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:
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.
If you have regular pain, or have any concerns, it’s always worthwhile consulting your doctor sooner rather than later.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
The best and safest exercises you can do are walking and breathing. Yes, diaphragmatic breathing is an important exercise in your 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
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.
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.
Constipation after a c-section is common. According to healthline.com there are several causes:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.