Here are four suggestions to speed up your recovery so you can spend less time sore and tired, and more time bonding with your new baby.
A C-section is major surgery. Just like with any surgery, your body needs time to heal afterward. Expect to stay in the hospital for three to four days after your delivery (longer if there are complications), and give your body up to six weeks to fully heal.
That’s easier said than done. It’s hard to crawl into bed for hours on end when you have a baby who is demanding lots of attention.
You’ve probably heard the advice from well-meaning friends and relatives: “Rest whenever your baby rests.” They’re right. Try to sleep whenever your baby naps.
Ask those friends and relatives for help with diaper changes and housework so you can lie down when possible. Even a few minutes of rest here and there throughout the day can help.
Take extra care in getting around while you heal. Avoid going up and down stairs as much as you can. Keep everything you need, like diaper changing supplies and food, close to you so that you don’t have to get up too often.
Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby. Ask for help from your spouse or a friend or family member.
It could take up to eight weeks for you to get back into your normal routine. Ask your doctor when it’s fine to exercise, go back to work, and drive. Also wait to have sex or use tampons until your doctor gives you the green light.
Avoid strenuous exercise, but do take gentle walks as often as you can. The movement will help your body heal and prevent constipation and blood clots. Plus, walks are a great way to introduce your baby to the world.
Just as you take care of your physical health, don’t forget about your emotional health. Having a baby can bring up feelings you never expected. If you feel exhausted, sad, or disappointed, don’t ignore it. Talk about your emotions with a friend, your partner, your doctor, or a counselor.
Ask your doctor what pain medicines you can take, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Depending on the level of your discomfort, the doctor might prescribe a pain reliever or advise you to take an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
In addition to pain medicine, you can use a heating pad to relieve discomfort at the surgical site.
Good nutrition is just as important in the months after you deliver as it was while you were pregnant.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’re still your baby’s primary source of nutrition. Eating a variety of foods will keep your baby healthy and help you get stronger.
Also, drink plenty of fluids, especially water. You need extra fluids to boost your breast milk supply and to avoid constipation.
But the following symptoms warrant a call to your doctor, because they could signal an infection:
- redness, swelling, or pus oozing from the incision site
- pain around the site
- fever of more than 100.4°F (38°C)
- bad-smelling discharge from the vagina
- heavy vaginal bleeding
- redness or swelling in your leg
- difficulty with breathing
- chest pain
- pain in your breasts
Also, call your doctor if you feel sad and your mood never seems to lift, especially if you have thoughts of hurting your baby.
Finally, if you have a friend or sibling who went through a C-section, try not to compare yourself to them. Every woman’s experience with this surgery is different. Focus on your own healing right now and give your body the time it needs to get back to normal.