Having something semi-firmness to hold over your belly that first week or so (a pillow works) greatly helps, especially when you're sitting up to get out of bed or stand up. It sounds like a silly thing to do, but it really helps take the intense pressure off of your midsection and helps it heal up faster. My friend Rachael said they should make those little milestone stickers for c-section recovery that say, "I coughed without crying today!" because it's SO TRUE -- you'll celebrate these milestones in your recovery because they are huge achievements that you reach after having major abdominal surgery.
- Get up and walk. This applies to before your c-section (the better shape you're in the better your recovery will be!) but mostly to afterwards. Trust me, that first time you get up out of bed after your c-section SUCKS. But it gets easier and easier every time you get up and move. Obviously don't overdo it, but the more you are up and moving (and standing up as straight as possible, no matter how much it hurts or how much better it feels to be "hunched" over) the quicker you will recover. My third c-section recovery was so much better than the previous two because I was up and moving not even 24 hours after my c-section and I kept moving for the duration of my hospital stay -- I actually didn't cry at all with that one getting up out of bed like I did was the past two.
- Pump after delivery. With some people when they have a c-section (especially a scheduled one like I've had) it takes a bit longer for their milk to come in because they never had any labor triggers in their body that usually trigger milk to start being produced. I've found that pumping after nursing a few times a day from day 1 helps jump-start your milk and makes it come in faster. It's not ideal, especially recovering from a c-section because you're sore and tired and don't want to move, but it again gets you moving a bit (which helps in your recovery) and helps trigger your milk to start a'flowin'. I've blogged my own pumping tales too if you're so interested as well about what I do post birth to get my milk flowin'.
- You may get the shakes during surgery. This is totally normal. I had them with my first (probably cause I had an epidural instead of a spinal like I had with my last two) and they were awful. But they don't last forever, promise. Having a blanket on top of your arms or chest helps this and also allowing your significant other to help "hold you down" or help you hold your baby after birth helps too when you're shivering (but not cold) and can't stop shaking.
- Being awake for surgery is weird and strange and awesome and amazing. Whether you're having a scheduled or unscheduled c-section, know your options for surgery! Discuss this with your OB prior about what the delivery is going to look like. With my last c-section, I got skin-to-skin about 3 minutes after she was born and got to snuggle with her until I was closed up and heading to recovery. I didn't get this with my first two. I didn't ask about it but some hospitals allow for a dropped (or clear) drape so you can actually see your baby being born! There are a lot of options out there (barring no other complications) for gentle, family-centered c-sections so be your own advocate and ask about them! Being awake for a major surgery is kind of a surreal experience, but if you're going to have to have a c-section ask what your options are to make it as much about you and the baby as possible. For me at least, it definitely didn't hurt -- just a lot of tugging and pressure before that sweet little baby started screaming.
- Your hormones will be so outta whack. You thought pregnancy hormones were bad?! Postpartum ones give them a run for their money. This is NORMAL. And probably regardless of what kind of birth you have, you'll have some crazy hormonal changes in the days and weeks postpartum. You may cry for no reason, lash out at your hubby our significant other, and then be happier as can be the very next second. And some of these emotions may be triggered by seeing your c-section incision or postpartum body and set you off. It's okay. It's normal, and they don't last forever. However, if you've found yourself feeling really down and blue and you're not coming out of that feeling, you may have something more than some postpartum hormone changes. GO TALK TO YOUR OB. And your significant other. Let them know about how you may be a bit different after birth and what to look out for (and BE SUPPORTIVE of you -- this is key! You want them on your side regardless of how crazy you're acting :). Having a good support network for that fourth trimester that no one seems to talk much about is key, and also seeking out help when things may seem hopeless or just too hard.
- You are amazing and incredible. C-sections are no walk in the park, and I loathe anyone who says that "they're the easy way out" of labor and delivery. They most definitely are not. Whether you labor and end up with an unexpected c-section or waltz into the hospital to your scheduled one, it doesn't matter: you're having major surgery and sacrificing your body because you love dearly a little one in your belly that you've never met and want to do whatever it takes, including an 8 inch abdominal incision, to get them earth side safely. You are strong and brave and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. I wear my c-section scar with pride because it allowed me to bring three beautiful babies into this world. There's no trophy for how you birth a baby -- you get the same prize in the end regardless of how that kid arrives: a baby. Give this a read too, because it speaks volumes to everything I've said above.
Okie dokie folks, that's about all I've got for my very true things about c-sections and recovery. Obviously these are my own opinions, but I feel like after 3 c-sections they are a good inkling as to what a c-section and recovery is like, and some tips about making your c-section and recovery the very best it can be. I hope this provides some insight for anyone needing c-section tips but also maybe a little glimpse into the c-section birth and recovery for anyone that hasn't experienced it themselves.