How to recover from a caesarean birth

Whether your c-section is planned or emergency surgery, the procedure requires careful post-operative care to manage infection risk and to ensure a smooth recovery for the mother.

Smiling mother with newborn

C-sections involve major abdominal surgery and recovery time can be anywhere from six weeks to several months. Most mothers are up and moving within days of their operation, but how well you recover really depends on your post-operative care regime — as well as your diet. Follow these tips to ensure optimal healing.

Beforehand

If you’re having a planned caesarean, try and do as much preparation by reading up about the procedure and chatting to your doctor to ensure you’re comfortable with what’s involved.

It’s also important to prepare your body with a healthy diet, according to Stephanie Hamilton, a Sydney-based naturopath who specialises in pregnancy and breastfeeding. “You should try to include probiotics in your diet — as well as vitamin C and zinc,” she says. “These are key nutrients as they promote healing and also help to prevent infection.”

Two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables will provide you with the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Munch on a handful of nuts for zinc and include some natural yoghurt in your daily diet for probiotics. A pregnancy multivitamin can help if you feel you aren’t able to get adequate nutrition from diet alone, but always speak to your doctor or midwife before commencing any medication during pregnancy.

Discover what a c-section is really like >>

The first 24–48 hours

It’s likely the first day or two after your operation will be a whirlwind. During this stage, it’s important to follow your doctor’s orders with regard to what’s permitted and monitor yourself for any indications of possible infection (i.e. redness, swelling, pain or odour). Don’t try and get up out of bed; call for your midwife if you need something. Focus on resting and enjoying getting to know your precious new baby. Also, try and keep visits to a minimum.

Your diet

What you eat is fundamental to your recovery, according to Hamilton. “It’s so important for mothers who are recovering from a caesarean to ensure their nutrient levels are optimal,” she says. “A lot of their nutrient stores will go into healing, and if they’re breastfeeding, they need to ensure their breastmilk is good quality, too.”

Bowl of Spinach

A balanced diet containing leafy green vegetables, fruit, dairy and wholegrains will help the body to heal, advises Hamilton. She says protein-rich foods are also important. “Good sources of protein include eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, natural yoghurt and organic poultry.”

Emotional recovery

Most new mothers find that they feel emotional after the birth of their baby. If you had certain expectations of your birth experience that weren’t quite met, you may be feeling upset or disappointed.Baby Bottle

The most important fact to bear in mind is that you and your baby are healthy and well. Try and let go of any negative feelings about your birth by focusing on the positives, like that delicate newborn smell and how lucky you are that your journey as a mother is only just beginning.

It can also help to talk about your feelings, and connecting with other mothers (online or in your mothers’ group) who have had similar birth experiences to you may help.

Old fashioned alarm clock

The next six weeks

Rest — while getting ample rest is important for all new mothers, those who are recovering from a c-section definitely need the extra support to aid their recovery. Avoid taking on too much, limit visits to close friends and family and don’t be afraid to call on others for assistance.

Pain relief — it’s safe to take certain painkillers, but check with your doctor or midwife before starting any medication — particularly if you’re breastfeeding, as anything you take can affect the baby, too.

Wound care — focus on keeping your wound dry and clean, and check it regularly for any signs of infection.

Exercise — you’ll be advised to avoid strenuous exercise, but gentle walks may be recommended by your doctor and can actually help your body to heal, as moving promotes healing and circulation.

Heavy lifting — it’s fine to lift your baby, but don’t lift anything heavier if you can help it. Remember to lift by bending your knees to avoid any extra pressure on your abdominal area.

Driving — women are advised against driving for the six weeks following a caesarean procedure. You may feel like getting out of the house is an impossible task anyway, so send your partner out for anything that involves driving and enjoy snuggling on the couch with your baby instead.

Clothing — thought the days of daggy pregnancy clothes would be over after the birth? Think again! You’ll want to wear loose clothing during these first six weeks, including extra-large undies that avoid touching the area where your scar sits.

More birth info

How to shift that baby weight
How to create a birth plan
Birth choices — obstetrician or midwife?

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