If you have a caesarean, you will be staying in hospital for between 3 and 5 days on average.
If you know you are going to have a c-section you can make things a little easier on yourself by being prepared. However, many women have a non-elective or emergency caesarean. But fear not! Regardless of whether your operation is planned (elective) or unplanned (emergency) there are lots of small things you can do to make life a little easier.
Remember, everyone’s caesarean recovery is different. As with all things birth related, some people have a very smooth, trouble free time and others have it much more challenging. If you do encounter problems, ask for help. Remember a c-section is the only major operation you have that you are then handed a tiny human to look after!
If you have a c-section, you will be staying in hospital for between 3 and 5 days on average. You are still expected to be the chief caregiver of your baby- not an easy feat when you have just had major abdominal surgery! It is a source of enormous frustration to midwives and other staff but in most hospitals, there are not enough nurses, midwives and healthcare staff to appropriately care for mums and babies particularly when they require extra help post caesarean section. So often families have to pick up the slack. This is not how it should be, but this is the reality.
In any event, make sure that your partner or someone else will be available to stay with you as much as possible in the initial 24/48 hours to help you. You might be quite groggy after the operation and breast feeding can be slower to initiate so ask for help when you need it. Ask to see the lactation consultant in hospital who can help you get the right start.
Ask also to see the physiotherapist before you leave who will be able to advise you on how to lift baby, move, sit and get in and out of bed and chairs the right way, without causing yourself unnecessary strain or discomfort. Staff are all there to help you, but if you don’t ask, they sometimes might overlook your needs; ask for help from everyone and anyone that can make things easier for you.
You will have just had an extensive abdominal operation, so even if you don’t normally take pain relief , take it regularly both in hospital and when you get home. The evidence shows that taking your pain relief in the right dose at the right time will shorten your caesarean recovery and make life easier for you. It also means you will be able to get up and about as quickly as possible. The pain relief you will be prescribed will be safe to take even if you are breastfeeding, so take it! If you are prone to constipation or any other ailments, make sure the doctor is aware of this and then can advise you how to avoid running into extra issues. Keep your self very well hydrated and if you feel you are in a lot of pain at any stage then tell your midwife or doctor straight away.
When you get home, you are going to be a little slower getting around and you are going to need as much rest as possible. Make sure you get family and friends to not just call round to see the new baby but to help you and your partner with any practical housework, cooking shopping or giving you a break so you can rest, recover and heal.
As I always mention, if you can afford it then hire help or check your health insurance policy (if you have one!) to see what they can offer you. Post-natal doulas, lactation consultants or other health workers can be an invaluable way to invest in your healing process and adjusting to new parenthood.
Diet and nutrition are essential for good health and never more so than as a new parent and one who is recovering from surgery. Eat as much good nutritious food and water as possible. This will feed your body and mind and give you the tools to quicken your healing.
Keep your c-section wound clean and dry. Most stitches are dissolvable and won’t need to be removed but because of the area you wound is in (just above your pubic region) it can be tough to keep an eye on it. Make sure you dry it properly after you shower and that you are wearing the biggest ‘granny pants’ you can find that will be high above your scar, and not dig into it and irritate it. If your wound is weeping, bleeding or opening up then seek medical advice straight away. You might be a bit slower to get back to any sort of activity except walking, so take the advice given to you by your physio or doctor as to when it’s safe to get back to exercise. Literally, do not run before you can walk!!
As with all new parents, take your time. With any birth there are challenges, and this can be doubly true for mums who have given birth via caesarean. If you are worried or have any questions then seek out the advice of your public health nurse, GP, Consultant or Midwife straight away.