C-Section Recovery
October 25, 2010 3:33 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about your recovery after a cesarean section.

Friday evening, I had a c-section after a failed induction and 10 hours of labor. The baby just didn't progress into my pelvis and my blood pressure was getting too high. I was put under a general anesthetic for the surgery because my platelet count was too low for spinal anesthesia. If you or your partner has had a c-section before, what made recovery easier? Were there any things that happened to you that you were surprised about? How long was it before you felt back to normal? Is it worth the effort to try out vitamin E or something similar to minimize the scar? My husband will be home with me for almost 5 weeks, and we have local family willing to help out too.

In exchange for your valuable information, here's a picture of my little bug, Nate.
posted by chiababe to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Congrats on your little one - what a sweet face he has! I felt MUCH better at about the 2 week mark, and a month after the surgery I was at about 100%. The only thing that surprised me is that even three or four months after my C-section, I still felt a sort of pulling sensation when I overexerted myself. It was nothing unbearable, but it sometimes caught me off guard a bit. Now, 9 months post-surgery, the pulling is mostly gone and my scar is fading a bit, although I didn't do anything to try to minimize it.

It is great that your husband will be home for 5 weeks. You should be in fine shape by the time he needs to go back to work. I think things that helped me immediately after surgery were that my husband usually brought the baby to me for nursing (saved me the bending and carrying) and he did nearly all of the diaper changes and that sort of stuff for the first week or so. One thing to be a little careful about: if you have stairs at your house, go easy. I tore up the stairs a couple of times on the first day we were home because the baby was hollering (new mom nerves - little did I know she would continue to holler for five months straight!) and I think the exertion set me back a bit.

I had a couple of complications both pre and post C-section, so perhaps my story sounds overly cautious and other MeFites will come in and say it was all a breeze. In general, it went better than I expected, but I do think it is important to be very easy on yourself for the first week or two. Definitely sleep when the baby sleeps, as they say. Congrats again!
posted by katie at 3:57 AM on October 25, 2010

Ooooh, beautiful Nate and his lovely round head! Go, Mama!

I've had two C-sections, and the first was similar (though not identical) to what you describe. Talk with your doctor about appropriately medicating for pain--there's no point in trying to a tough gal while you're sleep deprived and frazzled already. Undies (Spanx? Something similar?) with good high and tight support helped reassure me that my guts were not going to fall out whenever I sneezed. I discovered that I had to limit myself to one trip downstairs each day for the first few weeks (once up, once down) and found having a dorm 'frig in the bedroom was a big help. A bed tray (with folding legs) made meals easier. The most comfortable nursing position for me was on my side. Recovery was long in coming... OTOH, with my second, I was in the garden shoveling mushroom soil six weeks after Babygirl MonkeyToes was delivered.

Congratulations, chiababe. He's adorable!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:02 AM on October 25, 2010

My C-section was scheduled (upsidedown baby); I understand recovery can be a slightly longer road if one labors first.

I felt like I got back to 80% really quickly (2 weeks?) and to MOST of my normal activities, but that last 20% took a while longer than my friends who did vaginal births. Slowing me down, I had a couple complications in how my scar healed, and I had a baby who was growing beyond the upper extreme for baby-daily-weight-gain for like two solid months while I was breastfeeding so I was constantly starving and exhausted from keeping up. I climbed stairs the day I went home.

My friends who had labor-then-section generally took a bit longer to get to the "80% better" mark, maybe 3 weeks instead of 2.

I did not bother with vitamin E or other scar-reducing stuff -- I have the "bikini incision" and I cannot imagine a universe in which I wear any bathing suit small enough or any pants low enough that anyone but my husband will ever see it! It has faded down quite nicely all on its own, even with the complications I had. It did look rather horrifying at first and took what I thought was a long time to stop looking all angry and purple, but it's not very noticeable now unless you're looking for it.

My favorite things during recovery were Hulu on my laptop for feeding sessions (no hands!), someone cooking and bringing me food (lots of it, and very nutritious), a "sidecar" co-sleeper so I didn't have to get UP in the night, ice for the incision, and a boppy for feedings. And a zillion pillows around me in bed at night so I didn't move too much.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:11 AM on October 25, 2010

Oh, yeah, and congrats! He's so alert!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:12 AM on October 25, 2010

Belly Bandit!! Have two overnighted - one in your current size and one in the next size smaller. They keep you from feeling like your insides are falling out.
My recovery experience (for both my sections) was perhaps a bit different than for most women. I had autologous Platelet Rich Plasma applied as they were closing me. I also asked for stitches, not staples. I was discharged in two days, used only Advil (no narcs) for pain control and felt at 90% at about 3 weeks. I do have some residual numbness around my incision but it's only been 5 months since my last.
I'm sure it's MUCH different if you labor first. What an adorable little one!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:37 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had 26 hours of labor (no pushing, my son also did not progress) before my c-section - I walked like a duck for about two weeks but I don't remember any pain much after the first few days. I didn't take the majority of the pain meds they gave me (I'm no hero - the pain was the worst the next day and then rapidly decreased.) I did not take any special care and my scar is negligible, 2.5 years out.

The area just above the scar is still a bit numb, I assume it will always be, but it doesn't bother me. The random itching while it healed up bothered me quite a bit more.
posted by pinky at 4:40 AM on October 25, 2010

Oh, and Depends undergarments. If you're anything like me, you bleed 10X more than a regular period afterwards. The Depends made it so I didn't worry AT ALL about leaks, no matter how convoluted my movements were as I tried to get out of bed. Keep a pair of scissors in the bathroom to cut them down the sides to take them off - just to cut down on the bending.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:43 AM on October 25, 2010

The important thing to remember is that everyone recovers differently. How long does it take you to get over a cold? An injury? Those things will tell you more than you think. Pinky and I, for example, had very similar experiences. 26 hours of labor, I pushed for 2 hours, and had an uneventful c-section. However, I experienced a lot of pain and had a difficult recovery. Also, I had a difficult pregnancy, so I wasn't coming into the surgery being at 100% health.

Make sure you have plenty of nutritious foods at hand for meals and snacking, drink lots and lots of water, and just don't push yourself too hard. If you're feeling tired, rest. Your body needs to heal and it can't do that if you're running around doing the laundry while your baby (who is so cute!) sleeps.

I also second the belly bands. Very, very helpful.
posted by cooker girl at 4:57 AM on October 25, 2010

PorcineWithMe made me think of another thing (useful for all post-baby people) -- I got a couple of cheap-o bath towels at Target that coordinated with my living room decor in a nice, dark color so that I could sit wherever I was comfortable without worrying about bleeding through (which didn't happen but I was always worrying about ... this way I could relax). We kept using them for several months with my very spit-uppy baby ... drape the towel across the back of the couch so when he burped and spit up EVERYWHERE it went on the towel. It looked a little nicer having the coordinating towels.

I also got a dark one to put in the bed under me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:59 AM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: I agree with all the advice given so far! Also: learn to get in and out of bed by rolling on your side, rather than sitting up. I made the mistake of sitting up once and I thought I would die, the pain was so awful.

And maxi pads. I kept a maxi pad on the scar for a couple weeks, which helped keep the area dry & bacteria-free.

Good luck, and congratulations! He's beautiful. :)
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:07 AM on October 25, 2010

Congratulations, chiababe!! Nate is beautiful!

I've had two C-sections. The first one was tough. I didn't move an inch the entire first night because of the pain. After the initial pain of sitting up and walking for the first time the rest was fairly easy. The first three days were the the most painful. After that it was fairly smooth sailing. Take it slow. Do what you can and rest as much as possible. I didn't use anything to lessen the scar. I've had two C-sections and the incision is very low and fairly short so I could wear bikinis if I wanted.

The pain and recovery of a c-section will soon be a distant memory. If you want more children the second is so much easier. (I was walking and doing everything for my baby the first night with the second.)

Enjoy your precious Nate and sleep when he sleeps.
posted by Fairchild at 6:00 AM on October 25, 2010

Nate is gorgeous! Congrats!

I've had two c-sections, the first after 30 hours of labor (labor 'stopped progressing' as soon as I got to the hospital); the second was planned.
The first 48 hours are the hardest -- I hated the haze from the extended release morphine they shot into the epidural right before they removed it, and then it wears off and (I'm a recovering drug addict and was nervous about taking narcotic pain meds) then I had a lot of moments where I remember being afraid to move for fear something would hurt. I don't actually remember great pain, I just remember the fear of great pain, lol.
By a week I was 60-70% back to normal -- just don't pick up anything large, like, say, your best friend's 13 month old -- that'll knock you back about 10%, lol.
By 5 weeks you should be feeling great, easily 90% of normal -- except for the hormones and sleep deprivation of life with a newborn, lol.
With regards to life with newborn, my friend's all agreed that week 3 was the hardest, and it really gets better after week 12. If you even begin to think you might be getting postpartum depression, treat it. Probably even a smart idea to bug your OBGYN and your primary doc now to know which one you would go to -- mine kept batting me back and forth to the other. There are meds that are safe while nursing (zoloft, for one), and suddenly finding yourself singing to your kid after crying all the time is a beautiful, beautiful thing. So, yeah -- be on guard for postpartum depression and don't let your head talk you out of getting treatment.
posted by MeiraV at 6:27 AM on October 25, 2010

I had three c-sections, and they were a long time ago, so my memories are fuzzy but let me tell you what I remember.

. My first c-section took me a little over six weeks to recover (10 hours of induced labor, fetal distress, c-section), my second c-section (kidney stone just before surgery, then surgery induced pneumonia) took the longest to recover from - 3 months! to recover from I spent a good 4 weeks of that in the hospital... but I had two toddlers and a newborn, so I had to really just suck it up and deal. The third was a breeze... she was planned and took me about six weeks to fully recover. I mean, sure the scar took more time to heal than that, but I was fully back on my feet in six week. Of course by then I had three toddlers and a newborn to take care of so...

Anyway, with all of them -- Belly bands were a life saver! I second the idea with the towels. I never wore depends, but I do remember bleeding a lot, so those might be a good way to go. I breast-fed for a little while and that helped. Take advantage of your local family! Having family to help you out is GOLD! most of the time I was far away from my family so it was just me (hubby was out to sea for the first two of these). Don't be "strong" let them help if they're willing. Rest now while you have the chance and then let them fade into the woodwork when you're stronger.
posted by patheral at 6:53 AM on October 25, 2010

Hello little Nate!
I had a section early in labour because my son was footling breach. I don't remember being in a terrible amount of pain at all really afterward. I was in the hospital for a few days because that's how my doctor and my hospital did it. (I was almost 42 yrs old, so that factored in I think.) I got home and carried the baby and did the stairs and laid him on my belly to feed him. It all seemed very manageable to me. This is the only pregnancy and birth I've ever experienced, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but it seemed to me it was all very smooth and recovery was steady and uneventful. Hope you have a speedy and uneventful recovery, too!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:02 AM on October 25, 2010

30 hours of labour before my C-section. The first week was difficult, not due to pain but more the limited mobility. It took me forever to get out of bed because my abdomen just felt so....untrustworthy. I thought if I twisted the wrong way or coughed too hard I would just split open.

What helped me the most was getting someone to come over and look after the baby so I could just sleep, sleep, sleep. You've been through an ordeal and your body needs some quiet time to get itself back together. Once you've got some solid sleep under your belt, the more you walk around the easier everything gets. By week two I almost felt back to normal. Just don't let it lull you into a false sense of security - no lifting heavy objects even if you feel like you can.

For me, a lot of the post-C problems were about fear and frustration (not being able to get to a screaming baby quickly is hard mentally) than actual physical issues. This is week four and I'm back to post-pregnancy levels of activity.
posted by Kappi at 7:40 AM on October 25, 2010

Ugh, I mean pre-pregnancy levels of activity. Clearly my brain will never be the same.
posted by Kappi at 7:42 AM on October 25, 2010

The hardest part might be your mental recovery, if you were expecting things to go one way, but then they went the other way. I had an emergency c-section, and reflecting back now, I see that I should have sought advice from a qualified professional. I didn't feel "normal" for long time.
posted by cass at 7:51 AM on October 25, 2010

I did most of the lifting for Mrs. Plinth for a while after. Also, making her laugh for the first week was Just Not Cool. While she was still in the hospital, the phone was ringing off the hook and I made the mistake of answering "Stuart's House of Crazy" right when she was coming out of the bathroom. She was ready to kill.
posted by plinth at 7:52 AM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: been awhile, but i have had 2 c sections. For me, the most painful parts were the transitions - the processes of getting up or laying down. And coughing or laughing. Keep a pillow handy to clutch to your stomach if you need to cough. It helps. Actual walking around wasn't so bad. IF you are needing to get up for a prone position, roll to your side first and then use your arms to sit up.

I only had tylenol once i was out of the hospital and it was enough, but i learned to take it on regular intervals and not let the pain start. Easier to keep it gone than get rid of it once it is there. Really only needed it for a few days.

Take it very easy the first couple of weeks - you will be glad you did. I think those first weeks of healing are important to take seriously. Nap when your baby naps. Otherwise just sit around and hold your cutie - again a pillow is your friend. Put it on your lap to support your arms when you hold him.

posted by domino at 8:48 AM on October 25, 2010

Since it's been 3 days, I assume you're up and about - that's the number 1 thing, I think. Get vertical and moving ASAP as allowed by the docs.

Don't even worry about the scar - it will be practically invisible no matter what you do or don't do.

Ease yourself to sitting by rolling on your side, then pressing yourself up with your top hand.

Plinth is right! Do NOT watch anything funny for 2 weeks! No hanging out with funny people! Laughing is excruciating.

Get a carrier (Bjorn etc.) if you are going to be walking or out and about alone with the baby. You aren't supposed to use the snap-in-carriers (the car seat/carrier part of the Graco system, for example) for a while because of the extra weight. My OB said nothing heavier than the baby for 4 weeks, others may vary. I found the carrier to be bulky and hard to carry with my sore stomach and wouldn't have done it anyway.

Congratulations, he's a cutie!
posted by peep at 8:53 AM on October 25, 2010

My c-section recovery sucked. It was two weeks before I could stand or sit or lie down on my own. In the longterm, I had abdominal pain daily for ten months that the OB insisted was normal that when other OBs heard how often I called her office with this pain said, "No. That is not normal." And they diagnosed and aided the problem. I can't say as it's gone away, though I don't have to use the patches given to me nearly as much. Recovery is not necessarily 6 weeks or whatever. Keep an eye on your physical recovery, and if something doesn't feel right, get a second opinion. I was told through three months and then four months and then six months that everything was perfectly normal, and I wish I had called someone else at the three month mark instead of the 7 month mark, requiring a three month wait before I could see someone.

It's almost two years later and my abs are just shot. I just have no abdominal strength any more and my back makes up the slack. I have never felt normal since that day. I have all sorts of abdominal twinges, abdominal pains, and my periods are excruciating. I spend nearly three days each month wanting to cry my eyes out the pain can get so bad, and medication doesn't help.

Get a lactation consultant. Even before you leave the hospital, have one lined up to visit you the day after you arrive home. My c-section was the inception of a failed breastfeeding relationship.

And people are going to tell you all sorts of things about your c-section, and most of them are going to be wrong. You feel how you feel. A month from now you will feel how you feel. A year from now, you will feel how you feel. The feelings may change, but they are not wrong, and they are not invalid. You may be okay with how things went for you, and other people will tell you you shouldn't be. Or you could be like me and not at all happy with how things went and told, "At least you have a healthy baby." Pay them no mind and/or don't be afraid to tell them to STFU, depending on how you would normally handle people saying things out of line.

Join ICAN.
posted by zizzle at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Three c-sections.
  • co-sleeper bed so that I did not need to get out of bed to nurse;
  • if I had been smart, belly bands
  • exercise as much as you can, but don't feel like you need to be superhuman
  • Depends and any other things you need to do to not bleed or pee through
  • Should have had a duella, even with my husband around
  • have a pillow to hold against you for coughing, sneezing or sudden movements. Also you will want this to stop your damn cat from jumping on you
It gets way better after week 2.
posted by jadepearl at 9:26 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congrats! He is beautiful :)

I have had two c-sections. One unscheduled and one scheduled. There was definitely a difference in recovery time between the two, the unscheduled one was a bit harder. Also I was pretty freaked out by the concept of being cut open, and I was fairly cautious for a long time. I can remember lying in the hospital bed 24 hours after the section, and my OB coming to visit me. I had just got out of bed and walked for the first time. She said I would be up and about within 2 days, and I thought she was batshit insane. But it turned out to be true! Of course I wasn't like normal, but I was able to shuffle around in a vague approximation of walking.

Things that helped - I got one of those 'robot arm' grabber contraptions, which I could use to pick things off the floor (it was a cheap kids toy off amazon, I preferred that to getting a proper old person grabber, which is more expensive anyway). The loss of independence is the hardest battle I think, I kept "cheating" and bending to pick up stuff I dropped, and then that would set me back in my recovery. I could tell I had set myself back because the bleeding would come back again, and I would know it had been a stupid idea to pick up that dropped burp cloth yesterday - gah! So take it easy on yourself, don't try and be superwoman, accept help, and use a robot arm for those times when you don't have anyone handy. Or just leave the item on the floor ;)

Try and walk every day, whatever you feel up to - just a shuffle into the kitchen, or maybe a stroll down the street. I also dropped the narcotic pain meds as fast as I could, because I hated the fuzzy head, and I found that ibuprofen was more effective anyway. That took about a week or two with the first section, and less than a week with the second. YMMV of course. Don't rush yourself.
posted by Joh at 9:35 AM on October 25, 2010


I'm going to second some of what cooking girl and Joh have said:
- Recovery is different for everyone. Just go at your own pace.
- Get up and move around as soon as you can, and do it as much as you can. It hurts, but that's okay -- I took the pain as a sign that I should stop walking, but it's okay, walking isn't bad for you and will help you recover.

I found my recovery difficult. The first two weeks I slept on the couch because it hurt so much to get in and out of bed. It took about two months before I felt mostly back to normal, and probably about six month before I felt completely back to normal. Like you, I labored for a while (my water actually broke 2 days before I finally had the baby) and was induced before having an emergency C.

One practical tip: before you settle down, especially to nurse, make sure you'll have everything you might need in the next hour or two (for instance, lip balm, glass of water, snack, phone, book, laptop, TV remote, burp cloths). Having a bottle of water always within reach was key for me. You might even want to have a tray or something similar with all your supplies.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:47 AM on October 25, 2010

Regarding getting in and out of bed -- my husband actually took our bed off its "legs" so that we could attach the cosleeper properly, put the box spring directly on the floor. The unexpected benefit of this was that getting in and out of bed as a LOT EASIER with the box spring directly on the floor.

Our bed was very high and I am very short, but if you find that, say, getting off the couch is easier than getting out of bed, and you'd rather be in bed, is there a way to make the bed more like the couch? Then do that.

Or you can be like my friend who slept in her La-Z-Boy recliner for two weeks post-C-section and was happy as a clam. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:22 AM on October 25, 2010

If you have stairs in your house, don't use them. I stayed in our bedroom for about two weeks straight and by the end of it I was going stir-crazy, but my recovery went really well.

If you started rolling out of bed sideways near the end of your pregnancy - keep it up!

Nthing the bed tray for meals, AND the bassinet or co-sleeper for the baby so you can keep him in the room with you.

Also be careful to place the bassinet, and everything else you want, lower rather than higher - when you are stuck in bed, it is difficult to lift the baby up and over the sides of things, without using your abdominal muscles.

I also found that breastfeeding using the football hold was easiest during this time, and it was very helpful having the MyBrestFriend nursing pillow in bed with me.
posted by bq at 1:26 PM on October 25, 2010

Echoing everyone else on recovery. I've had 3 c-sections in less than 4 years, the first one after induced labor and a baby that got stuck, the 3rd just over a year ago. I have big babies, too, so I'm not sure if that has anything to do with recovery time. But my first 2 sections were baaad for the first few days, then got much better fast. My third was awful. Afterwards I screamed in pain when I tried to walk 6 feet to the bathroom. It did take longer to recover from the last one, and I had some scar tissue pain. My problem with #2 and #3 was of course having a toddler (and then 2 toddlers) wanting me to pick them up or deal with them while I had the baby, too.

Roll out of bed on your side. Use a pillow when you can to prop the baby up (or a boppy) if you are nursing or just holding him -- the football hold worked best for me at first, when I was healing. I wore a belly band for a few months, and that helped. Go slowly -- just do what you can do, and no more. Do you have help? Is someone coming over with meals? These things matter greatly, since the less you have to do, the more time you'll have to rest and heal. I would say go slow on exercise (even light walking) until you're 2 months out.

Please do not fret about scarring or getting your body back, etc.... just bask in the joy of bringing new life. Any weight will come off, scars fade over time -- but these first months are precious beyond words.

(Nate is gorgeous. Makes me want to try for a fourth!)
posted by mdiskin at 9:02 PM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help everyone! I already feel so much better every day. We even got out of the house today to go check little man's bilirubin checked. The short trip to the lab was mostly painless (for me anyway). My husband has been amazing. He brings me the baby to nurse and changes all the diapers. My job is to hang out and make milk mostly. :) And, because I've become one of those people that is enamored with my child, another pic.
posted by chiababe at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2010

Oh, look how precious!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:13 PM on October 26, 2010

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