Though known as a common method of giving birth, few really look at having a cesarean section for what it is: a major abdominal surgery. While having a new child is a momentous occasion, after the surgery is complete, taking care of mom is of utmost importance since the surgery can cause many physical discomforts as well as emotional hormonal imbalances.
There are simple steps you can take post-surgery to quicken your recovery, prevent complications and improve your overall health while still managing to adjust to life with a newborn.
Rest. A must for any new mother, but especially important for those recovering from a cesarean, is to get plenty of sleep. Your body is working much harder than it would need to after a vaginal birth. Not only are your insides trying to all regroup, but your body is fighting to adjust to the sudden hormonal change (especially if you were not able to labor before the surgery), process a myriad of medicines and chemicals, and heal a very large incision in your abdomen, both externally and internally. Ample sleep is so important during the first couple of days and will start your healing on the right foot.
Probiotics. For the safety of you and your baby, you were probably pumped full of antibiotics during your procedure. A great medicinal gift, but it definitely requires some repair work afterwards. The state of your gut has been linked to physical and emotional health on many levels so getting it balanced after your surgery will speed up your overall health and ability to heal yourself. If possible, begin taking probiotics a few days before the surgery and continue for a few weeks afterwards. You can also make minor dietary changes like adding yogurt and fermented foods to improve your gut flora naturally.
Walk. While standing may be excruciating, especially within the first few days, getting up and walking around as soon as possible will speed up your recovery astronomically. Not only does it prevent blood clots and other complications, but it helps get the blood moving, making you feel better mentally, while also safely strengthening your very taxed abdominal muscles. Many hospitals encourage women to walk around 24 hours after the birth and continuing to get out of bed for 15 minutes every couple of hours is very beneficial. The more you get up, the less painful it will become. Be sure to use caution, listen to your body and walk slowly as to not overexert yourself. The goal is not to have a great workout, but just to get moving.
Healthy fats. As mentioned, your hormones just went through a very sudden shift causing more trauma to your system than you may realize. Unlike the natural progression of hormone changes brought about by a vaginal birth, a cesarean shocks the system, going from pregnant to not pregnant in an hour. By consuming healthy fats, you give your body the boost it needs to balance your hormones quickly and efficiently, lessening the chances of postpartum depression and baby blues. They also offer many benefits to your adrenal glands, improving your overall immune system. Bone broth, whole milk, yogurt and fish oil are easy options to incorporate into a busy new mom’s diet. Step it up and get fermented cod liver oil to help out your gut flora as well!
Air it out. Post-surgery your belly will take some time to go back to its normal size causing a flap over your cesarean incision. This can cause the area to become very sweaty and moist, especially if you have a baby resting on your lap often. To help lessen infections, speed up recovery and achieve a higher level of comfort, lean back and air out the incision as often as possible. Strive to do this three or four times a day and always after a shower.
A cesarean section can definitely be a difficult experience, especially through the transition to motherhood, but it does not have to be overly painful or complicated. By following these steps, you can achieve a higher level of overall physical and emotional health as well as make the process more comfortable. Take control of your recovery and you will be back on your feet in no time!