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Recovering From a C Section: What to Expect

During pregnancy and labor, situations can arise that necessitate a cesarean or “C” section delivery. The physicians at Women’s Integrated Healthcare guide women to understanding when a C section is necessary as the safest measure of delivering their baby. 

About 30 percent of women have C sections. Here’s how to prepare.

In the United States, about one in three births occur via C-section. So, it’s important for women and their loved ones to understand the procedure and its recovery.

The C section procedure is a surgery to deliver a baby via an incision in the abdomen and uterus. In some pregnancies, a C section is called for by the doctor to protect the health of the mother and child. Reasons for C-sections include multiple babies, failure to dilate, abnormal birth position, the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen, or problems with the placenta or umbilical cord. 

A C-section is major abdominal surgery, and as such, it takes time to heal. While it is a rather common procedure, recovery is much different from that of vaginal birth. Here are some things you need to know about recovering from a C section.

C Section Recovery: What You Need to Know

Women who deliver via C section can expect, on average, a two-to-three day hospital stay. The incision will be watched closely while in the hospital. Women are encouraged to rest as much as possible while in the hospital, as it’s significantly harder to rest when mother and baby come home and “real life” sets in.

  1. Get rest and recover. We mentioned how hard it is to get rest when you’re home with dozens of things to do and a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night, but ask for help. Line up helpers for household chores, and sleep whenever the baby sleeps.
  2. Speaking of rest, it might be hard to find a comfortable snoozing position. Use body pillows to relieve pressure on your sore abdomen, and even try the living room recliner if the bed isn’t comfortable. Also, make sure you’re controlling your stress levels so you can get some much-needed shut-eye. 
  3. Be careful picking up and holding your baby. Your doctor will probably instruct you not to pick up more than 10-15 pounds for at least a few weeks. It’s best for someone to hand you your baby while you’re already in a seated position.
  4. Breastfeeding positions can be uncomfortable, especially if the baby is pressing on the tender C section incision area. Women find relief by placing a pillow over the incision site and experimenting with the baby’s positions to relieve pressure on the incision. Try a football hold or lying on your side. If you use an unorthodox method, make sure the baby is latching properly to avoid sore nipples. Get a helper to assist in moving your baby around while breastfeeding.
  5. Move often. Yes, rest and try to recover, but also get up and walk when you’re awake, as it’ll help relieve the gas pains you’ll probably suffer. Plus, you’ll need to retrain those abdominal muscles to work properly.
  6. It will probably hurt to cough, sneeze and stand up. Again, pillows to the rescue. Press a pillow against your abdomen as you need to cough and sneeze. It’ll help with some of the pulling and pressure applied to your incision. Get help standing up and sitting down whenever you can. Grab solid objects for support.

C Section Recovery Kit

As you near the end of your pregnancy, ask your doctor if there’s a chance you might need a C section. He or she might be able to predict based on the baby’s position or other factors. Or, perhaps you’ve already got the procedure scheduled. Whatever the case, it’s important to be prepared. Here’s a list of what you need to have on hand for recovery.

  • OTC pain meds: Your doctor might send you home with prescription pain medications, but at some point, you’ll be ready to switch to over-the-counter solutions. Have them handy before you need them. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are great options for pain management.
  • Pillows: You’ll want pillows for a couple of reasons. First, they’ll help you find a comfortable sleeping position. Some women find relief by placing a pillow under their abdomen while lying on their sides. Second, you might use several to help you find a comfortable breastfeeding position. Third, you can grab a pillow and push it against your belly as you cough, sneeze or get out of bed or a chair. 
  • Belly support: A good belly binder can aid in recovery from a C section by helping to support the abdominal muscles. By stabilizing your midsection, it can also provide back support and relief from back pain.
  • Laxatives and gas-relief medication: Unfortunately, two common side effects of C-section surgery are gas pain and constipation. You’ll want good, over-the-counter medications on your side to help you cope with the discomfort. 
  • Comfortable, high-waisted clothes. You won’t want anything constrictive or that rubs against your incision. High-waisted underwear is a must. There are even lines of C-section underwear on the market. 
  • Sanitary pads: Surprisingly, you might bleed vaginally after having a C section. Have multiple types of pads, from heavy to light, on hand, and expect to need them for about three weeks postpartum.
  • Helpers: Line up a list of friends and family who are willing to help you around the house, since you won’t be able to lift the laundry basket for a few weeks. 

Again, a C section is major surgery, and it requires rest, recovery, patience and preparation. With the right supplies and support, women who deliver this way can make a speedy recovery and enjoy their new baby to the fullest.

If you are pregnant and think you may deliver by C-section our Southlake OBGYN’s right here in Grapevine, are happy to work with you. We provide expert, compassionate care. Contact us for an appointment.



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