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C-Section Recovery Tips to Speed Up Your Healing

by SRC Health on November 20, 2023

Pregnancy has been recently and correctly likened to a marathon by many in the medical community. After any gruelling physical activity, like a marathon, a pregnancy, a heavy weights session in the gym or any High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) it is critical to give your body the opportunity to recover and repair itself. This is especially important if your postpartum recovery also includes a C-section, recovery from which is the same as from any major abdominal operation.

Although many mothers may have a planned or elective c-section, many will have emergency C-sections, hence preparation is key in fast tracking your c-section recovery.

Who wants to be out of action for longer than they have to be? No one wants to extend the period of discomfort or pain, risk infection, or simply put their life on hold, especially when you have a baby to look after.

Here are the most common questions asked when it comes to c-section recovery:

  • Is c-section recovery painful?
  • Is c-section recovery easier the second time?
  • Is c-section recovery harder with twins?
  • How long does recovery take from c-section?
  • C-section recovery what to expect?
  • How fast can a c-section recovery be?
  • What helps c-section recovery?
  • What to wear c-section recovery?
  • What to do when coughing, laughing or sneezing during c-section recovery?
  • What to do when there’s constipation during c-section recovery?
  • C-section recovery, when can I drive?
  • Is c-section recovery for overweight women any different?
  • Showering and c-section recovery?
  • Are there c-section recovery kits?

C-section recovery

Is c-section recovery painful?

A c-section is classed as major abdominal surgery which takes time to heal. Pain after a c-section is at its worst in the first few days but gradually decreases as you heal in the coming weeks. By 6 to 8 weeks most women feel much better.

Doctors will normally prescribe some type of pain killing and anti-inflammatory medications. 

C-section incisions can be closed with either stitches or staples. The removal of stitches after a C-section delivery is usually painless should they need to be removed.  Some may feel a slight pulling of the skin, especially if the stitches have adhered to the skin. In a lot of cases sutures are now dissolvable therefore they do not need removal.

In the case of staple removal, a doctor will need to remove them with the help of a local anaesthetic so you will not feel much during the procedure.

Regardless of whether stitches or staples were used, after their removal, you may feel a little discomfort, but it should go away soon after.

Other things that may make your c-section recovery painful are:

  • Back pain where the epidural or spinal block was injected into your spine, but this should also go away within a few days.
  • Back Pain that persists for weeks after birth is unlikely to be caused by the c-section or the epidural, but possibly by the pregnancy itself. Carrying the extra weight of the baby for 9 months, regardless of the type of delivery you had, has been known to sometimes cause back pain for many mothers.
  • If the back pain doesn’t subside 10-12 weeks after delivery, it’s worthwhile consulting with your doctor or a women’s health physiotherapist so they can provide an explanation for the pain and work on a tailored physical recovery plan. A component of this will include making sure that you are lifting and carrying your baby correctly.
  • Your c-section scar may also be a source of pain and/or numbness for months or even years after the surgery due to sensitivity of nerves in the area or scar tissue forming.

If you have regular pain, or have any concerns, it’s always worthwhile consulting your doctor sooner rather than later. 

Is c-section recovery easier the second time?

Postpartum recovery

Yes and No.

It is easier primarily because you now know what to expect and what to do and not to do during the recovery period.

It is going to take a similar amount of time to recover from a subsequent c-section as it did from the previous, except that this time around you will have one or more children to take care of at home. This means less time to focus on your c-section recovery than on your first one. It’s another reason for having a good recovery plan, a plan that ensures that you have adequate assistance at home during your 4th trimester recovery. Your partner, family and friends can all assist you in making your recovery a little easier. . You don’t have to do it alone, as the saying goes, “it takes a village” rings true especially during this time.

Of course, there are factors that make every c-section recovery different:

  • Your overall health during and prior to the pregnancy and at the time of the c-section
  • How much help you may or may not have at home
  • How old and challenging your older child/children is/are at the time

Is c-section recovery harder with twins?

According to the website “What to Expect” the postpartum period can be more difficult  with twins. It may take longer due to the simple fact that you have 2 babies to look after. Your workload effectively doubles, bathing, nappy changes, and putting them to sleep all add up. So, you are using more energy, potentially getting less sleep or even time to simply relax and let your body heal.

This is even more reason to be prepared in your 4th trimester and if possible, enlist the help of relatives and friends.

How long does recovery take from c-section?

Woman doing yoga

A c-section is a major surgery so please give yourself time to heal. This means a hospital stay of on average 2-4 days after delivery and 10-12 weeks of as much rest as you can get while looking after your baby. Every woman is different, and the speed of recovery will also vary between new mums.

It also depends on what you mean by a Recovery from C-Section. If it means going for a walk or doing low impact exercise, then many women can start this around the 6–8-week mark post birth. To err on the side of safety, high impact exercise should not even be considered until 12-16 weeks after the c-section.1

In all cases “less is more” and a very slow return to your everyday routines is much safer. Trying to return to a routine you have not been able to follow for probably close to 9 months is simply asking too much of your body. It’s much safer to return to your routine, including exercise after you have been given the “all clear” by your doctor, and then under the supervision of a women’s health physio that is able to develop a personalised recovery plan for you.

C-section recovery, what to expect?

A C-section procedure is a major operation. So, you will have an IV infusion, a spinal or epidural anaesthetic that will numb the lower part of your body and the recovery process will be very similar to any major abdominal operation. In some emergency cases you may have a general anaesthetic.  These may include any of the following:

  • Procedure lasting between 30-60 minutes, sometimes longer
  • Post procedure weakness, fatigue, pain, nausea
  • A tender c-section incision/scar that needs to be kept dry
  • Don’t expect to be back to normal for at least 6- weeks
  • A week by week what to expect follows below

How fast can a c-section recovery be?

Workout session

Everyone wants to recover from any surgery as quickly as possible but  everybody is different. So rather than look at extremely fast cases of c-section recovery it is best to focus on proven steps you can take to speed up your recovery and be aware of the average c-section recovery timeline, so you know what to expect.

WEEK 1

Planning

  • Most mothers will spend 2 - 4 days in the hospital.
  • You’ll get help moving around, as well as with managing your pain.
  • You should start bonding with your baby as well as breastfeeding if possible. Some women may not have milk immediately post c-section but don’t stress it will come and your baby will not starve. In certain cases where the mother does not produce adequate amounts of milk the baby can be supplemented with formula.
  • Once home you will need to make sure you do not put intense pressure on the incision and keep it clean and dry. Please follow your post operative instructions.
  • You may have some numbness and itchiness around the c-section incision. You may also get aches and pains in your back and ribcage. You’ll need to take it easy and avoid heavy lifting and aggressive twisting.
  • Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby in the first six to eight weeks after a C-section.
  • At home you will now be taking over the counter pain medication or any prescribed by your Doctor..
  • During the first few days you may be passing blood clots that can be as big as a golf ball.
  • If you are passing blood clots larger than that or soaking more than one maternity pad per hour you should contact your doctor.
  • It’s not recommended to simply stay in bed, as movement will assist in the healing process.
  • To improve mobility, many women's health professionals recommend wearing a specialist postpartum recovery garment like the SRC Recovery Shorts or Leggings. Designed by women, for women, in consultation with an obstetrician, they have been endorsed by Australian Physiotherapy Association and the Australian College of Midwives. These garments have become famous for speeding up recovery by treating Abdominal Muscle Separation, Perineal Tears and stitches, C-Section wounds, sciatica, and Low Back Pain.
  • What about C-section recovery belts, bands, and maternity wraps? All these products have their purpose and place, however a multifunction, evidence-based garment like SRC Recovery Shorts & Leggings can treat multiple conditions, are more comfortable to wear and are more likely to be worn for longer periods which increases their effectiveness. Additionally they don’t have any of the drawbacks some of these other aids and appliances have. Check out this blog about why SRC compression garments are the ultimate in both for after vaginal delivery and for C-section recovery.
  • This is the time that you will need help from your partner, relatives, and friends. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to ask for help. Most people, if they can, love to help. Meals, laundry, cleaning and looking after the baby is much easier when you have a helping hand or two.

WEEK 2-5

Planning and scheduling

  • You should be feeling better than during week 1 but expect to be tired. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Sleep whenever you can, especially when the baby is sleeping.
  • Remember to avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby.
  • Vaginal bleeding can continue for up to 6 weeks after giving birth.
  • A doctor will check the incision and check that your recovery is happening as it should be.
  • If you experience any of the following symptoms, don’t wait for your check up, contact your doctor as soon as you feel: fever, pain getting worse, redness or infection of the incision, abnormal discharge or bleeding, chest pain, shortness of breath, pain and swelling in your legs. Listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right, be safe rather than sorry, don’t wait for the symptoms to get worse.
  • Fluctuations in hormones as well as the general feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control can cause some mothers to suffer with postnatal depression. This can also happen to fathers. Talk to your doctor as there is both support from professionals, groups, and a range of medications that can help.
  • For example, PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men, and families across Australia to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression, a serious illness that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. PANDA runs Australia’s only National Helpline that supports new and expecting mums and dads affected by anxiety and depression. The organisation also works to raise awareness in the community, including the signs to look for and where to go to seek support. There is an equivalent in many countries.
  • Make sure to wear your SRC Recovery garment for as many hours as possible to speed up the healing of your abdominal separation as well as your C-section wound. The garment will also provide you support for greater mobility.

WEEK 6:

Scheduling

  • Your final check up with your doctor.
  • Make sure to tell them exactly how you feel so they can correctly ascertain whether your recovery is going well.
  • Once you get the green light from your doctor you can start to very slowly and gently resume your daily routine.
  • Lifting anything heavier than your baby is still not recommended at least until week 8.
  • Make sure to wear your SRC Recovery garment up until your abdominal separation is deemed healed.
  • If possible, have a check-up with your women’s health / pelvic health physiotherapist. They can check your abdominal separation as well as provide you with a tailored exercise routine for optimal recovery.
  • When it comes to exercise here are some you should not do:
    • Anything that strains your core / abdominal muscles like crunches or planks
    • Avoid driving, riding a bike, unless stationary and at a very slow pace
    • Don’t go jogging or jumping, forget about squats at least for now
    • Even use of stairs should be limited as much as possible

The best and safest exercises you can do are walking and breathing. Yes, diaphragmatic breathing is an important exercise in your c-section recovery.

 

What helps c-section recovery?

  • Rest!!! The most important part of recovery is rest and sleep!
  • Pain relief medication
  • Assistance from friends and relatives with everyday household duties, food prep and the baby so that you can get rest and sleep.
  • Making sure the c-section incision doesn’t get infected
  • Remaining mobile rather than simply staying in bed
  • A specialised compression garment that is designed to assist with C-section healing, abdominal separation and general mobility by supporting your lower back and pelvic area like SRC Recovery Shorts and Leggings is evidence based, developed in consultation with an obstetrician and has been loved by over 100,000 mothers worldwide with multiple advantages over maternity belts and belly wraps. More details on the importance of mobility post c-section and how SRC Recovery garments assist in this can be found here.

What to wear c-section recovery?

You need to be comfortable. Although much advice focuses on comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, which of course is necessary for everything from sleeping to breastfeeding and walking, science has a more definitive answer.

For the last 15 years many celebrities, Olympic athletes and everyday mums have been using SRC Recovery garments to speed up their c-section recovery and improve their mobility, so critical in the recovery process while making it easier to look after their baby.

Endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association as well as Australian College of Midwives and recommended by so many Women’s Health / Pelvic Health Physiotherapists, the garments have assisted thousands of mums in their c-section recovery process. Plus, so many mothers continue to wear SRC Recovery garments for many years after their postpartum recovery, as it’s ideal for exercise and for aesthetic reasons under fitted clothing.

One of the most important conditions you need to recover from and heal is abdominal muscle separation, something that occurs regardless of whether you had a c-section or a vaginal delivery. Here’s a quick overview The Ultimate Mother’s Guide to Diastasis Recti Resources; Healing Abdominal Separation Postpartum

What to do when coughing, laughing, or sneezing during c-section recovery?

Age-old advice of holding a pillow to your stomach during an involuntary powerful abdominal and groin contraction like that which happens when you sneeze, cough, or laugh, is still applicable today. Of course if you are wearing a specialised compression garment like SRC Recovery the need to do this certainly decreases as the abdominal and gusset panels essentially provides the pressure necessary to stop your involuntary contraction of the upper and lower abdomen as well as your groin area. 

C-section recovery, when can I drive?

Health professionals recommend that you don’t start driving a car until your c-section wound has healed and you can brake suddenly without feeling pain and stressing your incision wound. We recommend that you don't begin driving until you have been given the green light by your doctor at your 6-week check-up.

What to do when you have constipation post c-section?

Constipation

Constipation after a c-section is common. According to healthline.com there are several causes:

  • Anaesthetic used during c-section
  • Pain medications taken in the days after the c-section
  • Pelvic floor muscles weakened during pregnancy
  • Iron in the prenatal supplements many women take during pregnancy
  • Many new mums also fear straining during bowel movement and the potential tearing of c-section stitches hence may cause a psychological blockage to your bowels working

One of the most important solutions is to be as mobile as possible post c-section, rather than staying in bed. Although rest and sleep are critical for healing, so is remaining mobile. This is another great reason to get into your SRC Recovery garment as soon as possible post c-section as the garment will assist you moving, by holding everything in and providing support. Other simple and natural ways to prevent constipation are:

  • Staying well hydrated especially with room temperature or warm liquids like water with lemon juice in the mornings, herbal teas like chamomile. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day.
  • Increasing your fibre intake from fruit and vegetables and whole grain cereals
  • Prunes which are known to help with constipation can be simply eaten as a snack or added to your cereal 

If you haven’t had a bowel movement for 4 days after giving birth, you should speak with your doctor who may provide you with a laxative and / or a stool softener.

Is c-section recovery for overweight women any different?

C-section recovery

Regardless of your weight, keep in mind that every woman is different when it comes to c-section recovery. Being overweight may increase your chances of having a c-section as well as contributing to other health conditions, however when it comes to recovery from a c-section there are only a few differences you should be aware of so that you can prepare:

  • If you have some extra tummy fat overhang you will need to take extra precautions post c-section to keep the incision site dry and make sure it doesn’t get infected. An easy way of doing this is placing an organic cotton sanitary pad underneath your stomach and across the top of the wound over the dressing. This will stop sweat pooling around the incision.
  • If your wound is weeping, you will need to change the pad more frequently,
  • Another tip is to hold or tape your belly up and ask your partner to use a hair dryer on a cold setting to air-dry the area.

Regardless of your size, always ask for assistance getting out of bed after a c-section rather than struggle by yourself or risk having a fall or straining and tearing your stitches.

Having the right support garment can also assist with your recovery regardless of your weight. Some women have found it useful to get underwear a size bigger than their usual so that it can fit over their belly to avoid the underwear rubbing on the c-section site. Compression shorts or leggings specifically designed for postpartum recovery like SRC Recovery compression garments as well as SRC Compression Socks can be a great help in speeding up your recovery regardless of your weight.

How do you keep your c-section incision dry when overweight? 

According to research, about 10% of overweight women can experience wound complications from their caesarean section. When the body is overweight, deeper incisions are necessary to cut through the midsection, which may lead to high risks of blood vessels rupturing and increase the likelihood of infections.

To prevent infections from happening, medical professionals recommend caring for the wound by keeping it clean and dry while recovering. Here are some tips that might help keep your c-section incision dry:

Let your skin breathe.

Before airing out your wound, it is important to consult with your doctor if this is recommended for you. Airing out your incision allows it to stay dry. Simply lie on your back, remove any barriers to your c-section, and let your skin breathe. 

Have absorbent items ready at home.

Aside from the sanitary napkins, some mums also choose to use clean cloth diapers. Gauze pads and even towels can help keep your incision dry, too. Whichever you decide, regularly change whatever guard you have in place before it absorbs too much moisture. 

Take time to rest.

While we know that slowing down may seem the opposite thing to do when you’re a new mum, it is still important to care for your body. Doctors typically recommend abstaining from strenuous activities such as heavy lifting and exercise for at least six weeks to reduce pressure or sweating near the area.

Wear suitable clothing for your recovery.

Loose clothing allows your wound to heal. Soft, cotton underwear is a great place to start, as it will let your skin breathe while wicking up any excess moisture. 

It is also worth investing in compression shorts or leggings designed for postpartum recovery, like SRC Recovery compression garments, which could assist in speeding up your c-section recovery.

Showering and c-section recovery?

Your c-section incision is water-tight within 24 hours after surgery.  Most doctors have their preferred protocols as to how long the dressing should remain in place. Your first shower will  be around 24 hours after surgery. Do not soak in a bathtub or go swimming, until your doctor tells you it is OK which in most cases is not until 3 weeks after surgery. Don't scrub the incision site. Let warm water run over it in the shower and clean the area around it with mild soap and water. Pat dry after a shower.

Are there c-section recovery kits?

There are many c-section recovery kits on the market, and often you can easily put one together yourself by purchasing the individual items. Here are some of the most useful items for your c-section recovery kit. Simply google each and see which of the brands is most recommended and suitable for your needs and budget.

Of course we are biased and recommend that the first and most important you start off with one of the SRC Recovery garments or our own Ultimate SRC Recovery Bundle.

Postpartum Recovery Bundle

Finally, check out this blog about the 4th Trimester and the 17 Most Popular Items Chosen by New Mums To Speed Up Postpartum Recovery that will assist you during the recovery process regardless of your delivery method. 

References:

https://www.baby2body.com/blog/2021/04/18/exercise-after-c-section-how-to-stay-safe-what-you-need-to-know 

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