Do you have a c-section scheduled or have you had a recent unexpected emergency c-section? Are you prepared for what will happen when you get home? Do you have the help and support you’ll need to care for yourself, your baby, and your other children?
Whether you have your first cesarean planned, a repeat, or have a natural birth plan that ends in an emergency c-section, these tips can help you know what to expect and how to prepare for when you return home from the hospital.
5 Tips for a Smoother C-Section Recovery
After having 3 cesareans, I’ve learned what to expect postpartum and have gained many tips and tricks to help with healing.
Now, recovery from any surgery is going to take time and you have to be gentle with yourself. But, there are certain things you can do to help speed up the recovery process. Which I’m sure you’ll want to do if you have other young children at home or you need to return to work sooner.
Listed below are 5 of my best tips to help you know what to expect and how to heal faster after having a c-section.
1. Plan for Help
Be prepared to ask for help from your partner, family members, friends, and/or neighbors. Especially, if you have other children at home.
If your partner and close family members are unable to take off work to assist, I would highly recommend finding a postpartum doula in your area.
A postpartum doula can assist with meal prep, light housework, help with other children, and even can give lactation and mental health advice and referrals. It may seem costly as they aren’t normally covered under insurance, but not receiving the help you need could lengthen your recovery process.
Also, lifting the burden of some of these items may even help to prevent or lessen maternal mental health illnesses, like postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
Later in this article, we will discuss the limitations you will have when you return home, so you have a better idea of what exactly you may need to ask for help with.
2. Be Aware of Your Limitations
The physical limitations were by far the hardest part of recovering from a c-section for me.
I was not aware of many of the limitations of recovering from a major abdominal surgery. After having my first c-section, some of these limitations did not seem like a big deal, but after my second, I quickly learned if you have other children at home avoiding some of these things may seem next to impossible (which is why I thought it best to start off with discussing how important it will be to ask for help)!
You will need to avoid stairs, driving, heavy lifting, and heavy housework, such as vacuuming.
Here are how some of these limitations may affect you and some tips to help you prepare for dealing with them:
- If you have a multiple level home, make preparations to have everything you need to care for yourself and the baby on the main level, as you will need to take it easy on the stairs.
- Make preparations to not drive for two weeks. If your partner will not be available, it’s important to find someone to help with taking other kids to/from school and drive you and your baby to any necessary appointments within the first two weeks. I was lucky to have a neighbor who took our oldest to/from preschool for a few weeks. This was not only helpful because I could not drive those first couple of weeks, but in the following weeks, it also helped me establish breastfeeding with our third by not having to worry about other schedules.
- You will need help with heavy housework the first 6 weeks. Again, make sure your partner is aware of this and if they are unable to help out with housework during this time find a family member or someone you can hire to help with the heavy housework. You won’t be able to cart around a laundry basket or vacuum.
- You will also not be able to lift your other children. This one is a tough one if you have toddler(s) at home. I stopped carrying our older children a few weeks before my due date so that it wasn’t such an abrupt change for them when the time came. They already have so much change to deal with! At my two week postpartum check up, I was still urged to be cautious about lifting them, but if it was inevitable, then have the kids get up as high as they could (for example, to stand on a chair or a couch) and pick them up from there.
- You won’t be able to workout other than walking for a couple of months. Speaking of which, make sure you walk!! Walking, but not over-doing it, will aide in a quicker postpartum recovery.
3. Have Essentials On Hand
Be sure to purchase recovery items you may need ahead of time. Some of these items may include:
- Tylenol and/or Motrin (Arnica is great if you prefer to go the natural route)
- Ice pack(s)
- Maxi pads
- Gauze pads
- Comfortable underwear
With my first two c-sections, the hospital provided comfortable underwear I was able to take home. However with the last, they no longer had these. Make sure to find some that won’t rub on your scar. You can also purchase some gauze or healing pads to slide between your underwear and scar.
4. Take Advantage of Your Hospital Stay
Decide if you would like to go home early from the hospital if you are able. This goes beyond just how you feel in the hospital and if the doctor gives you the go ahead or not.
Think about what lies at home. Do you have the help you need? Are you comfortable with how your baby is eating? What physical stress does your home give you; i.e., do you live in a house with multiple levels where stairs cannot be avoided?
When we had our second, which was a scheduled repeat c-section, we lived in an older home with the kitchen on the main level, only bathroom on the upper level, and laundry in the basement. I remember deciding to go home early, and then getting home and looking at the stairs to go to the bathroom and just thinking “uh oh.” I also gave up nursing within two weeks because I wasn’t comfortable with it when I got home and didn’t have enough support.
With my third, we stayed that third night and turned down visitors except for immediate family. He has now been nursing for 7 months.
Now, for some this extra day may not make a difference, but I have learned not to turn it down! The extra help I received in the hospital was priceless, as I was lucky enough to have access to some great nurses and lactation consultants (and get an extra day of rest)!
5. Make Sure to Take Care of Yourself
Last but not least, be sure to take care of yourself!
Be gentle with yourself and be sure to get plenty of rest. Try to sneak a shower in when baby is napping or when you have help available.
Try to accept that your house is going to be messy for a little while. Allow others to help as much as possible and accept the fact that tasks might not be done exactly how you would do it.
Try to do small things that remind you of who you are. Pray, read a few pages of a classic book, or binge watch one of your favorite Netflix shows during those crazy cluster feeds. There really are several simple ways to treat yourself during this busy phase of parenting.
These simple self-care ideas will help you recover mentally and reduce your risk of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
If you have any doubts about whether you’re experiencing ppd/ppa or if it’s just the “baby blues,” then be sure to give your provider a call and let them know what’s going on.
And lastly, just enjoy those baby snuggles and that sweet newborn smell. I know everyone says it, but this time really is fleeting.
Not every moment of motherhood is going to be enjoyable, but just really try to embrace all the joyful times.
After having 3 c-sections, I would say recovery from the second was the most difficult. I learned a lot from that experience and by incorporating the tips I have mentioned above, recovering from my third was an absolute breeze. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, take advantage of your hospital stay, and carve out time for yourself. Be sure to find assistance with heavy housework, transportation, and childcare during those early weeks postpartum. Hire a postpartum doula if you need to.
Grab your recovery essentials ahead of time, so you can just take it easy when baby gets here.
Sending you healing vibes mama!
What About You?
Have you had a c-section in the past or do you have one scheduled? What must-have preparations did you make for your cesarean? Share your best c-section recovery tips in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other expecting moms.
*This guest post was written by one of our talented contributors, Chantelle.