A C-Section is kind of a big deal. It’s major abdominal surgery, which involves cutting through seven layers of tissue as well as having organs removed and then replaced. And not forgetting the minor detail of, oh yeah, giving birth to a tiny human. And yet, despite all of this, many women and birthing people leave hospital with very little information about how to heal and recover. So here are our Birthbabe top tips to help you on the road to recovery.
Keep the incision area clean and dry
In the very early days after having a C-Section, it’s really important to keep your incision (the cut made to get baby out) clean and dry. The best way to do this is to pour clean running water over the incision. This can be done in the shower or by pouring warm water from a jug. Do not scrub the area or rub any soaps, powders or gels directly onto the wound as this could cause irritation or an infection.
Use a clean towel to very gently pat the area dry. Do not rub the wound. Remember to always wash your hands before and after touching the area to prevent infection.
Wear loose & comfortable clothing
You are likely to feel very sore around the incision area for a few days and weeks after giving birth. This soreness can be aggravated if clothing rubs against the wound. To avoid this, wear loose and baggy clothing to prevent rubbing. This jumpsuit is great for keeping things relaxed and comfortable.
Invest in pants
Keep it comfortable in the pants department after a C-Section. Bikini-style pants may cause rubbing so try and stick to big, high-waisted – and breathable – briefs. There are lots of different types out there but here are our Birthbabe top three:
Modibodi Postpartum Control Brief
- Feels like shape-wear.
- Made from recycled material.
- Absorbent so no need for pads or panty liners.
Fridamom Disposable C-Section Postpartum Underwear
- Very stretchy.
- Disposable (for the early days of recovery).
- Super soft.
Cantaloop Caesarean Section Briefs
- Breathable fabric to help healing.
- Extra compression.
- Smooth panel across tummy.
Manage the pain
Some pain and discomfort is to be expected after a C-Section. It might be surprising how many activities are really difficult after the procedure, from getting out of bed to bending over to climbing the stairs to lifting things. Resting is important but so is managing the pain through taking painkillers.
Paracetamol or ibuprofen are usually best for managing the pain but avoid taking aspirin if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re in a lot of pain, speak to your midwife or GP who may be able to suggest something more suitable.
Expect some bleeding
Even though you’ve had a C-Section, you will still experience bleeding and discharge from your vagina after birth. This is known as ‘lochia’ and can last for up to six weeks or so. The blood will initially be heavy and bright red. It will then gradually become lighter and turn brownish. Avoid tampons and instead stick to maxi sanitary pads to avoid infection.
If you are passing large clots, contact your midwife as soon as possible for advice.
Nutrition is key
A C-Section can you leave you feeling very sore and it will take time for your body to heal. Just as it’s super important to care for your scar, it is also really important to eat well so that your internal body has the best chance of recovery.
Warming foods like hearty broths and soups are really helpful in the early days to start the healing process. They are easy to digest and you can easily pack in extra nutrients like vegetables, chicken or beef. Fibre-rich foods like berries, fruits and vegetables are also great for recovery and will definitely help when it comes to the first postpartum poop.
Try and avoid caffeine whilst you’re healing because it dehydrates the body but do treat yourself to some dark chocolate when you need a sugar fix.
Outsource, outsource, outsource
We know it’s easier said than done when you have a newborn baby relying on you for survival, but really try to prioritise your recovery by outsourcing whatever you can. Now is the time to call in all the favours from family and friends and to postpone any non-urgent tasks. Get someone else to look after your toddler for a few hours, arrange a food delivery service, hire a cleaner for a few weeks and avoid any heavy lifting. If someone offers to help, say yes and be specific about tasks they can do.
Birthbabe reminder: the six-week mark does not mean you’ll be back to feeling 100% (and that’s pretty normal!) It may take many weeks or months to feel fully recovered so remember take it easy and don’t overexert yourself.
Gentle movement will help you recover and avoid the risk of blood clots. This does not mean cleaning the house or unpacking the dishwasher. We’re talking slow daily walks, gently swaying your hips from side-to-side and pelvic floor exercises. Start super slow and gradually build up as your pain eases.
Gentle movement can also help avoid the dreaded trapped wind, which can be really painful after a C-Section. Slow walks, rocking in a chair and drinking lots of water can also help things move along and prevent any blockages.
It is usually advised to start gently massaging your scar once you’ve had a check-up from your midwife or GP (this is normally around the six-week mark). Gently massaging the scar will help avoid the build up of scar tissue and increase blood flow to the area. Check out this short video from pelvic health physiotherapist, Clare Bourne, to know what to do.
When should I worry?
There are some signs and symptoms that you need to look out for in case your recovery is not going according to plan. If you experience any of the below, seek medical advice straightaway.
- Pain when passing urine.
- Heavy vaginal bleeding, especially if passing large clots.
- Your incision becoming red, painful or swollen.
- Your wound becomes smelly or there is a discharge around the incision.
- A cough or feeling breathless.
- Any swelling or pain in your lower legs.
Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.