Last Updated: November 27, 2018
C Section recovery can be challenging but there are ways to speed healing and reduce c-section pain. Here are some facts about c section recovery and how to speed healing and increase comfort after cesarean surgery. There is also helpful information on c section scar healing and treatment. Written and contributed content from medical profession, Catherine Brooks, inventor of C-Panty.
Like any new mother, you’ll probably feel both euphoric about and overwhelmed by the new person in your arms. But you’ll also be recovering from major abdominal surgery while dealing with typical postpartum issues such as engorged breasts, mood swings, and vaginal discharge.
C-section patients typically stay in the hospital for two to four days before going home. But your c-section recovery will be measured in weeks, not days, so you’ll need help taking care of yourself and your new baby. What’s more, if you have other children, they may be feeling needy after you’ve been away from them for a few days – to say nothing of the fact that you’re returning home with a new baby! Plan to get all the help you can.
You may feel numbness and soreness at the incision site, and the c section scar will be slightly raised, puffy, and darker than your natural skin tone. Your doctor will come by daily to see how you’re doing and check that the wound is healing properly.
Anything that puts pressure on the abdominal area will probably be painful at first, but you’ll feel a bit better day-by-day. Be sure to use your hands or a pillow to support your incision when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.
Your nurse will come by every few hours at first to check on you and help you. She’ll take your vital signs, feel your belly to make sure your uterus is firm, and assess the amount of vaginal bleeding. Like any woman who just delivered a baby, you’ll have a vaginal discharge called lochia, which consists of blood, bacteria, and sloughed-off tissue from the lining of your uterus. For the first few days, this discharge will be bright red.
Your nurse will also instruct you on how to cough or do deep breathing exercises to expand your lungs and clear them of any accumulated fluid, which is particularly important if you’ve had general anesthesia. This will reduce the risk of pneumonia.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to drink fluids – and start eating a light diet if you feel like it – within six to eight hours after your surgery. In some cases, though, your doctor may recommend waiting longer before eating.
You might have some gas pain and bloating during the first two days. Gas tends to build up because the intestines are sluggish after surgery and anesthesia. Getting up and moving around will help your digestive system get going again. Though it may feel painful at first, walking and moving slowly will help your recovery.
You will be encouraged to get out of bed at least a couple of times the day after surgery – or even the day of surgery – to walk. (Do not, however, attempt to get up by yourself. The nurse should be at your side the first few times.) In the meantime, get the blood going in your legs by wiggling your feet, rotating your ankles, and moving and stretching your legs.
Just walking to the bathroom may seem impossible at first, but moving around is important for your c-section recovery. It will help your circulation and make it much less likely that you’ll develop blood clots. What’s more, it will make your bowels less sluggish, which will help you feel a whole lot more comfortable a lot sooner.
For these reasons, you’ll be encouraged to walk each day. Try to take your walks a short time after you’ve taken pain medication, when you’re likely to feel more comfortable.
It’s also important to get to the bathroom to urinate regularly. A full bladder makes it harder for the uterus to stay contracted and increases pressure on the wound.
You need to wait about 1-2 weeks to wear C-Panty or you can cover the silicone panel with a pad or panty liner and begin use as tolerated. You need to cover the incision area with a panty liner until your incision is completely healed. As with any post-surgical product, get your doctor’s ok before using.
Expect to need help – and lots of it – once you get home. If nobody offers, ask for support from your partner, parents, in-laws, and friends. If you’re worried that you may not have enough support, hire paid help if you can afford it. Lining up meals from friends is a great way to remove stress and there are some good websites where people can sign up such as http://www.mealtrain.com/ or mealbaby.com
You’ll likely be given a prescription for more painkillers and a stool softener before you leave the hospital. You may need prescription painkillers for up to a week after surgery, gradually transitioning to over-the-counter pain relievers. (If you’re breastfeeding, don’t take aspirin or drugs containing acetylsalicylic acid.)
Drink plenty of fluids to help you avoid constipation. Your incision will likely feel better day-by-day, quite noticeably so after several days, though it may continue to be tender for several weeks.
Call your caregiver if you have signs of an infection, including:
There are two stages to c-section healing – internal (inside) and external (outside). During a c-section, two incisions are made – one to the outer abdomen, and another to the uterus itself. After delivery, both the uterus and abdomen will receive stitches. The internal stitches on the uterus will dissolve after a few days. The uterus can take longer to heal than the external stitches, so make sure to be careful even after your external incision is fully healed! You may still be healing inside from your c-section even if you’re not experiencing any pain or discomfort, so avoid direct pressure (like having your new baby stand or sit on the incision site) for several months after the delivery.
Some mothers report taking up to 9 months for their internal incisions to heal fully, so make sure to avoid doing anything that may slow your internal healing. The gentle compression and added support of C-Panty can help to protect your internal incision from tearing or re-opening, and can reduce the time it takes for your c-section to heal inside.
During the c-section itself, you’ll be given anesthesia (usually an epidural or spinal block), so you’ll be completely numb during the procedure. However, once the anesthesia wears off, you may experience pain for up to two weeks. Your doctor will typically prescribe pain medications to help prevent you from hurting too badly and to help control swelling, so make sure to take them regularly. C Panty compression panties, combined with the anti-inflammatory medicines prescribed by your doctor, can greatly reduce swelling after the delivery, reducing pain and allowing your body to heal more quickly and with fewer complications.
Most mothers report reduced pain 3-4 days after the procedure, although it takes approximately six weeks for pain to stop completely. However, each mother heals at a different rate, so some mothers report being pain-free only a few days after the procedure, while others may experience discomfort for up to eight weeks. In a randomized controlled clinical trial, Drs. Chiefetz, Lucy, Overend, et al. found that abdominal surgery patients that used abdominal compression, such as that provided by C panty compression panties, experienced less pain than patients who did not use compression. Abdominal compression also helps new mothers get back on their feet more quickly – that same study found that patients using compression were able to walk significantly further and reported a more positive experience throughout the healing process.
YOUR C-SECTION INCISION WILL CONTINUE TO MATURE FOR UP TO 1 YEAR AFTER SURGERY.
Although most of us feel much better before then, remember that a gentle c-section recovery curve exists for quite some time so some patience may be in order. Follow your MD’s directions for lifting and tasks!!
C-Section Scar Recovery Timeline
|Week 1: Inflammatory Stage||Active phase where cellular “workers” rush into the area to begin c section recovery. This is where you really feel that you had surgery!|
|Month 1-3: Proliferation Stage||Initial rebuilding period. New collagen and capillaries form. Swelling may still be fairly active. These are the days that you feel your c section recovery progressing but still need to take it pretty easy!|
|Up to Year 1: Remodeling Stage||Remodeling Stage: “Finish carpenters” are tidying up. Collagen has reformed, the c section scar is maturing. This is where you feel better and better, but have days where you still remember that you had surgery. Many moms report c section recovery leaps at 3 months and 6 months. Common complaints at this time in the c section recovery phase are itching or occasional soreness around the scar after active days. Those with keloids or symptomatic scars can have a longer remodeling period.|
C-Panty is washable as a delicate for a year to encompass the full wound healing stages. Wearing C-Panty throughout your full c section recovery (up to 12 months) can help you achieve the best results.
Compression, c section scar massage and silicone therapy are three natural, non-surgical ways to minimize the c-scar’s appearance. Silicone therapy, along with minimizing appearance and scar size, also helps reduce itching, burning and redness (this is why we have it in our panties!) If you have an especially ropey, thick or sensitive scar you can try scar massage as well, but please get your MDs approval first.
Only begin c section scar massage after full wound closure with no scab remaining.
IT TAKES 6 WEEKS FOR A UTERUS TO RETURN TO PRE-PREGNANCY SIZE.
Since a C-section entails an incision in the uterus and your clothing and intimates rest there, you have good reason to feel that your underwear and pant waistbands feel uncomfortable even after the c-section incision is closed.
C-Panty’s waistband is non-elastic and slightly fluted to avoid pressure and discomfort from traditional waistbands. (Yes moms, you can toss the mesh panties! No more digging waistbands!)
C-Panty helps shrink your uterus to aid in flattening your belly faster.
Clinically, post-surgical compression is often recommended to support weakened tissues and control swelling.. Compression for a loose post-partum belly and compression for surgical c section recovery differ. Tummy control panties and abdominal binders provide support only for the abdominal muscles. For many moms that undergo a c-section, the support is too high and often too strong to be comfortable for an incision located lower in the torso at the uterus. Post-surgical compression should be localized to the c-section incision with the most compression focused at the surgical site so give weakened tissue the most support during c section recovery. For comfortable abdominal support, our Tummy Cut will slim the post baby belly but also focus on the c-section incision area.
C-Panty’s compression is exclusively designed to cover to the Pfannensteil (C-Section) incision area to help your c section recovery be faster and more comfortable.
TISSUE CHANGES AND BODY TYPE (AND LUCK!) CAN AVOID THE DREADED C-SHELF.
The ever discussed c-shelf is the little (or not so little!) bulge some women experience around their c-section incision. First, for the moms frustrated at 2 months that they have a shelf, remember that you are still in the stages of wound healing as well as have weight changes from pregnancy and loose skin. These factors do get better over time as we know incisions and tissues mature over a year. That being said, a scar, the unavoidable result of surgery, and its more dense and adherent tissue properties can cause some pocketing around it which can show fat deposit more. Loose skin, genetics, recurrent surgeries and body type all contribute as well.
C-Panty smooth the c-shelf by providing targeted front of pelvic compression to help tuck that bulge in without the all over compression of a control panty.
While it’s essential to get plenty of rest once you’re home, you also need to get up and walk around regularly. Walking promotes healing and helps prevent complications such as blood clots.
Of course, you shouldn’t overdo it. Start slowly and increase your activity gradually. Since you’re recovering from major abdominal surgery, your belly will feel sore for some time. Take it easy and avoid heavy household work or lifting anything heavier than your baby for eight weeks.
In six to eight weeks, you’ll be able to start exercising moderately – but wait until your caregiver gives you the go-ahead. It may be several months or longer before you’re back to your former fit self.
You’ll be able to resume sexual intercourse in about six weeks – if you’re feeling comfortable enough and with your caregiver’s okay. Talk to your practitioner about what kind of contraception will work best for you now. You may be able to resume using the birth control method you used in the past, or you may have to make some changes. For example, if you used a diaphragm before, you’ll have to be fitted again because you may need a different size after being pregnant and giving birth.
Moms have a wide range of emotions after a c-section, so it’s hard to predict how you’ll feel. You might feel disappointed if you had your heart set on a vaginal birth. If you had complications or were worried about your baby’s well-being, you might not care about how you gave birth.
Some women who end up in surgery after a long, drawn-out labor feel a sense of relief, while others are upset that they ended up with a c-section after doing all that work. Many have mixed emotions.
Some moms say they feel cheated out of a vaginal delivery, especially if they took childbirth classes and fantasized about the “ideal birth.” Others say they feel like they’re somehow less of a woman because they needed a c-section.
These feelings are common and may be difficult to resolve. If you feel this way, it may take some time to reconcile the reality of your birth experience with what you’d imagined during your pregnancy.
It might help to know that many women find their baby’s birth, whether vaginal or c-section, very different from what they expected. If you have nagging doubts about whether the surgery was really necessary, talk to your practitioner about it.
Remember, too, that you’re likely to have the range of emotions common to most mothers during the postpartum period, regardless of how they gave birth. Postpartum blues are common, whether you had a c-section or a vaginal birth, generally beginning a few days after delivery and lasting for a few days.
If the feelings don’t go away on their own in the first few weeks or you find that you’re feeling worse rather than better, be sure to call your caregiver and tell him your symptoms. You may be suffering from postpartum depression, a more serious problem that requires treatment, and he can give you a referral for help. If you think you might hurt yourself or your baby, seek professional help immediately.
Finally, a long c section recovery can be frustrating. Remember that just healing from surgery takes a significant amount of time and energy. Add to that all the postpartum changes your body is going through – along with your new round-the-clock parenting responsibilities – and you’re bound to be in less-than-top condition for a while.
Try to cut yourself some slack and be patient. In time, you’ll be feeling better and enjoying life with your new baby.
An elective c-section is one that is performed at the mother’s request without a medical need. Your elective c-section is typically scheduled prior to your due date to avoid going into labor. Some women elect to have a c-section because there may be a decreased risk of pelvic floor injuries and incontinence.
If you have had a a c-section before, you may be able to deliver your next baby vaginally. This is called vaginal birth after c-section, or VBAC. Most women, whether they deliver vaginally or by c-section, don’t have serious problems from childbirth.
If you and your doctor agree to try a VBAC, you will have what is called a “trial of labor.” Go in to deliver with this goal in mind. But as in any labor, it is hard to know if a VBAC will work. You still may need a C-section. As many as 4 out of 10 women who have a trial of labor need to have a C-section..