Care and Recovery After a Caesarean Birth.
You have a brand-new baby — and you also just had surgery. Whether you knew you would have a caesarean birth or not, dealing with both at the same time can be rough. Here are some helpful tips to get your recovery and parenting journey off to a great start.
Keep on top of the pain medication!
Expect the caesarean incision to hurt for a while. The medicine used in the epidural/spinal ease pain immediately after birth. After they wear off, you’ll be given oral anti-inflammatory medication or suppositories. There are options for these medications that don’t interfere with breastfeeding, so take them. If you can keep pain at bay, it’s unlikely to get out of control. But if you let it go, it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. It is important to mind yourself during your recovery.
Many new mothers get tummy cramps after birth. These are called "after pains" and are similar to early contractions. They are your uterus’s way of shrinking to its original size. Sometimes having that incision will make it more intense for you. Also know that breastfeeding can trigger those cramps and make them feel a little more intense. As crazy as it sounds, this is actually a positive thing! Breastfeeding releases oxytocin which will assist your uterus to shrink back down the way nature intended. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you’re having severe pain or other problems breastfeeding. Or remember your doula is always at the other end of the phone.
Move at your own pace!
You probably won't feel up to walking the room rocking your new baby straight away after birth, but you should be able to get out of bed and walk around within a day. You obviously have to wait for the epidural or spinal medications to wear off fully but you also may need extra time to regain your energy. Once the catheter is removed (it emptied your bladder so it wouldn’t be damaged during delivery), you’ll be able to get out of bed. Take those first few days at your own pace (often similar to a 100 year old tortoise).
Moving around allows normal body functions to get back to normal, as well as decreasing the chance of complications from your surgery. For example, walking even small amounts helps to avoid constipation. It can also lower the risk factor of forming a blood clot. Plus as hard as it seems, you will feel better if you go and brush your teeth or take a shower. Slowly and with help!
Of course, you’re not expected to get up and go for a 10k run anytime soon but it is recommended to gradually increase the amount of activity you do from around two weeks postpartum. That can mean starting by walking around the garden and gradually going longer distances and becoming more active. Increase the intensity around six weeks postpartum. By that time, you will be due your 6 week check with your GP, who will let you know if you are ok to drive and answer any questions you have. Take it at your own pace, follow what your body is telling you.
Get help lifting baby
I know - All you want to do is lift that gorgeous baby up and cuddle her, but you’re always better to ask for help. It could be painful or difficult shortly after surgery. This is normal, and pain medication, as well as a hand from your partner, doula or a nurse, will help. Lifting a baby out of the crib may be a challenge, but sitting and holding a baby in your bed or a chair and nursing isn’t. So go ahead and breastfeed your baby, but ask for assistance from the nurses or your partner during your hospital stay.
Eat lots of fibre
Constipation can be an issue for women after caesarean birth. Gas also gets backed up. This can be uncomfortable in the obvious ways but in surprising ones as well, like shoulder pain. If your bowels are distended, they can irritate the diaphragm, and that can be a referred pain that goes to the shoulders.
Don't be shy, speak to your care provider about laxatives and anti-gas meds if required. Remember to eat fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and move around as much as possible. And don’t be shy — let that gas pass.
Care for your incision
In the shower, let the water run on the wound (don’t scrub). Try not to use soap on the area. Once you are done you can pat it dry. If your skin folds over the incision, put a cloth pad on it to keep it from getting sweaty. Your nurse will check it regularly to make sure everything is healing well and may put a dressing on for protection.
Look out for signs of infection, if any develop call your care provider:
Skin around the incision turns red
Oozing green or pus-coloured liquid
Incision becomes hard or painful
Self care is vital!
So now you are a mam with a round-the-clock new responsibility. It can be easy to get distracted with your adorable new baby and push your body too far. It is important for both you and baby that you recover quickly. You can help speed recovery by eating a balanced diet, getting as much rest as you can and start gentle exercising once you get the go-ahead from your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can get some extra sleep, take a long shower or eat a full meal. (see my blog on ‘Self Care’)
I wish you the best of luck with your birth experience.
Doula Jen x
CO-OWNER DoulaCare Ireland