I had a scheduled cesarean, or C-section, when I gave birth to my daughter nearly two years ago. She had hung out in breech position long enough for the doctor to advise the procedure and by the time she decided to turn around, we all just decided to stay on track for the surgical delivery. The surgery was more difficult and traumatic than I expected; the recovery, much less difficult. So I thought I’d share my tips—some gleaned from medical experts and some from my own experience—for a safe, (relatively) speedy C-section recovery.
Remember, it’s surgery. Prior to giving birth, I’d never had more than outpatient surgery and I’d never spent a night in the hospital. Honestly, I expected the C-section procedure to be something like opening the oven door and taking out the Thanksgiving turkey. Well, it was slightly more complicated than that. Your doctor is slicing through layers of tissue and muscle, yanking it and various and sundry organs out of the way, making another incision in the uterus and wrestling your baby into the world. Even though you won’t feel any pain, it’s a traumatic process.
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Keep moving. Once you get home from the hospital, you’ve got a baby to take care of! And while you may have lots of help from spouse, family and friends, you still need to get up and move—for your own sake as much as anything. The trick is to move slowly and deliberately. Imagine that you’re doing tai-chi 24/7, and you get the idea. Sudden moves can tug at your incision (and take your breath away, trust me). Still, you can make a simple dinner, take the dog for a short, slow walk (assuming he won’t drag you around) and after a week or so, you can drive to the grocery store or make other short trips.
But be realistic. You have just had major surgery. It’s going to take a while for you to be back in form. Rushing the process by doing too much, whether it’s one too many loads of laundry or attempting to get back to your fitness routine too soon, can have you back in the hospital with ruptured stitches or worse yet, an infection. You know your own body. If it feels like you’re pushing it too hard, you probably are. Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby, and be very careful to avoid sudden movements.
Ask for help. Your friends and family might be happy to help you adjust to life with a new baby and recovery from surgery, but they may be waiting for you to ask. I’m not the shy type, so I asked one of my husband’s aunts, who loves to cook, to make us several portions of lasagna to stick in the freezer. She threw in a few jars of pasta sauce too. My mother-in-law took over laundry duty for the first week, until I felt well enough to go up and down the stairs (the washing machine is up) and fold laundry.
Don’t be a baby! A routine C-section recovery is just not that bad! Yes, you’ll have moments of pain—plenty of them—but curling up in bed and staying there is not the way to recover quickly. Grit your teeth and keep doing what you need to do—within reason—to take care of your baby and yourself. Within a few weeks you’ll start feeling like your old self. At around six weeks post-op, your doctor will probably give you the okay to have sex again and at 12 weeks you should be able to resume your exercise routine. You will recover and after a few months, you’ll look back and it will all seem like no big deal.