C-Section Recovery: What to Expect and How to Heal

By Frida Mom

The deal on having a baby and major surgery

When it comes to postpartum recovery, people focus a lot on recovering from vaginal childbirth. But one-third of babies born in the U.S. are born via Cesarean section. And those moms need support and advice, too. Maybe more? Because that’s a doozy of a surgery to recover from, on top of being handed this tiny human you have to keep alive. It’s a lot! Whether you’re heading into D-Day with a planned C-section, or you just want to prepare for every possible scenario, here’s what you need to know about C-section recovery.

The first 24-72 hours after your C-section can be rough

Hours 0-12: Post-Op Wing. A C-section is major abdominal surgery. As such, you’ll be monitored in the post-op wing for some time immediately following your C-section. Nurses will monitor your vaginal bleeding, your blood pressure, and your body temperature. You’ll still be hooked up to an IV for fluids, and you’ll still have a catheter since you won’t be able to walk for a bit. Because of the anesthesia, you won’t have any feeling below your waist, and you may still feel a little out of it (and even nauseous) from the pain management drugs in your IV. But unless there were complications with your surgery, you’ll still be able to hold your new baby, and even start breastfeeding right away.

Hours 12-72ish: Regular Recovery Room. You’ll be moved to your regular room about 12 hours after your C-section, and by this time the anesthesia will have almost completely worn off. So you can start walking! The literal first step to feeling human again. Your nurses will get you up and moving ASAP, because walking will help with your recovery (and moving all that gas out of your belly, which can be excruciating). Also excruciating? The abdominal “massages” administered by the nurses to get your uterus to contract. Don’t be surprised if your pain gets worse about 18 hours after your surgery; that’s typically when the spinal wears off completely, and all those nerves that were blocked come back to life. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for pain meds as needed! Once the catheter and IV come out, it’s game on.

Barring any complications, your doctor will order your catheter and IV removed about 24 hours after your surgery. This means you are no longer tethered to your bed, and the nurses will have you up and walking to the bathroom before you even realize you have to pee. You’ll also be wearing a maxi pad for bleeding, and with your incision, you need comfy, high-waisted undies that go cover the incision and don’t rub against it. Grab a couple of packs of our High-Waist Disposable Postpartum Underwear, designed specifically for C-section moms. These super stretchy panties are made of microfiber and spandex, and the high-waist brief cut will go comfortably over your incision and won’t roll down. 

The bathroom situation after a C-section is kind of intense, we’re not going to sugarcoat it. Peeing might be easy, but your internal organs went through the ringer, and passing gas or having a poop will be difficult. Stool softener can help, but pushing and straining will likely aggravate your incision and sore abdomen. The location of your incision also makes bending over difficult, so have an Upside Down Peri Bottle to help with cleanup. The angled neck on our peri bottle means you don’t have to bend too far over to reach down there, which you will be ever so grateful for. Plus, you can use it to clean your incision with a targeted spritz. 

Once you're home, don't overdo it. 

We know that adjusting to life at home with a new baby is hard enough, but it’s so important to make sure your recovery is a priority. You’ll be instructed not to lift anything heavier than your baby for up to eight weeks after your C-section, and bending over will likely still be difficult. Don’t push yourself, and don’t try to do more than you’re physically able to do once you’re home. Here are a few tips:

  •  • If you’re in a two-story home, set up a baby base camp on the first floor to avoid having to climb stairs several times a day.
  • • A bassinet that opens at bed-level can help to avoid bending over a crib rail when you go to pick up your little one. 
  • • Walking is good and encouraged, but exercise like yoga or running is off-limits until you get the all-clear from your doc (usually about 8 weeks post-surgery).

As far as incision care is concerned, the most important thing is to keep your incision clean and undisturbed (those high-waist postpartum undies will be used for quite some time!). Keep a close eye on it for signs of infection (redness, swelling, oozing or bleeding). Some discomfort and itching are totally normal as your incision heals. For quick relief, our Instant Ice Maxi Pads can have a dual-use and be used along your incision for cooling therapy to help with itching and soreness and add a much-needed layer of protection over your incision to avoid bumping or rubbing against it when you’re holding or feeding your baby.

Recovery from a C-section looks a bit different than recovery from vaginal childbirth, and it may last a bit longer. But with patience and preparation, you’ll be back on your feet (and able to bend over) in no time.

So listen to your body, and rest when you need to rest. Sleep when the baby sleeps, and by all means ask your partner, friends, neighbors, and parents for help! A C-section is major surgery, and it’ll take some time and some teamwork to get back to your pre-baby (or even pre-surgery) self.

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