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December 29, 2020 • read
Recovery after c-section
A C-section takes a lot out of you. Not only is it major surgery, but you now have a tiny human depending on you for literally everything. But while it’s hard to take proper care of yourself as a new parent, it’s crucial. If you don’t, you could be setting yourself up for future problems — and we’re not just talking about bad hair days. Here’s everything you need to know for a quick recovery after your C-section.
What is a C-section?
A Cesarean section, also known as a C-section or Cesarean birth is when your baby is delivered through a cut in your abdomen. In Canada, you can choose to have one without a medical reason, but most doctors recommend C-section delivery only if it’s medically necessary. Your doctor may schedule you for one ahead of time if the baby is breech (facing feet first) or if the mother has a pre-existing condition, for example. Alternatively, they may determine during labour that a cesarean is necessary — if the baby goes into distress, for example.
To begin the C-section procedure, an anesthetist gives you an epidural to numb your abdomen. The epidural affects only a specific region so you’ll be awake for the whole procedure. Once the epidural takes effect, the doctor makes an incision on your lower abdomen through which they remove the baby and placenta. After the baby and placenta are out, the doctor closes the incision with stitches. Sometimes – if the baby goes into distress, for example, there isn’t time for an epidural. In these cases, the anesthetist will give you general anesthesia instead which means you won’t be awake for the procedure.
Recovering after your C-section
Delivering your baby via Cesarean typically takes a little longer to recover from than if you deliver vaginally. That’s because the doctor cuts through both your abdomen and your uterus to remove the baby. So while your stitches may start dissolving after a couple of days, it takes much longer to heal internally after a C-section. Internal pain during C-section recovery can last for a while and you might have to take pain medication for one to two weeks after the procedure. But by three weeks after your C-section cramping should subside.
Whether you deliver vaginally or via cesarean, the cardinal rule of postpartum recovery is not to lift anything heavier than your baby for the first six weeks. Unfortunately for them, that also means you can’t lift your toddler after your C-section (no matter how much they whine). Your doctor will examine you at your postpartum checkup six weeks after your C-section to see how you’re healing. If everything looks good, they’ll clear you to resume your normal activities. But even with your doctor’s sign off, keep in mind that your body at six weeks postpartum is still fragile. Try to get as much rest as possible and give yourself a while to ease back into the swing of things. In other words, feel free to put your partner on dinner, dishes and diaper duty!
Potential C-section complications
While complications are possible, C-sections are typically quite safe. One of the major differences between the procedure and a vaginal delivery is that you’ll have to wait a little longer to hold your baby while the doctor stitches you up. Typically, having a C-section also means a longer stay in hospital. This gives your healthcare team a chance to monitor you for any abnormal signs of internal bleeding after your C-section like heavy vaginal bleeding, blurred vision and chills, fast heartbeat and pale complexion.
Once you’re home, keep an eye out for any signs of infection at the wound site such as redness, swelling or discharge from your incision area. As well, while lochia (discharge after pregnancy) can continue for up to six weeks, you generally shouldn’t be bleeding at six weeks postpartum. If anything seems abnormal, contact your doctor or midwife right away.
What’s a VBAC and why should I care?
Once you’ve had a C-section, any future vaginal births are dubbed VBACs (vaginal birth after Cesarean). Having a C-section leaves you with scar tissue on your uterus, and during a VBAC, there’s a risk that the scar from your previous C-section could open, which is called a uterine rupture (terrifying much?!). The chances of having a uterine rupture increase with each C-section. So once you’ve had two, your doctor will consider C-section as the safest way to deliver all future children.
Whether you deliver via C-section or vaginally, the postpartum recovery can be rough. Reaching, lifting and carrying are all going to be harder to do than usual. This is pretty inconvenient considering most newborns want to be chauffeured around in their parents’ arms pretty much constantly. This means that you need help — it takes a village as the saying goes. Try to enlist as much support as possible to make the recovery after your C-section as quick as possible. You’re on duty for the next 18 years — and then some. Take some time to ease into your new role.