Giving birth to a beautiful and healthy baby is worth the price of pregnancy but unfortunately that adorable and snuggly new baby doesn’t erase the difficulty of your postpartum recovery. Those first few days after both of my c-sections were beyond difficult and challenged me in every emotional and physical way possible. While you’re flying high on this new mommy euphoria that recharges you with just one glimpse of your newborn, you’re also tasked with countless postpartum challenges that no one really warns you about. Sure your OB preps you with textbook answers to your questions but let’s face it could my male OB really explain what my c-section let alone my recovery really feel like, the good, the bad, or the ugly? Unfortunately not and I’m a girl who likes all of the information up front so I thought I’d share 6 of my postpartum experiences and tips to either help prep you for the postpartum of a possible or planned c-section or give you a little comradery if you’re going through one right now.
- Stay on top of your meds: In those first few days stay medicated, don’t act tough, you’ve just had major surgery and you need to take care of a newborn that’s tough enough, so take the medicines that your doctors recommend. If you’re like me you’ll ask about a hundred times if the pain meds are safe to take while nursing and trust me they are. Every single doctor and nurse will say the same, anything that they’re allowing you to take is safe while nursing. Making sure you stay on top of your pain meds is so helpful when you’re recovering from your c-section, it makes your mommy duties a little bit easier to manage and helps you with the next and most important tip.
- Move, move, and move some more: Don’t overdo it during your hospital stay but definitely move, move, move. Moving will most certainly help you in more ways than one. Getting up and just pushing your new bundle of joy around the postpartum floor can do you a world of good, especially when it comes to bloating, bowels, and getting some of your mobility back. It seems insane that the nurses want you up and moving less than 24 hours out from your surgery but it’s with good reason, not saying I liked it either time I did it, but getting up and moving around a bit early on will help you in the long run. Just remember, while you’re angrily complying to your nurses demands that all of that painful moving around will definitely help you manage so much better once your home.
- Is post- c-section gas normal?: A horrible side effect of any surgery is bloating and when I mean bloating I mean gas in every single one of your body cavities not just your belly. I had no clue that this was even a worry post delivery but I quickly learned in both of my c-sections that post-surgery gas is no joke. After my first, I had horribly sharp pains in my chest that felt like anything but gas, but sure enough after many a question, severe post-operative bloating it was. The nurses gave me plenty of gas medicine but it took forever to kick in so for my second delivery since it was an unexpected c-section I made sure to tell every nurse I came in contact with even before I went in that I wanted to start my gas medicine ASAP. Thankfully one of my favorite nurses started me immediately on some anti-gas meds just as I was wheeled into recovery, it didn’t prevent all bloating but it did help keep away the severe chest pains that I had the first go around. Since bloating was one of my biggest post- c-section complaints my nurses tried everything to help, so trust me I ran the gamut on bloating relief only to learn that there’s no sure fire relief strategy for this one. Taking the anti-gas meds, walking and walking some more, and even trying my nurse’s recommended 1/2 hot tea and 1/2 ginger ale concoction may help give you some much needed relief though. Just remember, gas after surgery is totally normal, even if you feel it in typically non-gassy areas, it’s very unpleasant but to be expected.
- How will I really feel after my c-section?: This is a toughy because everyone truly does feel differently but all I can tell you is how I felt. I unfortunately wasn’t one of the lucky ones who could be up and walking painlessly later on surgery day. My postpartum recovery was anything but easy but had I known others who felt the same way I did while recovering I would’ve felt much better about my postpartum, so here’s the honest truth about my postpartum recovery. Along with the gas, the worst pains obviously came from my midsection. While after many a surgery you’re told to take it easy and not do too much, it’s near impossible to stick to that after a c-section which is a major abdominal surgery, hence why I’m left with this 6 inch badge of honor. You have to remember that all of the pulling, pushing, and tugging that the doctors were doing while they were in there retrieving your little one won’t come without some discomfort afterward, and that’s putting it mildly. Your incision area will definitely hurt but if you’re like me you’ll feel a pulling and kind of a tearing feeling. That feeling can hang around for quite awhile too, either because you’re freshly stitched or stapled up from the inside out or because you’re healing and your muscles and nerves are too, reminding you of that everyday. That feeling was probably the scariest for me but please remember that you’re not alone and always feel free to call your doctor for that reassurance that all is okay.
- An Ab Binder could be your best friend: After a c-section you pretty much can’t stand up straight, sneeze, cough, bend over, or just walk without holding your belly for support so make sure you ask your nurses or your doctor ahead of time for an ab binder. I had no clue about this for my first c-section but for my second I was sure to ask for one, which by the way had to be special ordered per my doctor’s request. Why in the world is this not a mandatory thing given to c-section mommies? Got to love our healthcare system! Anyway, the ab binder is this tight belly band with velcro that you can adjust around your belly to give you that support that you desperately need and don’t have just yet since your ab muscles have disappeared. Wear this baby as often as you can, trust me it really helps you get through everyday; I even sported this fashion accessory at home during our many visits from friends and family. Not sure if this is thanks to the ab binder, but I recovered much better after my second c-section and I do know because of it that I wouldn’t have been able to get around as easily with two kids at home as I did.
- Be ready for postpartum bleeding but you may be pleasantly surprised: Not fun to think about I know but postpartum bleeding is yet another thing you have to worry about after giving birth. All of the postpartum bleeding afterwards is your body’s way of cleaning out your uterus from pregnancy so when you’re having a c-section and the doctor is actually in there, they’re actually doing some of that for you. After my first daughter’s birth, postpartum bleeding was never too bad and lasted for only a few weeks but with my second it was on and off for only about two weeks total. Strangely, by the time I left the hospital I didn’t even need to wear those massive pads and for a week following didn’t need anything. However, at about 10 days postpartum I did start bleeding again but only for another short run. I was so thrown off by this, especially since I hadn’t experienced this pattern at all my first time around and had never heard of this from anyone else, so to be sure it was normal I checked in with my doctor. Sure enough, I was given the green light that everything was okay.
So there you have it, six of my tips and stories to either prep you or reassure you that everyone’s experiences are different. It’s so hard to remember this but please try to, no two births are the same and everyone’s recovery will look different too. It can make a world of difference by just asking others if they too experienced what you have and finding that support that you desperately need. And most importantly, if in doubt always call your doctor and ask your question, never just rely on your own research.