What to expect postpartum if you had a c-section

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In my last blog I was talking about changes that happen to the mother’s body in the postpartum period and how we are usually not prepared for this stage as we spend so much time preparing for our babies arrival. Of course during delivery there is lots that can happen and no ones delivery is ever comparable, so today I will tell you more about postpartum if you had a caesarean section.

What is a caesarean section?

The female body is designed to birth their babies by vaginal birth (the baby passes through the birth canal) but in some cases caesarean sections are required when problems arise during pregnancy or during labour (like mentioned above no ones experience will ever be the same – every woman’s body is different as well as their baby and progress in labour).

A caesarean section, also called c-section or the way I like to call it a belly birth. It is the delivery of the baby through a incision in the mother’s belly and uterus (two incisions are made, one in the abdomen and the second in the uterus).

When a mother had a belly birth instead of a vaginal birth it is a different recovery and there are different things to consider during the 4th trimester.

*It is strongly encouraged for pregnant women to learn about both vaginal and caesarean deliveries in case that something unexpected happens.*

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Remember that if you had a belly birth you went through major surgery but you still birthed your precious little one in an amazing way!

To help you have a better recovery there are some tips to help promote healing:

  • Rest as much as possible.

Keep everything that you and your baby might need within reach. For example keep a basket of essential near you and on every room and floor of your house. Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first couple of weeks.

  • Seek pain relief.

You may try using a heating pad or medications to relieve pain. *Please check with your health care provider before use if it’s safe during breastfeeding etc.*

  • Keep a pillow close to you.
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You can use a pillow to hold unto your belly to support the incision when coughing, laughing, feeding infant or for general comfort.

  • Add an extra padded pad inside your underwear by your incision.

This will add extra padding to your incision and helps reduce pinching or pulling. 

  • Wear loose fitting clothes for comfort, nothing too tight that might pinch or puts pressure on your incision.
  • Do feedings in side lying position to reduce pressure on incision

Or if you decide to feed sitting up you can place a pillow your baby for extra comfort – pillows are amazing, so keep them around.

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  • Take any help when offered

You are recovering from major surgery you should take it easy, if you need something done especially in and around the house let family and friends help you.

  • Don’t do too much too soon!

Please wait until you are healed and recovered. Spring cleaning can wait, I promise you…

  • Don’t push too hard when going to the washroom and take your time.

Nervous about the first time going to the washroom? Jiggle and distract yourself, that way you can avoid unnecessary tension.

  • Keep a step stool besides the bed

It can make it easier to get in and out of bed.

  • Lots of snacks, stash them everywhere!
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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Other things to remember during recovery

It is important to remember that you not only recover from a belly birth (major surgery, I can not say it enough!) but also from pregnancy. Your body is recovering and your uterus is returning to pre-pregnancy size:

  • Vaginal discharge/bleeding

After giving birth you’ll begin to shed the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy. You’ll have vaginal discharge consisting of this membrane and blood for a few weeks. This discharge will be red and heavy for the first few days. Then it will taper, become increasingly watery and change from pinkish brown to yellowish white.

  • Contractions

Also called afterpains, during the first few days after the C-section. The contractions, may just resemble menstrual cramps, they help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. Afterpains are common during breast-feeding, due to the release of oxytocin.  Your uterus is working on returning to pre-pregnancy size.

  • Tender/leaking breasts

A few days after birth, your breasts might become full, firm and tender (engorgement). Frequent breastfeeding is recommended to avoid or minimize engorgement.

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If you’re not breastfeeding, wear a supportive bra, such as a sports bra. Don’t pump your breasts or express the milk, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk.

  • Hair loss and skin changes

During pregnancy hormone levels increase the ratio of growing hair to resting or shedding hair. After delivery, you’ll experience hair loss up to five months after delivery. Stretch marks won’t disappear after delivery, but eventually they’ll fade from red to silver. Expect any skin that darkened during pregnancy — such as dark patches on your face to slowly fade as well.

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  • Mood changes and maternal mental health disorders

Childbirth triggers a lot of powerful emotions especially if a women has been thrown off by having a belly birth instead of the vaginal birth that she aimed for. It is important to remind ourselves not to dwell on this experience and process these events. Sometimes emergencies happen but that doesn’t mean it is your fault –  You still birthed your wonderful baby after all!

Also the change of hormones in your body throughout pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum can impact your mood and feelings. Please check out my maternal mental health blog for more information and awareness of mood disorders. 

Please keep communication open to your family, friends and doula!

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Lots of love from your Doula, Denise 
 

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