Caesarean birth (these tips are mostly all also applicable to vaginal birth, particularly if you’ve had surgery with episiotomy) after care. It’s really important to be informed about what to expect post-caesarean – something which is often left out of antenatal education. It can feel like otherwise that you’re discharged and left adrift feeling absolutely helpless post major abdominal surgery, with a new small housemate to look after, when you feel like actually you need to sleep for a week to heal and rebuild your strength. You can enhance your recovery with really simple steps, in the first few hours and days, which can set you on the right path.
In these precious first few hours and days, focus on your breath and gently moving as much as you can to maintain healthy circulation and help the gassy belly release – one of the unexpected side effects of abdominal surgery is painful trapped wind, which can sometimes present as shoulder pain. It can be excruciating, and alarming. Always ask your health visitor or midwife/GP if you’re concerned, but know that this is a normal result of being opened up by surgery and the key is to try to breathe through it, and the tips below will help to ease the pain.
You’ll be tender and bruised. Maybe in heart, soul AND body. So be kind to yourself.
🕉 Wound care: please obviously call your midwife/GP if you’re in inordinate amounts of pain, have any fever or if the wound isn’t looking closed. I kept a maternity pad in the fridge, with some drops of tea tree essential oil, and placed it against the wound in my big pants. Keep the wound dry by patting it gently after showers/if you’re sweating. Take arnica tablets – this can be an effective way of helping to reduce bruising. Always read up on homeopathic remedies to make an informed decision about taking homeopathic remedies while breastfeeding.
🕉 Don’t judge yourself. I looked in the mirror and tried to hold in my newly vacant tummy, and nothing happened. It stayed there stoically still, like a water balloon strapped to my front. This is normal. Be kind to yourself. You’re amazing.
🕉 Breathe. Really, properly breathe. You need to wake up your belly to its healing journey. Breathe low, long and full. This will begin to stimulate the conversation between your diaphragm and pelvic floor now that baby has evacuated that space, and encourage blood circulation to the wound area. It also stimulates your healing parasympathetic nervous system – the healing rest, digest, repair system. This will begin to enable your body to soothe, repair, restore. Often we’re in fight-or-flight mode post-birth, with the anxiety and sleep deprivation that new motherhood brings – and even more intense if your abdominal birth was a result of an emergency situation. You need to calm your body and mind like a startled horse. Gently, slowly coax it into softening. Breathing is the way through this. It is also the best way to walk yourself steadily through any post-birth pain, of breastfeeding or wound.
🕉 Sneezing, coughing, laughing will be painful for the first few days and weeks, as that is natural load on your abdominal muscles, which are now tender at the surgery site. If you have any warning, steel yourself by placing a cushion at your belly and holding it there as support when you cough/sneeze/laugh. Try to avoid lifting toddlers for the first week or so after operation, and placing a belly band or maternity pad on your wound site will help buffer your wound against toddler fists and knees.
🕉 Massage: THE most crucial piece of advice for caesarean long term recovery. I still have pain from scar tissue build up, which causes pain and stiffness in my hip. It possibly wouldn’t be so bad if I’d known to massage. Massage massage massage. I’ll do another post devoted to massage. But remember, massage. If in doubt, just massage.
🕉 Drink enough water. Eat enough protein – your tissue and collagen are working their little socks off to heal. Help them by giving them the right fuel. Healing bone broths, chicken soup, have never been more important. If you’re veggie or vegan, look into optimising your protein intake and realise that nutrition plays a vital role in tissue healing.
🕉 Remember, you’re amazing.