Sept 14, 2021
What To Expect After C-Section
Written By: Lexi Coerver
With our first kiddo, I had all the plans. I had a pretty picture painted of how everything was going to go down. Yes, I knew that having a c-section was always a possibility, but I'd had a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, and was in great shape. I didn't spend too much time thinking about the actual birth, as I was sure I was the perfect candidate for an easy labor and delivery.
Then...I was a week overdue. I should have known at that point that there was no plan, anymore. Baby comes when baby wants. When I started to labor, my doula was with another patient! My due date had come and gone, so I was moved to a "standby" list. She suggested I labor at home for as long as possible, and then go to the hospital where she would meet me at her convenience.
A lot of things happened in the next twenty-four hours. What didn’t happen was the delivery of our baby. My doctor told me that I needed to prepare myself for a C-section. My doula, who'd appeared at some point, was working all kinds of magic, but things still weren't progressing. The last thing I remember before things got foggy was my doctor saying, "The baby's heart rate is dropping. We are going to need to operate."
That was at 9:42 pm. At 9:57, my husband handed me our firstborn. A beautiful, healthy baby GIRL, and suddenly all was well. Everything faded away with the sound of that first cry. As we exist in the prenatal melee of birth surprise and expectation, what’s important to remember is that a healthy baby and a healthy mother is always the goal.
The Golden Hour after C-Section looks a little different.
As I was being put back together, our daughter laid on my chest, with my husband by my side. And it was a good thing he was there because I started shaking like crazy. To my surprise, shaking is totally normal and is a result of the anesthesia in the epidural. You can still experience a beautiful golden hour with your baby, and most hospitals allow skin to skin in the OR with the assistance of a partner to help you receive and hold your baby. Ask your OB about your hospitals’ protocol for Caesarean births.
“You did the work for you and your baby, no matter how hard it was and is, you are shaping your unique story as a mother.”
You can breastfeed right away.
Right after surgery, you'll be taken to a recovery room for monitoring, where the nurse will help you feed your baby for the first time. You'll be monitored for about an hour in recovery, and then taken to your hospital room where you’ll be for about 2-3 more days. The combination of adrenaline, oxytocin, and drugs is a lot to try to cope with. My advice would be to try to stay present. Be with your baby and listen to what feels right for you in your earliest postpartum hours. If you need to get rest, allow yourself time to sleep, and do what makes you feel most comfortable. You have accomplished a big feat! You just had surgery, and your baby is here! It’s a contrasting load of emotions and feelings, and whatever you need, at that time, feel free to take it.
Eating and drinking are usually off-limits.
Another fun side effect of having an epidural is that it causes some women to vomit. Remember, you've just had major abdominal surgery. Throwing up, while never at the top of anyone's list, would be especially painful right now. After 24 hours of labor...I was out-of-my-mind hungry. Even though I didn't toss my cookies, no one was tossing me anything, except for ice chips for a good while. There's nothing you can do about it, so fill up on cuddling that tiny new human of yours.
There will be blood.
I don't know how I got it in my head that because I didn't have a vaginal birth, things would be a lot less...messy. They weren't. I don't know if you are aware that they make maxi pads the size of surfboards, but they do. And if you have a C-section, you'll be wearing them. Bleeding after a C-section is totally normal and is a sign that all is healing as it should be. What shouldn't bleed is your incision. It takes about four to six weeks for your wound to fully heal, and during that time, it's going to be tender. Make sure to keep your incision clean and dry.
If you are concerned about scarring, talk to your doctor about when you can start using topical aids to help reduce the appearance of your scar. My favorite is the Restorative Scar Treatment from Nemah. This stuff is amazing! Nemah's science-backed scar cream is loaded with powerful actives like Antarcticine ®, Actisoothe ®, and Lipomoist ™ to strengthen the skin barrier, and help heal and fade scar tissue.
Thanks to IV fluids from surgery and post-pregnancy hormones, swelling is another thing you can expect after a C-section. Don't worry; it's totally normal, and you'll be looking less puffy in a week or so.
GAS and other painful parts
As far as pain goes...your incision will be tender, but no one ever warned me about the G-A-S. No lie, the air that was trapped in my body from being opened in surgery was apparently using daggers to try to get out. Air bubbles get trapped inside your body, and if you don't get them out...they just travel around. Mine went up in between my shoulder blades, and it was, hands down, the most brutal part of the entire experience. 13 months later, when I went in for my planned C-section. I made sure to steer clear of any gassy foods prior to surgery and was on that Gas-X like white on rice.
Slow down, and ask for help.
You're going to be sidelined for several weeks. That means no lifting anything heavier than your baby, no pushing or pulling, and no deep bending until your incision heals. Leave the vacuuming, dishes, and dog walking to someone else for at least two weeks. This doesn't mean you have to lay in bed all day. In fact, you shouldn't. Walking around the house or short leisurely strolls in the neighborhood help prevent blood clots and aid in faster recovery. Just don't overdo it. When it comes to pain, stay ahead of it! There's no special mom merit badge for the least amount of pain meds taken post-C-section. As you start moving around more, you will no doubt start feeling a little like your old self, but pump the brakes, sister. Proceed with caution and take it slow when easing off your pain medication. Not only do you have a newborn, but you've also just undergone MAJOR surgery. If you stay ahead of your pain, it's easy to manage. If you try to quit cold turkey, it can be a hard and PAINFUL additional recovery.
You’re going to need some solid support when you get back home. Your partner, a parent, a night nurse, or a friend should be with you in these first few weeks while healing. Make sure to arrange care for yourself and your baby.
Talk About Your Feelings
After our first baby, a friend of mine, who has two small boys of her own, came to visit. I was on a postpartum hormone roller coaster, struggling to find any shred of my "old self." She sat with me as I nursed our daughter for what felt like the 47th time that day. With a swollen belly and milk-soaked boobs, I looked at my friend and tearfully asked, "Will I ever be my old self again?"
"No," she replied. "You'll be better." Whether you have a c-section or vaginal birth, having a baby is hard and postpartum depression is real. Talk to your partner, friends, or a doctor to help you work through your emotions and get help where you need it.
There is no easy way to have a baby. If you end up having a caesarean birth, recovery may be one of the most difficult parts. While you heal and brave the challenging obstacles of the fourth trimester, remember that each phase is temporary, and it will pass. Savor the moments of the newborn phase and give yourself credit! You did the work for you and your baby, no matter how hard it was and is, you are shaping your unique story as a mother. There will be mistakes, compromises, and big changes, but you will adapt. Your body will heal, and your baby will thrive. Welcome to motherhood, you got this!