Navigating C-section Recovery with Ease

by Brood

Content Warning: This post contains graphic discussions of birth and surgery.

Hello there! I’m Janelle, a registered massage therapist and postpartum doula with a deep passion for supporting birthers after a cesarean. Whether you are planning a surgical birth, had an unplanned cesarean or have had a c-section years ago, I want you to feel empowered and connected to your body after having a cesarean.

The first step to feeling empowered and connected to ourselves is knowledge. To support you in learning, I have written two blog posts, this one is full of c-section recovery tips, next you can click here to read more about the benefits of self massage after a cesarean. If you’re interested in learning more about c-sections and belly births, check out Brood’s guide to c-sections here.

Now let’s dive in!

Whether your cesarean was planned, unplanned or an emergency, the basics of caring for your tummy and scar after the surgery remain the same. Oftentimes these basics are covered by your primary care provider but with the arrival of your little one, it might be easy to forget.

Caring for your abdomen and scar are key points to ensure smooth healing without complications. And remember, the scar is just the tip of the iceberg, which is why we want to take care of our abdomen as well. While this may seem like a lot, over the course of the weeks scar and abdomen care becomes simpler as you heal.

On Cesarean Hygiene
  • Keep the scar and area surrounding clean.
  • Avoid immersing the scar (in a bath for example) taking showers is ok.
  • Clean your scar area daily by letting running water wash over the area. You can also use mild soap and water to wash your wound.
    • Use natural soap and synthetic ingredients, fragrances and dyes.
  • Pat the scar dry with a clean towel.
  • By keeping your scar and the area around it clean and dry, it encourages smooth healing and decreases the chance of infection.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to allow for air circulation around the scar area and yes, even underwear (that is loose)!
On Infection Watch

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge whether your scar is healing properly, so one suggestion is to take photos of it to monitor healing. This can be a helpful way to see how the scar is healing as sometimes it’s hard to see your scar from the top down and easier straight on. Taking a picture is also helpful to see if there are signs of infection (such as increased swelling, redness, oozing or open parts of the wound). 

Felt symptoms of an infection include a feeling of general unwellness, fever, pain (can be local or when peeing), warmth/heat around the scar area, coughing or shortness of breath, swelling or pain in the lower legs.

The above could be signs of an infection or a blood clot and should be treated as soon as possible. Please reach out to your primary care provider, whether that be your midwife, OB or doctor if you have any of the above symptoms alternatively, head to your closest Urgent Care, walk-in clinic, or E.R.

The Importance of Resting

We know that resting or being still can be difficult for most people, but making rest a priority is especially important when you’re recovering from a major abdominal surgery (on top of everything else!). Make rest a priority, especially for the first few weeks. If you can, get support in place to help with household chores, meal prep and heavy lifting. Do the bare minimum or if resting is challenging, do less.

Some habits can start in pregnancy, and then support you through to your recovery. These simple activities can help you feel a sense of control and calm in the postpartum period and in times of great change:

  • Breathing exercises help with core recovery, pelvic floor engagement and have mental health benefits.
  • Pelvic floor exercises often seeking support from a pelvic floor physiotherapist can support in both the preparation for birth and postpartum healing.
    • Even if you have had a cesarean, it’s worth seeking support from a pelvic floor physiotherapist as the pelvic floor is affected by pregnancy and not just by birthing vaginally.
  • Hydration and nutrition a diet that is high in protein and fiber supports healing in postpartum.
  • Sleep or rest as much as you can as it helps with healing. If you have the support, ask someone to take the baby so you can recover. This is the most important part of recovery.
    • Do what makes you feel rested. That might not always be sleep. It might look like a breathwork practice, doing some light movement, reading a book, or taking a shower in the middle of the day.
    • Soaking your scar isn’t recommended in the early weeks, follow your primary care provider’s guidelines on when it is ok to have a bath postoperatively.
Get Moving… but Go Slow

Movement in recovery is extremely important, especially after a cesarean. Movement can help ease gas pains, help you have a bowel movement and can decrease the chance of a blood clot. With that being said, it’s important to go at it slowly. At the beginning, keep it simple by getting up to go to the toilet. While you’re up, take the time to get yourself something to drink. While in bed, you can move your feet, ankles and legs to stay mobile. As the weeks progress, go for slow, gentle walks. 

Compression to your abdomen can be incredibly supportive during the healing process. The application of compression can be by wearing high waisted compression underwear or with a belly band. If you had a belly band in pregnancy this can often be used. Make sure that your belly band is worn with even compression over your lower abdomen and that the compression is from your hips up (instead of compression downwards which can put extra pressure on your pelvic floor). 

Belly bands can be worn right after your c-section and can support you through return to movement. In the later weeks, when you’re baby wearing your little one, wearing a belly band to provide extra support and protection can be extremely helpful. If you’re looking for a belly band, we really like the one from Bellies Inc. Not only does the band fit from pregnancy to postpartum it also includes pelvic floor exercises so you can heal from the inside, out.

Remember, recovery takes time. Scar tissue takes a year, sometimes two to fully heal (even when it’s healed it is still changing! How cool!). So while it may be difficult, time and patience will be the biggest key players in recovery.

There are so many other simple things that can be done to support your recovery! Some products can be used, hydrotherapy (the use of water and/or temperature) that can be applied, exercises and massage. Learn how massaging your abdomen and scar can support the healing process after a c-section, here.

Ready to take a deep dive into c-section recovery? I created The Cesarean Recovery Guide to support you in your recovery. And as someone who is in the Brood universe, enter code BROOD23 at checkout to save 20% off the guide.

If you want to know more about me, you can follow along on Instagram @nurturingthemother.ca. There I share c-section healing tips as well as general motherhood musings. You can also check out www.nurturingthemother.ca for more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Hello! I’m Janelle Fontaine. Registered massage therapist and mama of two young boys. I have a deep passion for supporting birthing folks through massage therapy, postpartum support and online education in the childbearing years. As a care provider both at work and at home, what deeply nourishes me is time spent on my bike – you’ll often find me riding my longtail bike with the two kids in tow or in the garden growing dahlias. I love movement, often choosing to lift weights or dance as a way to feel strong and free. And my favourite way to decompress is a hot cup of tea.

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