Self-Care After A C-Section
By Ayesha Siddiqua
Have you had a C-Section? Are you having one with your present pregnancy… or you know someone who is?
It doesn’t matter how you ended up with having to be cut than to push your baby into this world, but Alhamdulillah, she is here. You are both healthy and safe. Congratulations. May the Almighty give you more Barakah.
But, of all the dreams we have of holding our newborns, a raw scar was never a part of it. It doesn’t matter if you had known all along that it would be a cesarean or if you had no choice but to deliver this way. The truth is, there is a wound and you need to nurse it. Couple that with postpartum pains and a baby to care for and we have new moms who get overwhelmed even before they start. If you don’t have much support, it can get very challenging.
You may have the best medical treatment in the world but you still need to take care of yourself. As mothers, we forget that, we even feel guilty when take care of ourselves. When you have a baby, especially the first few weeks, a mother needs to put aside those feelings of guilt and understand that this is for the long run. This ‘self-care’ is so that you can be a better mom, a better wife and a healthier you.
Here are some ways to get yourself comfortable after a Cesarean section and speed up your recovery at the same time.
The first day is the worst, you’ve already had surgery and uterine contractions, common in normal as well as cesarean delivery, make pain intolerable. Your doctor will provide you with pain killers that can be safely administered but sometimes even those are not enough. The best thing that you can do is sleep.
It is better to limit your visitors on the first day, let someone else take care of the baby. In the first three days, it may be difficult for you to sit up, hold or feed the baby. Don’t force yourself because the baby too needs his/her sleep and rest. They don’t feed much in the first 3-5 days anyway but when they do require your attention from the sixth day onwards, you will be at home and you will need all the energy you can muster.
Take your medicines
Three to five days after your delivery, you’ll be sent home and with a good number of medications. You will be given pain killers for the pain; iron, if you are anemic; calcium to build you up and antibiotics. Take them all, at the right time everyday till your doctor tells you that it is safe to stop.
Smart tip: Keep a chart with your medications to mark morning, noon and evening. New moms have a very absent mind!
Keep your incision clean
Your dressing will be removed 3-5 days after surgery and you will be sent home without a plaster on your incision. Even though your doctor felt it safe to remove the plaster, it doesn’t mean that you’re safe from infections.
Protect your incision from water for a week more and clean it twice a day with alcohol swabs. Be alert about any changes in colour, feel or allergy to medications. If you notice any fluid oozing out or if you itch in your incision call your doctor immediately.
Rest as much as possible. I know how exciting it is to be a new mother. You have a new bundle of responsibility and you just can’t wait to get started! Take it slowly because you have had surgery. It may not seem like much because after the third day, pain subsides and the incision doesn’t hurt as much. It doesn’t mean you don’t have anything there!
Try to lie down whenever you can. Get your sleep because with a new baby, you will be getting very less. If you also have older children in the house then it gets even worse. Fatigue builds up and when that happens, your immune system goes down and you can fall sick. Also, fatigue and lack of sleep are what kick that ball to roll towards Post-partum Depression.
Smart tip: Accept help if someone offers it. If nobody does, don’t be ashamed in asking for it yourself. People usually feel so much empathy, love and care towards a new mom.
Sometimes, the only reason we don’t have help is because we weren’t bold enough to ask. In nuclear families learn to lean on your husband. Yes, they might be tired too, with the baby wailing all the time but you can work around it. Try working in shifts. Go to bed early. Whatever will make you catch up on that sleep is okay. In the early days, first time or 6th time mom, we all juggle with finding the right pattern to work with.
Lie, sit and stand straight
Women, who have had a C-section, in the first few days, tend to hunch over due to pain. Afterwards, while they are feeding their baby without proper support, they slouch, giving themselves back aches and later that mommy ‘hunchback’.
The main reason, why you should keep your spine straight, is because of the incision. The skin around your incision is coming together. If you stay hunched over, your skin will heal in that manner. Later on, when you do try to straighten up, there will be stretching at the site. To avoid this, always sit straight with a pillow under your baby while feeding.
Try to sit in an armchair or somewhere comfortable when nursing your baby. At night, try to put a couple of pillows behind you and one on your lap to position your baby while feeding. While sleeping, if your back aches, try sleeping without a pillow. If you have had spinal anesthesia, this is the way to sleep for the first three weeks: without a pillow.
The first thirty six hours after your surgery with a spinal anesthesia, your nurses will advise you to not move your spine and lay as straight as possible. Do take their advice because this can prevent injury to your spine.
Wear a belt
From the second week of delivery onwards, it is safe to wear a belt. Check with your doctor first because he/she can advise you better. If your doctor gives you the green signal, get a comfortable postpartum belt and put it on every morning, as soon as you get out of bed. This will help you keep straight, support your incision and also keep that back ache at bay.
Smart tip: You can also wear figure wear or body wear just make sure it isn’t a very snug fit. It should support you yet keep you comfortable.
Ask for them if your doctor hasn’t prescribed them already. You need multivitamins to keep those aches and fatigue away. You also need that iron and calcium.
Take a laxative
Most doctors don’t prescribe it and if yours is one of them, then ask for it. Usually most abdominal surgeries cause constipation. The buildup of gas in your abdomen can push against the incision from the inside, causing you not just pain but also a bloated stomach. In the long run, this will prevent your belly from shrinking back into shape.
You should avoid gassy foods at all times postpartum and even more so if you are feeding your baby.
Drink milk and have some protein
You need calcium and you need energy. Remember how you were advised to drink a glass of milk at the end of the day, through your pregnancy, for a healthy baby? You need those calories now too, to feed the baby and to keep yourself strong. A boiled egg is also a great and quick energy booster.
Drink more water and eat healthy
After birth, you will notice that you sweat a lot. You are losing out on vital electrolytes in the process, so make sure you eat a balanced diet to make up for the loss. You will need more than eight glasses of water now more if you are nursing too.
Smart tip: Drink a glass of water every time before you feed the baby.
Do NOT exercise
No matter what people say, do not exercise. This is not the time to think about weight loss. With or without exercise, our bodies tend to lose most of that pregnancy weight. After birthing, your muscles that had been stretched during pregnancy are coming back together, you will stress them by exercising. This can give you back aches and Diastasis Rectii as well.
Postpartum is the time to rest and give your body the chance to heal. Walking a few minutes is okay. So is doing your kegels but anything more than that, if it is making you tired avoid it.
These are a few tips that have helped me after I brought my babies into this world. Irrespective of whether you had a C-section or a normal delivery, all moms should take care of themselves. You need to look after yourself because, no matter how much care your family or friends give you, the only care that will count is when you treat yourself to the best love that you can get: self-love.
About the Author:
Ayesha Siddiqua is a mother of four. She writes about Positive Parenting and Productive Living at Words n Needles.