The blog post every pregnant woman needs to read (PT 2) – Short-term Recovery
Welcome to part 2 of my 3 part series. After undergoing an emergency c-section I realized that there’s a lack of information given beforehand to women regarding the surgery. After all, it is an emergency — so in the moment its hard to think up any questions & hard for the medical staff to give you all the information you need. I’m hoping that through this series I’ll be able to help women feel more comfortable about the procedure and recovery.
In part one (you can read it here) I discussed what surgery looks like before and during. As well as, things you should ask if you are faced with having to have an emergency c-section. Although this post is more specific towards the emergency side of things, there’s still a ton of useful tips for a planned c-section as well.
The minds behind the post
For this series, I reached out to two Facebook mom groups. I asked mom’s to share their c-section stories, tips and things they wished they were told. Over 60 women shared bits and parts of their experiences. Both planned and unplanned. This helped to create a truly helpful blog post for all future parents to be.
There weren’t many commonalities between each story but there were some. Most of the women who shared their experiences voiced just how serious a c-section is. I think the fact that its a surgery that happens regularly, is fast (only 45 minutes) and mentioned often, we’ve forgotten just how intense the procedure is.
Cesarean sections are the only major abdominal surgery performed while awake. The affects it has on your body afterwards are just the same as any other major surgery. Although a vaginal birth is 100% a gruelling and intense experience; it is what our bodies are naturally supposed to do therefore the recovery (typically, of course there are always exceptions) tends to go more smoothy and in a timely manor.
The other major commonality between all us c-section mama’s is the lack of information given to us beforehand. This even rang true for planned c-sections as well. So although this surgery is insanely intense we aren’t prepped for it before hand or told the best ways to recover afterwards.
PS. You can read about my specific birth story here
I also must add that I am of course not a doctor or work in health care. The stories given by women along with tips are also not from professionals. Always talk to your doctor before trying anything new. Always listen to your doctors advice above the internet. If you feel you are unhappy with your doctor, like they aren’t listening or your not getting the care you feel you need — please reach out to walk-in clinics, go to emergency, find a new family GP. Never give up on yourself when it comes to your health.
Basic Short-Term Recovery
After surgery you’re brought to the surgical recovery room where you will be for anywhere from an hour to 3. You can read more about it in part-one here.
Once you’re okay’d to leave the surgical recovery room, you’re brought back to your hospital room. Typically a mother who has had a c-section will stay in the hospital for 3 nights. A stronger pain medication like T3’s are typically given within the first 24 hours. Then you’re given Tylenol and Advil with a max dosage of 12 each in a 24-hour span.
You are typically bed-ridden for the first 12-24 hours depending on how you are recovering but its suggested to get up and moving as soon as you feel able too.
I was hooked to an IV for 2 full days. My catheter was pulled out about 20 hours after my surgery. I’m sure these timelines vary person to person though.
Your stitches are completely bandaged for the first day. Afterwards, they only need the medical tape. You are told to leave the tape on until it naturally falls off (mine stayed on until my 6 week check-up appointment where I was told by my doctor to take them off).
Nurses will check on you and baby regularly during your stay. Each check-up consisted of:
- looking at your pads to ensure there isn’t excessive vaginal bleeding or clots
- checking the incision to ensure there wasn’t signs of infection
- feeling your abdominal/pelvic area to ensure there was no internal bleeding or excess fluids
- recording blood pressure & pulse
- taking babies temperature
- counting babies pulse
- tracking babies oxygen levels
- ensuring baby is eating, pooping and peeing regularly
First 3 days of Recovery
You really don’t realize the extent that you use your pelvic/abdominal region until you’ve had a c-section. This causes just every day human actions like coughing, sneezing, pooping, peeing, laughing, moving… breathing…..existing, a lot harder. I don’t want this post to scare you. A lot of your recovery is based on your mindset and motivation. I’m a very active person. This motivated me to get moving which in turn helped my recovery.
- Don’t be shy. Talk to the nurses. No matter what it is — you’re still in pain, can’t sleep, struggling to poop. Whatever it is, just tell them! They may not be able to help with every problem, but they will be able to with some. They’re there to help you, so take advantage!
- Extreme gas pains – a number of women reported that they had extreme gas pains in the first few days of recovery. Having some form of gas relief will help a ton. If you don’t have it on hand you can ask hubby to grab some for you 😉
- Brace your abdomen when coughing, sneezing, laughing, pooping, pushing a toot out etc. – You can do this by holding a pillow to your lower abdomen/pelvic area. A different recommendation was to get the Belly Bandit to help support. I never tried this but if I have a second c-section I most definitely will. I think it would have helped loads, I just wasn’t aware of it!
- Drink a ton of water in the first couple weeks. I was drinking about 4/5 litres a day and that still wasn’t enough. Drink extra while your catheter is still in too because you don’t need to move to pee 🙂
- You must introduce food and water into your system slowly at first otherwise you can and most likely will get sick
- Along with drinking a lot of water you want to ensure you are replenishing your electrolytes. I would suggest doing this for at least the first week but 2 weeks is even better.
- Get walking as soon as possible. It will hurt but getting your body moving helps in recovery and lessons the chance of a blood clot (which you’re at a higher risk of getting)
- Stay on top of/ahead of your pain medication – don’t wait for the pain to come then take the medication, take the medication to prevent the pain.
- Going into shock – pregnancy, labour, c-sections…they are all extremely shocking and taxing on the body. If you are shaking after your surgery uncontrollably with chattering teeth then you’re probably in shock. This happened to me and it completely caught me off guard and didn’t know what to do. Remember to take control of your breathing and try to keep your hospital room as relaxing as possible. They actually recommend to not have visitors for the first couple hours.
- You still have vaginal bleeding afterwards, just as you would from a vaginal birth and sometimes you can actually bleed more after a c-section. I think this surprises a lot of women. We assume we bleed because of the trauma our vagina went through labouring a baby. But its actually our bodies shedding all the extra blood, mucus and whatever else from when the baby is there. C-section moms tend to bleed more and for longer because surprisingly less comes out in the process of surgery vs. vaginal birth.
- You can have stitches or staples. It’s the doctors preference
- The doctors and nurses are only going to suggest pain medication that is safe to take while breastfeeding. There is no need to fear.
Hopefully you have more clarity on what to expect in the first 3 days of recovery. I must repeat this is very general information and practices. Every pregnancy, labour, surgery, recovery etc. is different. If you’re a c-section mama who has more tips to add or things to expect in short-term recovery then share the wealth and drop a comment below.
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For more information for women living in British Columbia, Canada — you can checkout this website here.