In the final part of our c-section special, the sisters talk about recovering from a caesarean
Unfortunately for women who have had a c-section, the recovery is the gritty part. It is major abdominal surgery, and if you hadn’t appreciated this before the operation, you will afterwards. Whenever we talk to women who have had a c-section after a previous vaginal birth, the thing that surprises (and frustrates) them the most is the recovery.
The nurses will encourage you to get out of bed within the first 12 to 24 hours. This might seem impossible, and even slightly cruel, but being mobile early on has been shown to aid recovery. The first time you get out of bed will be painful – you’ll be hunched over and will need someone to support you, help you have a shower and put your clothes on. You’ll quickly realise how important those tummy muscles are – they hurt whenever you use your core – so pretty much every time you move. It will initially be difficult to pick your baby up without help and, although the midwives will do their best to assist you, it is a good idea to have someone with you as much as possible to help with little things.
One unexpected side effect is stomach cramp. This is usually trapped wind and will not last long. Sharp shoulder pain is also a common symptom, and is caused by diaphragm irritation during the operation. The good news is that it gets better very quickly. By day two, most women feel 50% better, and by day three, even better still. By the time you go home around day three, you will still be walking gingerly, and the ride home in the car will be somewhat uncomfortable.
You will be offered painkillers both in the hospital and to take home with you. Please don’t be a hero – if you are in pain, take them! Studies have shown that being pain-free aids recovery. Remember, because you are likely to be more active at home than in the hospital, you might need to take more once you get home, so make sure you are discharged with enough. Beware that some painkillers, particularly those containing codeine, are constipating, so make sure you’re also taking a stool softener at the same time.
If you had a similar operation for anything other than childbirth, you would probably be on bed rest for a couple of weeks. With a caesarean, however, you have a baby to look after and will want to do a lot more than you should. It is really important to take things easy and not to push your body. It might be worth thinking about extra help, be it from family and friends or a professional, if that
is an option.
• Start doing your pelvic floor exercises again as soon as your catheter is out.
• No driving for six weeks – for insurance reasons.
• No lifting anything heavier than your baby for six weeks. This includes your baby in a car seat. It can make long-term complications more likely.
• Start gentle exercise if your doctor is happy after your six-week check, but this does not mean running around the park the day after you are given the green light; take it slow.
• We recommend visiting a women’s health physio to check your healing. She will also advise on exercises to do to regain your strength.