Sure, your perineum muscles are well and working, but you have an abdominal surgery to recover from while dealing with all the other postpartum pains. In other words – take it easy and enlist as much help as possible.
After surgery, you might feel:
- Pain. After all, you have an abdominal wound along with other extreme body aches from labor. The doctor will most likely give you pain meds that won’t pass into the colostrum and that won’t be needed when your milk comes in. If the pain persists, talk to your doctor about safe over-the-counter meds, especially if you’re planning on breastfeeding.
- Be careful not to put pressure on your incision, and you might want to use a pillow for support when you laugh, cough or sneeze.
- Speaking of coughing, the doctor or nurse will teach you how to expand your lungs and remove any excess fluid that can cause pneumonia.
- Nauseous, woozy, out of it. This might be attributed to the drugs — and last up to two days. You might also be nauseous (and vomiting) as an aftermath of the surgery, which can be relieved with anti-nausea medication.
- If your anesthesiologist added morphine to your epidural, you might not feel as much pain until the next day.
- If you went under general anesthesia, or if no morphine was added to your epidural, then you’ll most likely be given a narcotic to handle the pain, causing side effects like dizziness or nausea.
- The doctor will either administer the drugs every three to four hours, or you’ll be hooked up to an IV where you simply press a button when you’re in pain.
- Once your IV and urinary catheter are removed, you can slowly start to eat solid foods – if you’re up to it.
- Constipation. A typical side effect of the narcotics. Ask your doctor about taking a stool softener.
- Breastfeeding can be a bit more challenging while recovering from a C-section, so here’s what you need to know:
- Even though there are safe pain medication options for breastfeeding, try to take only as much as you need so you and your baby don’t become too sleepy to nurse.
- Starting early and often is the best insurance for breastfeeding success. Ideally, try and nurse your baby within the first hour (as soon as the room stops spinning and you stop vomiting, perhaps), but try not to wait longer than four hours for the initial nursing session.
- If you had an epidural, you’ll probably have to feed while lying on your back – with one arm hooked up to a machine. Yes, this can be tricky, so we strongly suggest having a lactation consultant on hand to help.
- Once you can move, the easiest way to nurse is while lying on your side. You might need to enlist the help of your partner to position the baby. (This is where a co-ed pre-natal breastfeeding class comes in handy. If not, include your partner in on conversations with a lactation consultant.) If this position doesn’t work well, find whichever one works best – such as the football hold.
- Whichever way you nurse, extra pillows – some are made especially for nursing – are helpful. If you’re lying on your side, put one across your abdomen to prevent the baby from kicking and one between your legs to ease the strain on your stomach muscles. You’ll also want to support your back with pillows.
- Your milk might come in slightly later than those who had a vaginal delivery, but other than that, follow the advice in our breastfeeding section.
Your symptoms should start to ease throughout the week, but you might still feel:
- Pain at the incision site. While the initial pain should be mostly or completely gone by the end of the week (with some still needing heavy-duty pain killers) taking acetaminophen will help. The scar will still be sore for a few weeks still, so continue to wear loose shirts that won’t irritate the area.
- Itchiness. Ask your doctor for a safe anti-itch ointment to relieve the discomfort.
- Exhaustion. Surgery is surgery, whether or not you have a baby to take care of. The need to get up and conquer the mounting responsibilities of new motherhood is universal, but those recovering from a C-section will need more help than others. Remember, the more you rest now, the easier your recoup will be.
- Gassy and bloated. Surgery can cause your intestines to move slower than normal, building gas and making you feel quite uncomfortable. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe to take and make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Other things to know about your recovery:
- Around day three or four, your sutures or staples will be removed, which is a fast and generally painless process.
- You should be getting as much sleep as possible (meaning as much help as possible), while still getting up and walking around every once in a while to prevent blood clots. But still, take it easy.
- Avoid picking up anything heavier than your baby for the first eight weeks.
- With your doctor’s green light, you might be able to resume moderate exercise – including sex – at around six weeks.
- Believe it or not, your dark, puffy scar will eventually shrink and fade and will often be hidden by your underwear or bikini bottom.
Because there’s always a risk of infection with a surgery wound. Call your doctor if:
- The incision site becomes warm, red or extremely swollen.
- Your wound starts to ooze.
- You start running a fever, even if you feel fine otherwise.