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Giving birth to a baby is no small feat. Whether you give birth naturally or via C-section, the recovery process can sometimes be just as painful if not more painful than labor. Thankfully, with each passing day, recovery gets easier, and you slowly begin to feel more like yourself. Getting to know your sweet newborn baby isn’t so bad either. C-section recovery has its own unique challenges and things to be aware of before you head into the delivery room. Here’s a round-up of everything you need to know, and some things you may wish you didn’t know, about C-section recovery.

What is a C-section?

A C-section is a Cesarean delivery in which a doctor surgically delivers a baby through incisions in the mother’s uterus and abdomen. In some cases, a C-section is planned ahead of time, while in other cases, it’s determined that you need one during the labor process. If you’re in active labor, you and your doctors may decide you need a C-section for a number of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for needing a C-section include labor that is failing to progress, a breech presentation, a placenta problem, if you’re carrying multiples, or if you have had a previous C-section.

What happens after a C-section?

After a C-section, you’re going to feel like you’ve been cut open and just ran a marathon. Your body has lost a significant amount of blood and you may have also gone into labor, which can do a number on your energy supply. The first few moments after, however, you’ll typically still be pain-free because of the epidural and pain medication. You’ll be able to meet your new baby, and if all is well with you and your little one, you can do skin to skin almost immediately. From there, your partner, the nurses, and doctors will weigh and measure your baby and make sure their vitals are in good shape. You’ll soon be taken to a recovery room after your incision is stitched and cared for.

During your hospital stay post-baby, you can expect a lot of uterine massages to help your uterus shrink back to its original size. This will also help with blood flow and blood loss. If you choose to breastfeed your baby, nurses will assist you in starting this process as your abdomen will still be very sore. You’ll be encouraged to sit up, walk, and use the restroom anywhere from a few hours to twelve hours post-delivery. This has been shown to greatly help mom recover from surgery faster. Removing the catheter earlier also helps prevent infections and problems later on. Walking and blood flow also helps stimulate the recovery process in your body. As painful as it may be at first, the more you can move around in those first hours and days, the better.

Tips for healing

After delivery, your incision will be pretty painful and sore to the touch. Your muscles will also be sore and weak. Sitting up, walking, climbing, stairs, laughing, and even sneezing can cause a good deal of pain and discomfort. To help, you can ask your nurse for an abdominal binder. This can help hold your abdomen tighter to ease some of the pain. You can also hold a pillow near your incision when driving in a car or sitting up. While it’s great to walk around and take care of your newborn baby, keep your activity light so you don’t run the risk of tearing your incision or stitches. Keep your dressing and stitches as clean and dry as possible for those first few days home as well. Also, try not to lift anything heavier than your baby for the first six weeks. You should also avoid any sexual intercourse and exercise for the first six weeks as well.

Incision care

The first shower after your C-section may be a bit nerve-racking. Avoid scrubbing the area or removing any dressings for those first few days. After that, you may continue to shower as usual but avoid scrubbing or applying soap directly on your incision. Although it may seem scary to shower at first, warm water can do wonders for sore breasts and aching muscles. You’re probably lacking sleep, so a shower is going to be your new best friend. As your stitches start to dissolve and after your six-week follow-up appointment, you can shower, shave, and wash as you normally would.

Care down there

Throughout the healing process and c-section recovery process, you’ll experience postpartum bleeding known as lochia. Even though you didn’t give birth vaginally, this will still discharge out of your body. This can continue for several weeks after birth. You’ll be given mesh underwear in the hospital as well as medical pads and ice packs to help with the bleeding and swelling down below. Once at home, you can continue to wear these as long as you need to. You can also use a Perry bottle that you’re given at the hospital as long as you need to at home as well. If you have hemorrhoid pain or itching, witch hazel and ice pads can relieve symptoms. Make sure you continue to use stool softeners once you’re home, as well. The first few bowel movements can be particularly painful after surgery and delivery. If you suffer from any bleeding or discharge from your incision, call your doctor as this could be signs of an infection or tear. Remember to take it easy and enjoy your new baby. Each day will get easier, and you’ll soon feel more like yourself. Congratulations, mama.