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Healing after a Caesarean

Congratulations on the birth of your baby! This is an exciting time for you and your family, however you have had major surgery, and the following hints and tips may assist you during this special time and while you are recovering.

Immediately post-caesarean (in hospital)

  • Ask for assistance when you need it! Keep the call button within reach.
  • Raise the bed up with the electric bed raiser whenever you need to feed your baby or if you are getting up. This will reduce strain on your incision site.
  • Take pain medication when you need it. DON’T try to be brave! Pain will limit your healing and reduce your milk flow. It will also decrease your enjoyment of this special time. Some codeine medications can cause constipation, so ask your Doctor for a stool softener if needed. (Straining to use your bowels can cause increased pain at your incision site).
  • Use plenty of pillows to support your incision when coughing, rolling and feeding baby.
  • Walk as soon as you are able (with someone present) and take a shower – you will feel much better despite the effort and it will help prevent blood clots!
  • Keep drinking lots of fluids. This will help flush out drugs from your system, prevent constipation, and keep you moving! Eat as desired.
  • Wear “granny-knickers”! These are large knickers which are much more comfortable than bikini or hipster styles of underwear as the elastic won’t ride down onto the incision site and cause rubbing or irritation. You can also tuck a sanitary pad into the front of them to prevent rubbing on your incision site.
  • Keeping your baby with you when you are awake limits the amount of lifting you will have to do in and out of the crib (and the cuddles are lovely too).
  • Bear in mind that for some women, the C-section will affect the speed of milk coming in. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help from a lactation consultant at your hospital if you are concerned.
  • If you feel up to it, it can be good to request a ‘de-brief’ chat with your Doctor and/or midwife about the circumstances surrounding your caesarean. It is good if Dads or other support people can be present for this too.

    Going home
  • Remember, it takes 6 weeks (minimum) to heal. DON’T try to be superwoman!
  • Ask for help from family/friends, or if finances permit, hiring a post-partum Doula or home-help can be a huge benefit. Ask family to bring meals you can freeze.
  • Try to avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 weeks to minimise strain on your incision and prevent risk of a hernia.
  • If you have older children, encourage them to climb up onto your lap for a cuddle rather than picking them up.
  • Sitting on a straight backed chair rather than a couch or sofa can make it easier to get up and down, and make feeding more comfortable. A telephone book under your feet can also help.
  • Generally, it is advised not to drive for 6 weeks post C-section. Some car insurance companies will not cover you during this time. Best to check if you will be covered.
  • Keep your wound clean and dry. Patting gently with a towel or drying with a hairdryer on low heat can be soothing.
  • It is normal to see a little pink watery fluid draining from your incision, however you need to seek medical advice if the site starts to smell bad, or is more tender, swollen, or redder than usual, if the edges of the incision separate, or you run a fever over 38 degrees. These symptoms could indicate an infection.
  • Once your incision is healed, vitamin E cream or oil can help to soften the scar. It can be good to massage the scar daily for both physical and emotional healing, as some women find this area becomes super-sensitive and gentle touch can help to minimise this sensation.

Emotional Healing

Many women find themselves at some stage after a caesarean feeling down about perhaps not getting the birth experience they imagined. It can help to talk to someone about it, and it is good to talk as soon as the feelings start rather than waiting until they threaten to overwhelm you and the experience of mothering your baby. Birthrites provides a support over the phone or at an informal meeting monthly north and south of the river, or your hospital or child health nurse may have post-partum counsellors available for you to see.

Some women have reported they have found it a healing experience to take a bath with their baby (once the incision is no longer open). The sensation of warmth and togetherness can often lead to a time for emotional feelings to occur which may have not been possible in the surgical or hospital environment.

It is important to acknowledge your feelings, even if they are negative. You need to allow yourself to feel however you feel about the birth that you have experienced. Some women feel a grief for the vaginal birth they did not experience, and despite their joy over the arrival of their child, this can impact on the woman, her family, and the planning of future children, Don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance on working through these feelings so you can focus on enjoying the amazing little person you have created.

Revised 2010 Birthrites: Healing After Caesarean

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