Planning a caesarean birth or educating yourself for the possibility?
Clear and concise information about recovering from a C-section can be hard to find! Caesarean birth has become the “He-who-must-not-be-named” of childbirth education but the reality is, this life saving procedure is sometimes necessary. Learning what you can now, will make it easier to retain the information if you need it.
Planned or emergency, there are a few things parents are most commonly surprised by!
Your vagina still needs special care.
It can come as a real surprise when your postpartum nurse first starts peeking around under your bedsheets and inspecting more than your incision. You will still experience lochia, the vaginal discharge made up of the uterine lining that sheds after your baby is born. Your nurse will be checking to ensure your flow is normal and there are no signs of complication. Additionally, the catheter that was placed during your surgery can lead to discomfort, and small lacerations. Your nurse may use a peri-bottle to wet and cleanse the area for you.
Tips: Once you are going to the bathroom on your own, if you have discomfort when you pee, use the peri-bottle to rinse the area with warm water while you go. Your flow may be bright red and heavy for the first few days, containing small clots. Over the next few weeks the flow will slow, changing from pink/brown to yellow/white. It may become watery, too.
There is a reason the nurse is giving you stool softeners. You’d don’t want to find out why the hard way.
Some people are afraid they’ll end up with diarrhea if they take the stool softeners. Stool softeners are not laxatives, they’re gentler. It’s difficult to bear down following abdominal surgery and those little pills will become your new best friend!
Tips: Drink plenty of fluids. If you’re concerned about how the stool softeners may affect you, discuss it with your postpartum nurse or doctor.
You will dread coughing, sneezing, and most definitely vomiting.
One of my clients once said “It feels like my staples are going to rip open with every single cough.”. If you’re unlucky enough to have allergies, a cold, or the flu, during your C-section recovery it can be excruciating!
Tip: Keep a pillow handy in the various rooms of your house and even in the car. Holding a pillow tightly against your incision whenever you cough or feel a sneeze come on, can reduce discomfort.
It’s not a heart attack, it’s gas pain.
Yep, you read that right. Your bowels become sluggish after surgeryꟷthat’s why you’re being encouraged to take the stool softenersꟷcausing excess gas to build up and press against your diaphragm, where pain can then radiate up into your shoulder. Other shoulder pain may be “referred pain”, where the nerves react in an odd way causing you to feel the pain from, in this case, your uterus in another part of the body. Any unusual discomfort should be reported to your postpartum nurse or doctor.
Tips: You’ll be encouraged to be up and walking as soon as possible to get things moving and may be offered anti-gas medication. The pain should subside within a day or two.
Everything is difficult.
You’ve had major surgery, and brought life into the world, at the same time! An incredible feat! It’s no wonder you’re exhausted and in pain. You can expect to stay in hospital for 3 or 4 days to get a good start on your recovery. After the first week, you’ll be more comfortable but it will be several weeks before you begin to feel like your old self.
Tips: Accept help. Accept lots of help. Ask for more help! Hire help! Your recovery will be faster and smoother if you let others do the figurative and literally heavy lifting. I obviously recommend you choose postpartum doula support. Your doula is an expert on postpartum recovery and can help you navigate this new territory while looking after your needs and the needs of your family.
Owner of Chinook City Doulas, Lacey Park is a ProDoula Certified Postpartum Placenta Specialist, Labor and Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator and mother of four. She’s passionate about the impact professional doula support has for new families and has dedicated her career to ensuring new parents get the high-quality care they deserve.