My Best C-Section Recovery Tips
I’m just over four months past my c-section with Ellis and I am still feeling the effects of that surgery. Because, holy smokes, it truly is major abdominal surgery and I don’t think we give women enough credit for how hard it can be on their bodies!
While I had an inkling that I might end up having a c-section (Ellis was breech for my entire third trimester), I didn’t fully mentally or physically prepare myself for what that would entail. So, now that I’ve gone through it, I wanted to share all of my c-section recovery tips here on the blog. I hope that I can help other women out there who may go that same route to bring their babies into this world.
C-Section Recovery Tips
Last week, I shared Ellis’ birth story and in it, I discussed how wild my c-section surgery was. I was awake the entire time and while it didn’t “hurt”, I could still feel my body moving all around and tons of pressure as they pulled the baby out. I didn’t really realize all of that, going into my c-section, so just mentally prepare yourself for that.
Now, let’s move on to what happens after surgery…
Prepare for Gas Pains
About an hour after my c-section, I started feeling more of my body as the drugs wore off. You’d think that I would start complaining about my abdominals since they were just cut to get my baby out. Nope. Instead, I started complaining about my shoulders. What?!
I experienced terrible shoulder gas pains. I had NO IDEA what the hell these even were until I experienced them myself and they are terrible. It’s like a piercing shooting pain in your shoulder (mostly my right shoulder) making it hard to breathe and move around. Every time I would reposition myself, I would wince in pain. It was almost like I had shoulder surgery instead of abdominal surgery!
Apparently, this happens because the carbon dioxide used to inflate the abdomen during surgery irritates a nerve that causes pain in your chest and shoulders. Mine lasted almost four days and slowly got better. They gave me gas-x every few hours and encouraged me to walk to get the gas out.
The more I moved, the better I eventually felt. I chatted with a few friends who have had multiple c-sections and they all suggested stocking up on gas-x so you can down it during your hospital stay. Once my gas pains went away, I felt much better!
Ask For an Abdominal Binder
At the hospital, my doctor gave me an abdominal binder to wear. (Just ask the nurses and they will give you one!) I always thought women wore those belly binders to “get their body back”, but that’s far from it. After a c-section, it’s really helpful to support your core as you move around, doing everyday activities. It also helps reduce swelling and expel excess fluid. I tried to wear mine as often as possible during those first few weeks. I especially found it helpful to wear it when I was around Rory. She is so used to sitting on my lap and without it, I felt like my scar was vulnerable to an accidental nudge or hit.
Start Moving ASAP
The nurses got me up and moving within 12 hours of surgery. It may seem crazy that you’d want to start walking that quickly, but it really speeds up your recovery. The first day was tough. Just getting to the bathroom felt impossible. But by the end of my hospital stay, I was doing very slow laps around the floor, pushing Ellis in the bassinet. Then, within a week, I was doing a walk around the block and I gradually kept adding on a bit more time. I did my best not to push it too much, but it also felt good to get outside, get fresh air, and move my legs.
Even though I was walking (slowly, oh so slowly) around the block, it was still so difficult to do everyday tasks those first few weeks. I wasn’t able to drive for two weeks and I wasn’t able to lift Rory for four weeks. That was so incredibly difficult. While Rory is big enough to walk around, she still needs to be lifted into her crib, stroller, high chair, etc. Not to mention, she had a lot of big feelings about her new role as big sister, and my not being able to carry her made it even harder. She would say, “Mama” and lift her arms up for me to hold her. It broke my heart to have to say, “I’m sorry, Rory. Mama has a boo boo. Daddy can lift you.” Ugh, tears!
I don’t know how I would have done it without an amazing support system. Finn, my mom, or my mother-in-law was there to help with Rory and do those everyday tasks that I simply couldn’t do, like unloading the dishwasher, putting laundry in, even making a sandwich. It’s not easy for me to accept help, but this was one instance where I had to let go and let the amazing people in my life take over. If you know you’re having a c-section, do everything you can to get support in place because you physically won’t be able to do it all.
Don’t Rush Back to “Normal”
When I first had my surgery, I thought that I would never feel normal again. Just getting in and out of bed was so tough, how the heck was I going to be able to move around as I did before? But I slowly started to feel better, week by week. By about four weeks post-surgery, I was feeling much better. I wasn’t completely back to myself, but almost. But it was at this point that I had to remind myself to still take it slow and rest as much as possible. A few of my c-section mama friends told me that they rushed back into things too quickly and had more pain and a longer recovery because of it.
Buy C-Section Friendly Clothing
Putting any sort of underwear or pants near my incision was torture for the first two months or so. So, while at the hospital, I stocked up on high-waisted items to get me through.
- Mesh underwear: I took a bunch from the hospital, and I also got a pack of these. I wore these the first few weeks when I was still bleeding pretty heavily.
- High-waisted underwear: I transitioned to these after about two weeks. The are soft and high-waisted so they don’t come near your scar. They are the best for postpartum recovery, c-section or not!
- High-waisted compression underwear: I only wore these a couple times – for the two weddings we attended. The compression feels nice and it even has a silicone panel that goes over the scar area.
- High-waisted leggings: I had a few pieces from BLANQI during my pregnancy and bought these leggings for postpartum. The compression feels good on your stomach and they don’t apply any pressure on your scar area.
Create a C-Section Recovery Kit
Finn surprised me with this c-section recovery kit and it was great! It comes with a belly band, socks, mesh underwear, and more. But here are some items that I found to be very helpful, so you can create your own c-section recovery kit.
- Pain meds: You just went through a freakin’ major surgery, so it’s okay to take the pain medications they give you. I get sick from a lot of really strong pain medications, so I stuck with high strength acetaminophen and ibuprofen, switching off every six hours.
- Gas-X: As I mentioned earlier, stock up on this in case you have shoulder gas pain. Ouch.
- Stool softeners: I took one throughout my entire pregnancy, but I upped the dosage after my c-section. Things will likely be slow moving after surgery.
- Squatty potty: This was a recommendation from my pelvic floor therapist. This will help make bowel movements less painful. She actually recommends that everyone use one all the time, not just post-surgery.
- 3M Steri-Strips: As for the wound, my doctor sent me home with a box of these steri-strips and told me to put new ones on as the old ones fell off. They’re supposed to help with healing the wound and the scar appearance.
- Scar gel: This is the scar gel that I massage onto my incision every night.
Seek Help From a Professional
I saw a pelvic floor therapist throughout my third trimester to help with pelvic pain and to prepare for birth. I started back up again with her at six weeks postpartum and I would recommend it to any new mom, whether you had a vaginal birth or c-section. She helped me strengthen my pelvic floor, helped heal some ab separation from pregnancy, and worked out a lot of tight muscles. Plus, we also worked on my scar so it will continue to heal nicely.
I found that I lost so much core strength from my c-section, because I spent weeks and weeks trying to not use my core to do anything, out of fear that it would hurt! Because of that, it was difficult for me to use my core correctly again. Working with her has been so beneficial to help me feel strong and pain-free again! I see Erin S. at West Town Physical Therapy and still go weekly.
If a physical therapist isn’t for you, I also recommend giving Expecting and Empowered, on Instagram, a follow. They also have a blog post with great tips for c-section recovery and scar mobilization.
Trust Me, It Gets Better
I’m writing this blog post after just getting home from a great yoga class. Immediately post-surgery, I thought I would never be able to do the workouts and everyday activities that I love. I just couldn’t imagine feeling good again. But trust me, you’ll get there! Take it slow, ask for help, and you’ll be feeling better in no time, Mama!
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.