It cannot be said enough: A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery. A full recovery comes over a matter of months, not days, and sometimes that recovery can be difficult. So many everyday things, from getting out of bed to comfortably wearing pants, are affected by the surgery as well.
Dr. Victoria Garcia, an OB-GYN from Palmetto General Hospital, says typically, patients are cleared for all activities at their six-week post-op checkup. "Following a cesarean section it is safe to resume your regular activities such as intercourse, exercise, driving, and house chores on or after six weeks," says Garcia.
That said, recovery does come, with time and patience. Moms who've been there say that a positive attitude and the right tricks up their sleeves helped speed their recovery.
Take the meds
You likely will leave the hospital with one or two strong painkillers. Regardless of whether you can withstand period cramps sans Midol or grin and bear headaches without a Tylenol in sight, taking pain medication after delivery is an absolute must. Your abdomen will not just ache; it will hurt at times, and taking pain medication allows you to get moving on recovery without having the pain slow you down. "Take the pain medicine on time, even if you don't think you need it! It helps you manage the pain," says Cathy Hayes, mother of three.
Be patient with your bodily functions
One thing you seldom hear when people talk about c-sections is the impact it can have on your bodily functions. First of all, you and your bladder might not know each other as well at first. For some women, that means having difficulty peeing for the first time after surgery. It can feel like you forgot how to go, but fear not: You will remember (Tip: To help stimulate the right muscles, blow into a straw while sitting on the toilet.)
You also will have to contend with many questions about your ability to pass gas and/or poop, as the nurses assess whether your body is getting back to normal. "Your belly has been pumped full of gases and air during the c-section, so be prepared to take a lot of anti-gas medication and possibly even a suppository so that you can get rid of it. It's a painful and annoying process, but they won't let you leave the hospital until you have gone to the bathroom. In my case, I took a suppository, which was not as bad as it seemed, and was better in minutes. An experienced nurse should offer this to you if you're having trouble going to the bathroom," says Jackie Pobiega, whose 18-month-old son was born via c-section.
In the hours after a cesarean, the last thing on your mind is getting out of the hospital bed. Between the pain of recovery and the fogginess that can accompany the medications, you could just lie there forever -- but don't! Getting up as soon as your medical professionals say it's okay is an important way to make that recovery happen faster. "After my first c-section, the nurses let me lie in bed until the day before I left the hospital. I had a very difficult recovery from that surgery. My second c-section, the nurses made me get out of bed that afternoon (I had my cesarean at 4 a.m.). While it hurt a lot, it made the recovery so much easier," says mom of two Jody Halsted.
Conquer the stairs
Before Hillary Morris had a c-section, a friend peppered her with pointers to help her recovery go more smoothly. Among the pointers was a great tip for tackling stairs, which are often unavoidable. "If stairs are unavoidable (in my case they were), walk up backwards so you are not inclined to stand up or use stomach muscles," says Hillary.
Befriend your pillow
Having lots of pillows around will be a boon for you when you are recovering from a c-section. Hugging the pillow while laughing or coughing will make the muscle motions associated with that much more tolerable. You also can use pillows to prop up baby and yourself. "Bring an extra pillow or two with you to the hospital. You will need a few to keep you still while you sleep (so you don't roll over onto your incision) and a few to place on your belly to keep it braced when you cough, yawn etc. If you plan on nursing, bring another pillow to keep baby up off your belly and closer to your breast," says mom of four Linsey Knerl.
Read more on c-sections: