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All throughout pregnancy, I saw horrific c-section recovery stories and other experiences such as post-surgery infections, emergency hysterectomy, scar dehiscence, and less extreme complications like the dreadful c section scar and c section shelf.
Originally, I was preparing for an all-natural vaginal birth. And after seeing all the negative c section experiences and moms who struggled to ever get rid of their c section shelf and minimize scar appearance, I DEFINITELY wanted to steer away from having a c-section.
I also came across a lot of discussions and hate against c section moms. Some of the statements went like, “c-sections are the easy way out”, “you’re not a real mother if you had a c-section”, “you didn’t birth a baby properly if your baby didn’t come out of your birth canal“, and a bunch of other misconceptions about cesarean sections and c-section moms.
After having an unexpected and unplanned cesarean section, I cannot even begin to tell you how ridiculously far off all of those misconceptions about c sections are. It’s ignorant, degrading, and 100% false.
Facts About C-Section Birth
A cesarean section (c-section for short) is a major abdominal surgery typically performed for the safety of the baby. This is the only option for many moms (like myself) after hours and days of being in labor. A complication occurs last minute where the baby’s head is not engaged with the birth canal, the baby is in distress due to x, y, and z, or the mom or baby’s life is in danger.
C-sections are performed to ensure the best possible outcome for mom and baby. And a definition of a mother should not be by the method of birth. Whether their child came into this world via vaginal birth, cesarean section, a surrogate mother, or through an adoption process, a mother is someone who brings their child up with love and affection.
A c section recovery time is often longer than vaginal birth recovery. And the front end of the recovery process is often intense. The healing takes months and if the surgical incision gets infected, it could even take longer. Furthermore, after a major abdominal surgery like a cesarean section, the scar tissue formed increases the complication of future surgeries and the chance of getting a premature hysterectomy years later.
Recovering from a c section is no cakewalk. You use your abdominal muscles (your core) in every single thing you do daily. Let’s also not forget that not only did we have our abdominal muscles cut through. But we got our other surrounding organs mangled around by the surgeon to pull our newborn baby out of us.
It’s definitely a challenge trying to take care of a newborn baby during your c section recovery and toddlers or other children at that.
10 C-Section Recovery Tips
I wanted to share the most important do’s and don’ts after a c section and core c section recovery tips that got me back on my feet and feeling good as soon as possible.
1. Don’t pick at your incision.
The doctor highly recommended not even messing with the incision or derma bond. It’s tempting to begin peeling it off if you’re a picker like I am. But a lot of women’s incisions were getting infected and coming apart due to picking at it.
2. Stay on top of your pain meds.
It’s okay not to feel okay. And it’s definitely okay to ask for help during those first 6 weeks of recovery. The first 6 weeks is a crucial recovery period where you’re going to want to take it easy. Or your incision could get infected or start coming apart.
I stayed on top of my pain medication by setting alarms on my phone (timer for my ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and hydrocodone). The first 2 weeks were the hardest for me. The pain was pretty steady the first week. But the second week, it was on and off. And when it was on, it was excruciating pain (breakthrough pain).
Make sure to take the rotating pain medication when your alarm goes off, even if you’re not in pain at that very moment. Because it will creep up.
3. Eat nutritious meals.
If you want to recover, you need to eat. And I’m not talking about junk food either. Nutritious, whole foods with balanced portions of protein, carbs, and healthy fats are what you need to be feeding your body during the crucial first 6 weeks of recovery. It’s only going to aid in a faster recovery.
Eating high-protein meals is also going to help with weight loss. Protein helps your body recover especially your abdominal muscles that were just cut open and stitched back together. It also helps boost your immune system which will allow you to fight off infection.
4. Take it easy.
The dishes can wait, the house can get cleaned later, the laundry can be held off, and clothes can get folded another day.
Take those first two weeks after your c section to rest, enjoy your newborn baby because the newborn stage flies by. I was able to get up and walk around, do the dishes, put dishes up, care for my newborn, and do light housework after a few days of resting. But I probably didn’t help my c section recovery by doing a lot of bending over, lifting things heavier than my baby, and moving around too much.
Be smart during your recovery and don’t be stubborn (I’m talking to you type A mamas). Resting will only make your recovery go smoother and minimize any complications.
5. Don’t scrub your incision during showers.
Scrubbing your incision in the shower with your loofah is equivalent to picking at it on your living room floor while watching Netflix. Just don’t do it. At least not for the first 6 weeks.
The dermabond or scabby stuff is going to start peeling off when it’s ready. But what you can do is clean the area and make sure to dab it dry with a clean towel. Moisture breeds bacteria, so KEEP IT DRY.
6. Massage the scar after you talk with your doctor.
Massaging the scar tissue helps break up the tissue by mobilizing them. You want to start on the area around the incision first and then move onto the actual scar. But make sure it’s considered fully healed and has no risk of opening. That’s why it’s best to speak to your doctor during your postpartum visit prior to performing cesarean sections scar mobilization.
7. Drink your water.
Water is the best thing you can drink. Hands down. It helps you not only recover from major surgeries like a c section but also helps you lose weight. Read my blog post about water and weight loss and tips on how to increase your daily water intake here.
8. Start applying scar cream.
You might start noticing your scar getting ugly. Like mine got really bumpy, red, purple, irritated-looking, and just nasty before it started looking better. I was a bit worried, to be honest with you.
After I received the green light to massage my scar and apply scar cream, I dug in. I wasted no time creating a routine just for my scar. I did a lot of research on c section scar specific products and to minimize the appearance of the scar. And the Mederma Scar cream was the best one. It also did not disappoint.
It’s a clear gel. And I rub a small amount on my c section scar each night and massage the scar with the gel for about 5 minutes. I purchased a belly bandit and a bunch of other c section products. And literally didn’t use anything else other than this scar cream.
9. Start working out.
It should be around 4 to 6 weeks when your OB gives you the green light to start working out. That doesn’t mean go balls to the wall with it.
Take it slow. Do a 20 minute slow and steady workout at the beginning and work your way up. I felt good enough to walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes a day around 4 weeks postpartum. But I was active before and during pregnancy. Know your limitations and be safe in every exercise you do.
If you think you have diastasis recti, I would do a self-check or go to an expert. A diastasis recti is when there’s a gap between your left and right abdominal muscles creating a protruding round belly. In this case, do not perform any ab exercises until you have researched the safe way to do ab exercises. You can damage your abdominal muscles worse by doing certain ab exercises.
10. Minimize stress.
Stressing over things that aren’t in your control like your body’s recovery process is pointless. It’s only going to worsen your mental state.
“More stress= more cortisol= higher appetite for junk food= more belly fat”.Dr. Shawn M. Talbott, PhD
C-Section Recovery Week By Week (Month By Month)
After over 17 hours of labor pains and contractions, being dilated to 9cm, and have my water broken for 10 hours, I was told my daughter was not in a favorable position for a vaginal birth. Her heart rate was dropping and the doctor needed my consent for a cesarean section. Read more about my birth story The Ultimate Midwives Brew Experience And Timeline Of Birth.
Fast forward to the following morning and I finally took a look at my c section incision. My belly was still really big and swollen, I was so sore I could barely lean myself forward from the hospital bed, and I just felt powerless. Like I had zero control over anything that happened the day before.
And honestly, when it finally hit me that I had a huge incision across my abdomen, I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t want my husband to look at me. And I just felt ashamed of my body. I felt like my body had let me down when in all reality I let my postpartum body down. I should have nourished, loved, and appreciated my body for everything she went through to get my baby out safely.
Less Than 24 Hours Post C Section Surgery
The area around the incision was numb and it was a weird sensation not being able to “feel” it. The doctor used a glue called derma bond to keep my incision together that would eventually peel off.
4 Days Postpartum
I was 4 days postpartum here weighing about 140lbs. Pre-pregnancy weight I was 115lbs and 151lbs when I got admitted to the hospital.
7 Days Postpartum
9 Days Postpartum
13 Days Postpartum
23 Days Postpartum
4 Weeks Postpartum
The glue was still stuck on my skin and even when I was tempted to try and peel it off, I couldn’t grab the glue residue. It was that stuck to my skin.
7 Weeks And 6 Days Postpartum
19 Weeks And 1 Day Postpartum
26 Weeks Postpartum
This is around the time I noticed my c section scar darken and looked like it wasn’t going to rip open randomly.
36 Weeks Postpartum
10 Months And 1 Week Postpartum
11 Months And 18 Days
C Section Recovery Kit
These are a few items you might want to invest in that really helped me throughout my c section recovery process.
A heating pad was a must. I put it on my lower back, side, or tummy to help ease the pain and discomfort.
With all of the pain medications you’ll be taking along with having your organs displaced, you’re going to be all kinds of backed up. So this stool softener is also a must.
And when Colace wasn’t enough for me. I had to go up to the next level and get the bad boy, Milk of Magnesia. It’s got a super chalky type texture. But man Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia was my best friend throughout the postpartum period. I had the worst hemorrhoids from straining. It was awful. And then this medication really helped my bowel movements going naturally.
I mentioned this earlier, but Mederma Scar Cream was the best thing for my scar healing. And the texture of this cream (gel-like) made it more comfortable for me to touch my scar to massage and break up the scar tissue.
Don’t be so hard on yourself to the point of self-shaming. Remind yourself that it took 9 months to grow a baby and to give yourself 9 months to shed the baby weight. And don’t get discouraged when you see other moms on social media posting pictures of their flat tummies right after they had a baby. We are all different with unique biological makeup.
The same concept goes for our c section scar. No two c section scars are cut exactly the same. And I wish I appreciated my body and scar from the very beginning. Because it’s what brought my baby out safely and also kept me alive and safe in the process.