About one-third of all US births are delivered by a Cesarean section and in the UK it’s approximately one-quarter. Are you surprised by those stats? The growth rate of C-sections has rapidly increased over the last few decades and since 1990 reports indicate that the rates have tripled.
Whether you are electing to have a C-section or if it happens as an emergency, you deserve to feel supported and know what to expect once you go home. However, we have discovered that so many women are not prepared for what the C-section recovery process involves. If you’ve been to an antenatal class, you’ll know that they are primarily focused on vaginal deliveries and the consequent recovery. However, C-sections are more invasive and often entail a longer road to recovery. As they are becoming increasingly common we need to prepare women for what’s to come. And this all begs the question, why aren’t C-sections discussed more often?
We think the stigma that continues to shroud C-sections limits the conversation around the topic. At the end of the day, the best way to give birth is the way where both mom and baby are as healthy and happy as possible. Sometimes that is a vaginal, natural birth. Sometimes it involves an epidural. Sometimes it involves a C-section. Every pregnancy, every baby, and every female body is different, and that leads to so many different birth stories. At Baby2Body, we’re here to meet you exactly where you are, and if you’ve had a C-section or have one planned we want you to feel as prepared for what to expect when you go home.
From poling our audience, we’ve discovered that most of the key recovery aspects (such as not lifting and not driving) are known, but it’s the smaller anecdotal points from personal experience that are not publicly shared. For women having a first-time C-section, those anecdotes can go a long way in helping with preparedness and confidence in going home with baby.
So we’ve pulled together some facts and feedback from our audience on things you may not know about C-Section Recovery, but absolutely should.
9 Things No One Tells You About C-Section Recovery
1. There will be blood
Although you haven’t had a vaginal delivery you will still experience bleeding after birth. Many women are often surprised by this. It can be less bleeding with a planned C-Section but if you labored and then experienced an emergency Cesarean you can bleed just as much as with a vaginal delivery.
2. It’s going to feel frustrating at times
After a C-section, new mothers often struggle with stress, they must deal with caring for their newborn alongside caring for the painful incision scar and being far less mobile than if they’d had a vaginal delivery. It can make things as simple as getting out of bed very difficult and this frustration added to fluctuating postpartum hormones can be challenging to manage. Being aware of how limited your mobility will be in those first few weeks can help you prepare ahead of time, and get the support you need from your partner, family, or close friends.
3. You might need help feeding baby
Whether you are doing breast or bottle, feeding your baby is a whole lot harder after a C-Section. You will require much more support to lift your baby, and even getting up from a chair is surprisingly hard and a little painful. Remember, the muscles that support your abdomen were separated during your C-section, so you won’t have that abdominal strength to support you. Getting your partner or other family involved is going to be critical to your physical and emotional wellbeing.
4. Trapped gas is really common (and painful)
This is one side effect that isn’t talked about enough, but gas pains after a c section can be excruciating. They will pass within about a week but it can feel like you have a huge amount of air moving around your middle like a big balloon while everything settles back down after the interference of surgery.
5. You may experience numbness
Loss of feeling near the incision is a side effect that many women experience after a C-Section. It’s because small nerves are severed during surgery and it takes time for them to regrow, usually within several months but it can take longer. It’s a strange feeling but one that should pass. However, if you are still experiencing persistent numbness months after your operation then you should seek advice from your healthcare professional.
6. You want to be careful when coughing, sneezing, or laughing
You will find any of the above difficult and painful in the first few days after your C-Section, as these daily actions use your abdominal muscles (that have been split open) and will make you feel like you are straining your incision wound. It’s not a pleasant sensation, but you can help by having a pillow or rolled-up towel nearby so if you feel like you might sneeze or cough then hold the pillow firmly on your scar area to support it as you do so.
7. You should know about “The Shelf”
Sometimes referred to as the pooch, this is where the skin above your C-Section scar hangs over creating a “shelf”. You will notice it while your tummy returns to normal after birth but some women continue to have it long after birth. The skin around the scar is often pulled much tighter than the looser skin above it which is why the shelf can occur.
8. Your scar can look uneven
While you might imagine you’re going to have a central and symmetrical scar, this is not always the case. It can be cut higher on one side compared to the other and the scar tissue can be thicker in places. It depends on how your baby was lying and how the scar was closed at the time of surgery. In general, a C-section scar will fade and look much better within 2 weeks, but full healing can take up to 3 months. If you do have thicker areas of scar tissue that bother you then it could be worthwhile seeking help from a scar massage specialist.
9. There can be long-term side effects
Some women do experience symptoms related to their C-section scar long after the operation. Some women feel pain, restriction, or a pulling sensation on or around their scar months or even years after surgery. This is normally due to the build-up of scar tissue which can stick to muscles or even organs and cause pain. Sometimes that scar tissue pain can present as hip or lower back pain, shoulder pain or tension, headaches, or painful periods. If you are experiencing pain long after your C-Section we always advise you to seek advice; and similar to the suggestion above, you may want to seek a specialist in C-Section massage, which can help alleviate these problems.
Do you have more questions about C-section recovery? If you’ve had a C-section, what do you wish you were told beforehand to help you feel more prepared? Let us know in the comments below!
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