April is Caesarean Awareness Month and with 1 in 4 pregnant women in the UK having a caesarean birth, we wanted to share some tips that may help make recovery a little easier for some women.
This week Mamamade have teamed up with Clare Bourne, a north London-based women's health physio who has shared with us some tips for recovery after a caesarean birth!
A C-section is major abdominal surgery that takes a huge physical and emotional toll on new mothers. It's important for new mums to remember that everyone's experience of birth, the surgery and the healing process is different, so everyone will have their own recovery timeline and emotions that go with this.
Here are Clare's top tips for recovering after a caesarean birth.
C-Section Recovery Tips
Early mobilisation is usually recommended after a C-section. We know this sounds scary, but getting up and walking around is actually helpful for managing the swelling and therefore the pain! So if you have your baby in the morning try and get up that afternoon for a short walk with guidance from your medical team.
But also take it easy...
I know this may seem contradictory to the above, but it's important to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Once you're home, pottering around the house is usually enough movement for the first few days. As the days and weeks go on you will feel more confident to walk further distances but take it steady and do listen to how your body is feeling. It is likely to tell you if you have done too much. Take it easy (although it is easier said than done with a newborn!).
Remember also that if you're taking anti-inflammatories they may mask your symptoms, so take it easy. If you overdo it too soon, you'll likely feel more pain later when the medication wears off!
Use your arms to get up
If you're lying down and need to get up, roll onto your side and push your body up with your arms, as you would have done towards the end of pregnancy. This will help reduce abdominal pain by taking pressure off your core.
Support your scar
Laughing, coughing and sneezing can be super painful post C-section. Have a blanket or towel to hand for when you need to do any of these. You can use this to apply pressure to your scar, which will help to support the wound and reduce pain.
Pillows are your friend
Pop a pillow under your knees if you are lying on your back or under your tummy if you're lying on your side to prevent any pulling or dragging on the scar in the early days.
If you need to go, then go
Due to pain meds, post C-section constipation is very real. Trapped wind can often be more painful than the scar after a C-section. Movement, eating a diet that's high in fibre, staying hydrated and drinking peppermint tea can help with this. If you feel the urge to go for a poo, don't put it off.
Take the meds if you need them
Keep taking pain relief (usually ibuprofen or paracetamol if you're breastfeeding) for as long as you need them. This can sometimes be for a few weeks, try not to worry about it.
Avoid (or minimise) heavy lifting
The advice is to try not to lift anything heavier than your baby for around 6 weeks. Granted this is not so easy if you have older children or have to lift car seats, but try to stick to this rule as much as you can.
Reconnect with your pelvic floor muscles
Yes, no matter how you birth your baby, you'll still need to do your pelvic floor exercises (sorry!). You still spent 9 months carrying a baby, which puts a large amount of pressure on these muscles and which can lead to them weakening and lengthening, so we need to give them some TLC.
You can start doing this once your catheter is out and you've done your first wee. Think about the cue hold wind and then let go. If you try and do a few of these with each feed you can slowly build up the habit. Remember, relaxing is as important as squeezing when it comes to exercising your pelvic floor!
Accept offers for help if you need it
Whether it's your first birth of your third, the newborn days are exhausting, and you'll likely be very sore and tired after a caesarean birth. It's usually wise to accept all the help you can get, especially if you have an older child. Planning childcare in advance or hiring a postnatal doula if you have no help can be a really good idea.
Massage your scar
Most women who've had a caesarean birth haven't been told about scar massage, but it can be extremely helpful. I recommend scar massage after you've given it 6 weeks to heal and there's no scab.
The benefits of scar massage include:
- Improved sensation and reduced numbness
- Reduced swelling
- Reduced muscle restriction
- Reduced tugging
- Help with overhang
- Reconnect with your body
If you're thinking about trying scar massage post-C-section, please be aware that for some this can be triggering and bring back emotional memories of trauma, particularly for those who had a traumatic or emergency caesarean birth. If you are struggling with this, then please reach out for help.
When can I start driving again after a C-section?
It's important to check with your insurance provider as policies around this may vary, but most women will usually be able to return to the wheel somewhere between 4-6 weeks after a caesarean birth. For safety reasons, you'll need to be able to do and emergency stop and wear a seatbelt comfortably.
When can I start exercising after a caesarean birth?
Some deep core engagement, pelvic floor exercises and walking can be helpful and are safe for most women in the first six weeks after a caesarean birth.
In regards to exercise such as cycling, yoga and swimming, 6 weeks is usually considered the minimum amount of time you want to give your body to heal, however while this will feel right for some, for many women recovering from a C-section this is likely to feel too soon.
It's important to pay attention to what your body is telling you, and your scar area will be a good indicator of what's right for your body. Bear in mind that 6 weeks does not mark the end of recovery, as studies have shown that the uterine tissue is still remodelling at this point and there will be changes to the abdominal connective tissue. If you experience any pain or swelling around the scar that causes you concern, or any pelvic floor symptoms such as incontinence or prolapse, then speak to your doctor.
Like after any birth, it's important to start with low impact exercise, such as pilates, swimming, cycling, walking, squats, lunges and build up slowly. Don't try to go straight back into your pre-baby routine straight away!
ABOUT CLARE BOURNE
Clare Bourne is a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist based in London and a Mum of 2. One of her biggest passions is helping women enjoy their pregnancy, feeling strong and understanding their bodies and preparing them for birth. She also loves to support mums recover after birth and return to exercise and what they love symptom free. She can be found @clarebournephysio and to find out more about Clare and her services check out her website www.clare-bourne.com