Recovering From a Cesarean Birth
You did it! Congratulations and Welcome Baby! Now it’s time to focus on YOU! I hear you. You just had a baby and now have to tend to a baby. But wait a moment! if YOU are not recovering well, YOU won’t be able to care for the baby’s needs. So yes…YOU are important and recovering from a cesarean birth brings different recovery methods than that of a vaginal delivery. How your body reacts to the experience, how you mentally, physically, and emotionally recover, and what implications you already have in your life can all create a serene (or burst one’s) postpartum bubble.
Expected Hospital Stay
You’ve just endured major surgery on the body. Expect to be discharged from the hospital typically within 48-72 hours. During this time, the birthing person is being monitored for any side effects or after-birth complications from the abdominal surgery. What is being watched is the coming out of anesthesia, monitoring the body’s physical response from the cesarean, and any development of fever, swelling, nausea, etc. All of which can be signs of postpartum eclampsia and other high-risk concerns. With this “extended stay”, ponder ways that you can be and feel supported; either back at home or in the hospital. Are there other children or pets needing to be tended to? Make plans to have them covered. Have you been in contact with your work, clients, or school? Updating with an email (over a phone call) can reach the masses in one burst of energy spurt.
How Much Activity is Too Much
When can I begin to do normal activities that make me feel like a functioning body again? That depends on you and the conversation that happens between you and your provider. In the 6-8 weeks of recovering from a cesarean birth, activity should be limited. This is due to the multiple layers of skin, muscle, fat, and tissue that have been accessed through the lower abdomen into the uterus to deliver the baby. This area is ultra-sensitive and compromised, risking the ability to create further painful difficulties if not careful.
Some of these limitations include:
- Lifting anything heavier than that weight of the baby. Added weight over the weight of the 5-10 lbs baby adds pressure that the body isn’t ready to withstand. This can be difficult if one has other small children. Find other ways to hold and bond with the toddler that makes them feel loved and supported without putting your healing in jeopardy.
- Going up and down a flight of stairs more than 2-3 times in a day. The constant movement of stepping up and down the steps makes the healing muscles work harder while trying to recover. Place stations for you and the baby both upstairs and downstairs so that “forgetting” something on one level doesn’t cause you to make the trek back up/down.
- Driving a car takes lower body muscles and keen focus. Recovering from a cesarean birth comes with muscles that are severed and healing; along with medications that aid in easing the discomforts and pain. All of which can make driving unsafe.
- Forgetting to rest/Nourish yourself. Again, while it’s often difficult for new parents to find time to rest for themselves whilst running a family unit, it’s ultimately important! Don’t forgo rest, hydration, or healthy nourishment for the sake of “doing all the things”. One may end up down for a longer period of time or in the hospital. Which would defeat the purpose and not be of any help or benefit.
Cesarean Recovery Red Flags
The body has needs in recovering from birth in general. Within the confines of recovering from a cesarean birth watching out for added “red flags” during this recovery period will be your heads up to remaining on top of one’s health. One red flag is foul odors permeating from the incision. This is usually an indication of a possible infection.
- Foul odors and/or discharge at the incision site.
- Possible infection indication
- Incision site opening up.
- Irritation and the possibility of breading infections to occur
- Excessive bleeding.
- Soaking a pad in an hour and/or passing blood clots larger than a golf ball
- Fever, dizziness, swelling, nausea
- After-effects of anesthesia can be indications of postpartum eclampsia
- Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders
- The onset is heightened with cesarean births
- Excessive itching, rashes, and irritation
- Some itchiness at the site is a common occurrence that can happen as the stitches absolve.
If any of these (and any unlisted) by your provider are experienced, contact your provider right away for assistance.
When to Call Your Provider When Recovering from Cesarean Birth
Whenever you want to and whenever you need to! Truly that is the answer. Your provider works for you and your health. If you are experiencing ANY red flags (both listed and not listed), feeling anxious or uneasy, and/or simply want some reassurance or answers to questions. Your provider may want to see you sooner than that 4-6 week postpartum check-up. Keep in contact with you Doulas during recovery, and utilize the hospital hotlines.
Recovering from a cesarean birth takes patience, rest, and focus. Understanding how the body should be healing while taking notice of red flags or concerns is one way to stay vigilant in your postpartum healing. This journey through a cesarean birth may have been a prior decision, may have been a last-moment decision, or may have been an unexpected occurrence. Overall, your body is a temple that requires attention.