Getting over and recovering well from a Caesarean section?
December 29, 2008 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Caesarean section recovery questions. While the archives of AskMeFi are great for lots of parenting questions, I was hoping for some experiences from MeFi'ers or partners of MeFi'ers who had C-sections. How long till you stopped taking pain meds? How long till it was not uncomfortable to move? Is the weight loss truly harder? Any good books or guides to help you through it?

My wife had to do it unexpectedly and it was tough for both of us to handle. We were seriously ready for a natural birth and I really felt the OB was pushing things towards a C-section when stuff was not progressing fast enough. The feelings of loss of control and preparing and recovering from major surgery and were tough on my wife. The new kid makes lots worth it though. :) Any thoughts or experienced tips would appreciated. I think she's getting over the psychological effect of not giving birth "regularly" but it's touch and go at this point also. Thanks!
posted by skepticallypleased to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, congratulations on your new baby! Having ended up with a C-section after planning a natural home birth I can relate to feeling unprepared emotionally and physically for major abdominal surgery. I didn't even realize I had staples in me until they told me the next day that I would need to schedule to get them out.
Here is what I remember about the physical healing: I stopped with the major pain meds as soon as I left the hospital. When I got outside I realized how loopy I was and decided that I didn't want any of that. So I stuck with heavy doses of Ibuprofen and Tylenol on a strict schedule, and while I wasn't pain free it was manageable for me. Walking took a few days. Going on real walks took a few weeks...I think two or three. It is important not to push yourself too hard, but I tried to stretch my limits a little to see where I was. It really wasn't that bad for the most part. I have seen others recovering from vaginal births, and some of the stuff they deal with seems almost as uncomfortable and unpleasant.

The emotional healing or whatever you want to call it: I chose the c-section after a really long and exhausting labor, so I cannot speak to the feelings of loss of control. I think that part would add elements of anger and hurt that would be difficult to ignore. I really tried to focus on my baby...that really helped. It was not what I had imagined or wanted, but ultimately I had wanted a healthy babe and that is what I got. There are times I still feel sad about it 2 and a half years later but I think it an okay thing to feel sad about. I try to let myself feel sad and then remember the good things. One of my favorites was having a catheter! After spending the last two months of pregnancy having to pee every moment it was soooo wonderful to lie in that bed and hold my baby and not have to give a second thought to my bladder. Truly.

So. I think that you and your wife will be alright. Make sure to let yourselves feel all of the feelings you'll have and remember though that you all made it through. There are many children born through the belly everyday. Also, it sounds from your post that mama and baby had at least some time in labor together, which means that they both had a fair amount of that natural experience. Good luck with the healing and the new babe.
posted by I_drew_an_angelfish at 9:51 PM on December 29, 2008

The first two weeks are the hardest. But, even by then, I was able to get out. I had the setback of a major infection in weeks 2-3, which will most likely NOT happen to your wife. But, by week 4, I was allowed to push the stroller and all that. I think I only took pain medications for the first few days, although I might have occasionally taken them after that. After the first few days, I really only felt the pain when I tried to change positions.

I have had two babies -- one the traditional way and the second by C-section. I did know in advance that I was having a medically mandated C-section, so I had some time to prepare. But it was a weird experience, in that it seemed as though the baby just appeared from nowhere. It took me a while to manage that, even thought I knew it was coming.

What helped me was framing the experience as the birth of my child. Not thinking of it as "my C-section", but instead thinking of the day I had my second child. "The day ____ was born." It also helped to think about how much healthier and safer my baby and I were with the C-section, given my medical situation. I also chose to think of the fact that, while women having been having babies for eons, they have also been subject to high incidences of child and parent mortality and that I am the lucky beneficiary of modern medicine....even if I am a cloth diaper-lugging, green living, attachment parenting, lactavist mom. Sometimes, interventions are a positive thing and I just had to go with that thought.

And I had to focus on taking it easy. I had lots of family around for the first 3 weeks and a doula for 2 more, given various medical complications (I had whiplash). It was hard to deal with nursing while keeping pressure off my stomach, but it got better.

And that's the thing to remember with a new baby, no matter how they got here. It gets better. A bit at a time. So go slowly. Don't expect to racewalk the moms at mom & baby drop-in.

As for the weight, it usually takes any woman about 9 months to take off the baby weight. I've never heard of it taking longer to lose weight after a section. In fact, through breastfeeding and simple workouts, I've dropped the baby weight and more.

If your wife is having a hard time processing all this, give it time, assuming no red flags emerge. She might benefit from a parent-infant drop-in, where she can build community with others and share her experiences. She can talk to a medical professional (nurse, doctor, midwife, doula, etc). (If she experiences depression, she should seek medical help and perhaps enlist the help of a psychologist or counsellor.)
posted by acoutu at 9:56 PM on December 29, 2008

First, congratulations on your new baby!!

I had planned c/s with both kids (I have a heart condition and wasn't allowed to go into labour), so it wasn't a surprised either time. Absolutely have your wife stay ahead of the pain by taking meds every 4hrs or whatever is prescribed. Once you let the pain get out of control, it's just awful trying to get a handle on it again. I would say I was probably on the 'good stuff' for a good 10 days the first time around before I was able to wean down to taking it 'as needed' (as opposed to around the clock).

Stairs are absolutely awful, and she probably won't be able to drive for at least 10-14 days (not like she'd feel like it, anyway), reason being, you need to be able to hit the breaks quickly in an emergency and just hurts to move that fast.

I remember that it took me a long time to be able to walk normally and upright (and at a normal pace), probably three weeks. And it sucked not being able to sleep on my stomach, though I do remember being able to very gingerly sleep on my side with a lot of pillows after about two weeks. The hardest thing, though, was pulling myself up out of a sitting or lying position, since you really can't use your abdominal muscles. We have those really deep Pottery Barn couches and I explicitly remember getting stuck in them because I didn't have the physical leverage to pull myself up and out. Big pillows behind my back did help, once I figured that trick out!

I can't really speak to weight loss, since I wasn't exactly Kate Moss before having kids. But I suspect the fact that you aren't permitted major exercise for 6w post partum has a lot to do with it. A lot of my c/s friend kind of inevitably ended up with the dreaded c/s 'kangaroo pouch'. I don't know if it's because of the incised fascia or what, but I certainly have the pouch to show for my kiddos. Granny underwear will probably be more comfy for the time being than bikinis since they tend to land right at the incision. If your wife is concerned about the scar itself, you can get stuff like Kelo-Cote to put on it. I used it for recent abdominal surgery and it made a significant difference in how I healed.

Breast feeding can be a little tricky and she might have to get a little creative with how she holds the baby (pillows will be her friend), since it will be sore to have pressure on her belly. The football hold will be her friend. I also found it helpful to lay down and nurse on my side so I didn't have to worry about the baby on my belly at all.

I know that I had some initial psychological issues with me not having a 'regular' birth, and the more I thought about it, the goal at the end of the day is to have a healthy baby. And regardless of how the baby gets here, you're still the Mommy. It doesn't make you any less of woman because you needed medical assistance to ensure your child's safety.

Again, congrats! My kids are both December babes as well, so I'm all to familiar with that newborn end of the year fatigue. :) Just take it slow and easy. It's major surgery and you have a new little person thrown in the mix. Enjoy the babymoon while you can.
posted by dancinglamb at 10:02 PM on December 29, 2008

Random personal data:

I stopped my prescription pain meds after about 12 days, inclusive of the 5 days I was in the hospital. I continued ibuprofen for a few more days. The worst part of my recovery pain was not the incision or abdominal muscle pain, but a weird, very sharp, upper back pain that my OB said (I think?) was probably a tiny air bubble. It faded gradually, and by 3 weeks postpartum I felt normal.

I don't think I've ever heard the theory that weight loss is harder after a c-section. Post partum weight loss is really the luck of the draw, in my opinion. Breast feeding may or may not factor in. Some women say they can't lose those last few pounds when they are nursing because of the hunger, and the body's unwillingness to part with those fat reserves. Some find that nursing helps with weight loss. I always felt lucky to be in the latter camp; I ate constantly and was 2 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight at my 2 week follow up. It helps to have a giant hungry baby!

You don't say how long it's been. For the first few days after coming home, I was sweating out about 3-4 pounds of water every night. Especially if your wife labored first, then had the unexpected c-section, I would bet she ended up with BAGS of IV fluid before it was all over. That will work itself out quickly.
posted by peep at 10:04 PM on December 29, 2008

Wow. Some pretty egregious spelling and grammatical errors there. Sorry about that!
posted by dancinglamb at 10:08 PM on December 29, 2008

Congratulations on a healthy baby!
Your wife is dealing with a dual recovery laboring without pain meds for some amount of time (which takes a lot out of you) then you had surgery. That is rough.
I had a c-section after getting stuck at 8 but I took the epidural knowing that a c-section would be more likely. I labored for 12 hours than got the epidural and laid around a hospital bed for 12 hours then had surgery. I never had any pre-conceived notions on how the day would go. I recovered quickly and easily.
"My breast friend" is better than boppy for breast feeding. They tried to get me on the football hold in the hospital and I never managed to get the hang of it.
Walk walk walk - it really does help. The pain meds allow you to get up and moving - which is critical to recovery. I found I didn't need the super pills for more than a week after we got home.
If you do take a vicodin - don't forget to take the colace they advice with them.
New momhood is fraught with psychological peril. You're a good guy for looking out for her. As noted above - don't be afraid to ask for help if you think its warranted. I was got a lot of benefit from a therapist in the first few months. I found a woman who was also a mom who helped me a lot.
posted by Wolfie at 10:12 PM on December 29, 2008

Oh, and one more thing, I had hugely swollen feet both times after I came home. It was to the point that I couldn't even wear socks. I was told that it was a result of all the IV fluids (peep's post reminded me of that nice little experience).
posted by dancinglamb at 10:13 PM on December 29, 2008

I had what I believe was an uncharacteristically quick recovery. I was in the hospital two nights, and was out walking (short walks) in a week. Very little pain after the first week.

However, I tired very quickly for a long time. At the time, I thought it was because I had a newborn, but looking back, I think I was in a bit of denial about how much the c-section took out of me. I would suddenly just hit a wall of fatigue and have to stop what I was doing an lie down. That lasted for almost two months.
posted by Badmichelle at 10:43 PM on December 29, 2008

I didn't have a c-section, but did have a hysterectomy with a six inch traverse incision in the bikini area.

The nurse in my doctor's office advised me to get a few pair of "pantie girdles" to wear after surgery. Although it sounds like a paradox, the tightness of the pantie girdle helped support my abdomen and incision. It was noticeably less painful, hence less pain medication.

Congratulations to all three of you!
posted by JujuB at 12:38 AM on December 30, 2008

I'd hoped for a natural birth and wound up with a c section and unable to breastfeed (for a bunch of reasons). It was very hard on me psychologically and I was also very freaked out by, as someone else said, the baby sort of appearing out of nowhere. We had a tough time in the hospital; the nurses sucked and one of the doctors was an ass, and we were out of there after two nights like we were on fire.

The c section was a planned medical necessity. I stopped taking prescription pain meds on day two, did an alternating Advil/Tylenol cycle for about two weeks, drove in ten days, walked in about ten days w/the dog, started running at about week five. Six months later I'm in the best shape of my adult life. I was in pretty good shape throughout the pregnancy, but working out afterward kind of helped me feel like my body was mine again, and even though I could (and still do) only throw half hour a day at that particular project I'm happy with how my body looks. So in my totally anecdotal experience weight loss was not harder, and may actually have been easier since the breastfeeding catastrophe meant I wasn't as tied to the baby/house. I'm almost forty, if that data point matters.

Six months out, the scar is turning white and fading. The memory of the hospital is fading (we complained by letter. They sent a fruit basket and apology (!)), and our girl is just great and incredibly healthy. I think that had we not had the c section, if we didn't live in a world where such a thing was safe and routine and medically supported, she and I would be dead. That said, though, the whole thing messed up my hippie dippie birth plan imaginings of her birth.

I had a real bitch of a time emotionally for the first three months and was thrilled to go back to work.

So, that's my deal. You or she can mefi mail me if you'd like to talk.

Oh, here's something I learned from the experience: thanks to the above and a bunch of other factors, we did pretty much nothing the way I wanted to do it. Nothing was like I imagined, and many of the big pronouncements I'd made while pregnant didn't come to pass. In a way, that is not a sucky thing to learn about parenting early on: nothing is like you imagine, and you have to think on your feet and be flexible and let some of your perfect imaginings go so that you and your family can be happy, and there's nothing more important than that.

One last thought: I found people who said 'well, the baby's healthy and that's the important thing' to be pretty annoying. Just because it's important doesn't mean I'm not bummed out about it. I guess some people might find comfort in that statement, but it just bugged the hell out of me.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:31 AM on December 30, 2008

Mrs. Plinth had two c-sections. The first was an emergency C (we took someone else's surgical team!), and the second was a VBAC that turned into a necessary C.

A couple things - they had Mrs. Plinth up and walking as soon as they could - like second day after, and encouraged her to walk as much as possible. She did an admirable job both times.

The second time, they held off giving her food or liquids during labor so when it came time for the C she was ravenous and dehydrated. She ate shortly after recovery and puked nearly immediately. Better to have had something up front.

The stitches/staples hurt. Don't make your spouse laugh (too much). I did that a couple times inadvertently. If she could have caught me, she would've pounded me for that.

The biggest issue after the second was having sufficient help to handle our oldest. She was worried about tearing stitches, so she had a lot of help moving her around.
posted by plinth at 3:41 AM on December 30, 2008

I'm three weeks today out from a caesarian today... (and oh god, I'm sooooo tired).. All I can tell you is that I took the pain medications till I didn't want them any more. About 8 days all up, I think. I was on Voltaren and Digesic but the Voltaren gave me gastritis and landed me back in hospital the night we were discharged from hospital. Now I'm on Somac and no pain meds. I'm taking it really easy though...

MrTaff has two months off work and I'm trying not to do any lifting or exerting till at least 6 weeks.... which is easier said than done when you have a two year old.

Weight loss is not something I know anything about. I"m a fatty boombah even on a good day but if your wife breastfeeds and walks about a lot she'll lose it at a reasonable rate.

The walking part is the key. Get as much strolling in in a day as you can. Well, as much as your wife can. It will REALLY REALLY REALLY aid in her recovery. I REALLY promise. "Only walk half as far as you can manage... because you have to get back to where you started", is the sage advice a prim matron once told me.

As for loss of control... hopefully your wife will connect with other mums through some kind of mother's group... and over time, telling her story to them will kind of debrief her and she'll be less upset about the caesar and more focused on the outcome. Her grief at not having a vaginal delivery will ease... but it's a real grief. We can make ourselves feel like failures as women.. which is ludicrous... but very real. I still regret not ever being able to do it the traditional way. It was the safest way to exit my bambinos... via the sunroof... but was not the way I envisaged my births when I was a young woman dreaming of the day I would have kiddliwinks.

Anyhoo... I ramble. Take pain meds regularly... the mental pain of having had an untraditional birth will fade, and congratulations on having a kiddo. They're fabbo and lots of fun. I just had a sweet little pickle of a girl. What did you have?
posted by taff at 3:46 AM on December 30, 2008

I'm 6.5 months out of an unplanned C and was just thinking the other day about how I really don't feel like I've had surgery anymore. For at least the first three months I was still very aware of the incision site even if it didn't really hurt anymore.

I was really really really not happy to end up with a C-section. I was induced for pre-eclampsia and then after 4 days of waiting for the induction to kick in, I finally went into labor but the baby got stuck on the way out and I had to get the C. I was majorly bummed about that and had a similar reaction of being weirded out by the baby just sort of being extracted from me. I was (am) sad about "missing" out on the full labor experience and having it all be a totally medical procedure but some of those feelings have faded. I doni't plan on having any more children so I guess I really wanted to have the "perfect" experience for my only time having a baby. But as I said, some of those feelings have faded and I imagine they will continue to do so.

So physically, I think I recovered fairly well. I had a very mild skin infection for the first couple days after the surgery that they made me take IV antibiotics for and then continue on oral antibiotics for 10 days afterward. My blood pressure was still elevated for about a week after the surgery which was a bit of a worry and an annoyance to me becasue wasn't that the reason I'd been forced into the induction and then the c-section to begin with? Wasn't that supposed the solve that problem? Finally someone explained that that's often the case with pre-eclampsia - sometimes it doesn't resolve right away. I also had a lot of numbness at the incision site but that's mostly gone away by now but not entirely.

I think I took vicodin and ibuprofen for about a week and then just the ibuprofen for another week. Getting out of bed was difficult for the first week or so but that gradually got better. I wasn't supposed to lift anything more than 20 lbs or so for a few weeks but mostly the doctors just told me to listen to my body. If it hurt, stop doing it. If bleeding increased, it meant I was over-doing it. It definitely was a challenge, though, to be recovery from major surgery while all of the sudden having this new little person in my life demanding my constant attention. My husband had to so a lot of the heavy lifting for a while and having friends and family cook and run errands was a huge help.

Breastfeeding sucked - it's common for milk to be very late in arriving for c-section mothers since all the hormonal signals are a little out of whack. That meant that my baby got jaundiced and dehydrated by day 3 and we felt compelled to supplement with formula. Despite our best efforts, we never got her fully back on the breast and I ended up pumping for 6 months while also still supplementing with formula. I blame the C for all that mess.

I was incredibly emotional about having both the birth and the breastfeeding not work the way I wanted them to. Those first few weeks were really difficult in terms of my emotional state but it does get better.

As for weight, I haven't been on the scale for a while but am definitely still above pre-preg and my body shape is VERY different from what it used to be. I'm still working on the "shelf" of extra skin and fat that folds over the incision site. It's gross and I hate it and want to go away but I need to do some more work in that. But physically I feel like I can do anything I used to do.

Well, I've written a lot. Clearly I'm still working out some of my issues (!) but I'll just say that I'm sorry things didn't work out the way you wanted them to. You should allow yourself and your wife to process the feelings you might be having over the loss of the "natural" experience. The immediate post-natal period is already tough enough with all the hormonal craziness. Be gentle on yourselves and enjoy the new baby. Congratulations!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:33 AM on December 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for sharing here. I'm sharing the experiences with my wife. She already feels much better to know that other women felt the same way and that it's ok not to succumb to the "saintly matron for the baby" role to justify what happened. (She has feelings too!). OTWG I hope that since you did have some "labor" before the procedure that helped make it better as an another poster stated. It's been a crazy emotional ride. We're a "formally" educated couple but parenting is probably the hardest thing we ever did. It's a self-wrought anxiety most likely however the c-section hangs over it all to make stuff even stranger.

Another question.....anyone use some "c-section" belt? I've heard mixed benefits about it in terms of support for movement and building the abdominal strength that posters mentioned is lost.

Thanks MeFi for sharing. (All the answers are best.) We really appreciate that you guys and gals took the time to talk about your experiences. It's why I love this site!.

Good luck to all here.
posted by skepticallypleased at 10:47 AM on December 30, 2008

I had a c-section with my triplets (I don't guess I need to tell you why) and even though it was of course planned, it still was emotionally weird. I definitely feel like I missed out on something because I never went through labor. Of course, this isn't what happened with your wife, so I'm probably of limited usefulness. But I'm reluctant to say I "gave birth to" my boys, because did I? But that seems to diminish my accomplishment of gestating them and getting them to a healthy weight.

Physically, though, it's been a year and I'm healed. I had some issues with the incision opening up, but that all ended up not being much of an issue. I tried using the abdominal binder (the "c-section belt" I think you're referring to) but it hurt more trying to get it on, so I never really used it. My milk never came in (because I had a c-section? Because they were preemies? Because I didn't go into labor? Who knows.) which didn't help any.

Ah well, enough of my issues...

Congratulations and good luck with the little one!
posted by pyjammy at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2008

I didn''t use the pregnancy belt, but a girlfriend of mine did, and she loved it.

I believe theyre particularly helpful for women who have the large gap between the muscles down the middle of the belly. (For the life of me, I can't remember what that is called.)
posted by taff at 1:37 PM on December 30, 2008

OTWG I hope that since you did have some "labor" before the procedure that helped make it better as an another poster stated.
Well, not really but that's my issue. It sucked to have gotten that far and then have to "give up." The whole thing was so medically contrived (prsotaglandins, pitocin, etc) that it never felt like I was supposed to be doing it.

anyone use some "c-section" belt?
No. I don't know anyone who has, either.

But I'm reluctant to say I "gave birth to" my boys, because did I?
I have that problem too. She was definitely "born" but I never say that I "gave birth."

I believe theyre particularly helpful for women who have the large gap between the muscles down the middle of the belly. (For the life of me, I can't remember what that is called.)

I think taff means Diastasis recti. My midwife said that lots of women think they have it but most women don't.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:28 PM on December 30, 2008

Really? Both my prenatal/postnatal educator and OB said diastasis recti is pretty common. My OB fixed mine when she did the c-section.
posted by acoutu at 10:44 PM on January 1, 2009

Yeah, I dunno. She said that it had almost become a fad for fitness "experts" to be telling women that they had it, I guess so that they could "fix" it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:18 PM on January 4, 2009

« Older Save the meat.   |   Every Which Way But A Language I Don't Speak Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.