Regardless of whether you’ve had a c-section or vaginal birth, letting your body heal is vital to a healthy and happy recovery. But does having a c-section mean that you’ll need some extra care and time to get back to feeling like you again?
“Yes, says RN and postpartum nurse at the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Denise Adams. “It’s a surgical procedure, therefore, a longer recovery."
Dr. Perlis, a gynecologic surgeon who specializes in women's health and beauty, agrees, “Women who undergo a c-section may require more time and pain medication with a need to move around more frequently and work on deep breathing exercises."
Thirty-two-year-old Rebecca Bednar, an RN from Charlotte, NC, and mother to four-year-old Benjamin and two-year-old Abigail says she never wanted to have a c-section.
"Being a nurse, I understood all too well how surgery can affect your body, and truth be told, I am petrified of needles. I wanted to avoid an epidural at all costs."
But life had other plans for Bednar. After enduring countless hours of sickness, low blood pressure and her son’s low heart rate, she was wheeled off into surgery for a c-section.
Bednar emerged from the surgery triumphantly, however. She says she was up walking the halls as soon as her epidural wore off and was allowed out of bed. "Recovery was a dream for me," she recalls. "I never had any real pain, and never took any narcotics other than Motrin post-operatively."
What to expect in recovery
Although every patient's recovery after a c-section is different, there are some things you can expect. "Most patients will still have an IV and urine catheter, and may need assistance getting out of bed and taking care of baby," explains Adams. “By the next day, most feel well enough to shower, and each day [afterward], you will feel stronger."
"Most patients have the most pain the initial 24-48 hours," says Adams. "New advances in anesthesia have greatly reduced the initial post-op pain, and patients have many options for pain relief that is individual for each patient."
Scars left behind
Scars left from where the incision took place are often small and can be found above the bikini line. In addition to keeping the area clean and dry, Adams says to look out for redness, swelling drainage or increased pain or fever. “Itching can be normal in that area as well, and is usually a normal transition in healing."
Adams also recommends a clean, dry pad over the incision to feel more comfortable and adds, “Patients can us a splint to support the abdomen if they need to cough or sneeze."
Perlis adds that cutting of the superficial nerves in that area may cause some women to feel numbness for a couple of days. “Women can also use abdominal binders that are provided by the hospital to feel more comfortable in recovery."
Recovery at home
Most women who undergo c-section will remain in the hospital for three to five days to rest, but the resting doesn’t stop when they are discharged home.
"New mothers must wait two weeks to resume driving, six weeks to resume exercise and twelve weeks for a complete recovery," says Perlis.
Adams also discourages heavy lifting during the initial postpartum period to avoid straining your abdomen, and says patients can resume driving when they feel well enough and are cleared by their doctor.
Getting plenty of rest and calling the doctor right away if you suspect something is wrong are also things to keep in mind as your recovering. "If mothers experience a fever greater or equal to 100 degrees, or increasing abdominal pain, they should contact a doctor immediately," adds Perlis.
Bednar credits a huge part of her easy recovery to having exercised regularly throughout her pregnancies, and also having a positive attitude. "I knew that in order for me to have a quick and easy recovery, it was up to me to make it happen. This meant eating right, getting out of bed as soon as the epidural wore off, walking, walking and more walking," said Bednar.
Perlis agrees, "The most important part of a successful recovery is a positive attitude. Recovery is quickened with regular movement, physical activity and care for your new bundle of love."
Most importantly, adds Bednar. “I knew that I could not obsess over the delivery I did not have. Babies can only come out two ways, and in the end, I was just thrilled to have a healthy happy baby. For me, that is the important thing, not the mode of delivery."