Recovery after C-section: how was it for you and any tips?

Dear all,

I have my c-section planned for the 01.10, 3 weeks from now, if all goes according to plan. I have to admit, I am nervous!
By now I feel well informed about the operation itself, but the recovery after it is still a bit of a mystery to me.
Any of you who have experienced c-sections:
what could you do after the operation and how long did it take you to be able to deal with baby and house work independently? When could you start doing exercise and to what extend? How did you manage your blood sugars, not being able to move much?

Any sharing/ideas would be greatly appreciated :)

I had an unplanned c-section at 39.5 weeks after a failed induction with my daughter. She ended up going to NICU 12 or so hours after birth due to hypoglycemia. She was there from thursday AM until Saturday PM. Because of that, I ended up walking there and back every 2 hours to feed her (I breastfed her). At first, my husband would wheel me in a chair. Later, I pushed a chair for support and a seat if I needed it. Eventually, I was able to walk unassisted (though slowly). My recovery was great. I owe all of that to being up and moving early on. That is key after any abdominal surgery.

Also, drink lots of water and take anything they offer to help you poop. After the c-section, your insides are asleep and you might need some help in that department. Also, if you take any percocets or narcotics, they will make you constipated. I took colace and milk of mag. MOM works wonders!

I had a strict pain-management schedule. I would take 1 percocet every 4 hours and then a motrin in between. When I got home, I just took motrin and was fine.

I wouldn't worry about your blood sugars being too high immediately post-baby. As soon as that baby is born, your need for insulin will drop sharply. I was super low for the beginning part of my recovery. That was a little tricky since I was a little too nauseous to eat anything that first evening. For a few days, I was eating cereal and trail mix and stuff that I couldn't eat while pregnant because it would have sent me sky-high.

During the surgery, you feel everything, it just doesn't hurt. That made me squeamish. Afterwards, I was shivering uncontrollably for hours.... it's from the anesthesia or whatever they use. I was also extremely itchy... wanted to rip my skin off... that was probably the worst part. It was from a long-acting opioid they gave me before they took out the epidural. They ended up giving me IV benadryl, which turned me into a space cadet. I vomited hours later, after I got to our room and started drinking water. That was awful. Make sure you have a pillow or rolled up blanket handy to splint yourself when you vomit, cough, get up, laugh, etc.

Also, bring one of those boppy pillows (or something like it). I left mine at home. The pillows at the hospital are paper thin and its tough to support baby on them. Just wash the cover when you get home. Do this even if you bottle feed.

Don't bring too much stuff. The first 24 hours, you will be in a hospital gown and everyone will be all up in your business. After that, I threw on some yoga pants and a bathrobe. Wear their underwear... you can toss them afterwards so no need to ruin any of yours. If you nurse, bring a nursing tank top. I made the mistake of nursing bras, which weren't as comfortable or easy to use.

So pretty much, walk early and often. Most places will let moms push their babies around the halls in the bassinet. Someone will need to stay with you the first night since you can't get out of bed.

Good luck! It is all fun and pretty overwhelming at first. You will do great!

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This is all great advice. I would caution, though, after having 2 c-sections: don't push yourself. Listen to your pain and your fatigue level and don't do more than you feel you can. If you do, you will regret it later as your recovery will take even longer. With my first c-section, I was pushing myself to do laundry, take walks around the block, etc pretty early on, and I ended up having a pretty long recovery. With my second, I made sure not to push it so much at first, and it was a much easier recovery overall. The pain medication will make you feel like you can do more than you should, so really listen to other signs of pain--for me it was fatigue and irritability.

Make sure your husband/partner understands that you will need help getting up out of bed. He/she should help you sit up before getting the baby for you to nurse. Going up and down stairs is also very hard on your incision. I had a bag that I would put everything I needed for the day in, so that I could go down the 2 flights of stairs once and then stay on the first floor all day.

As for how long it takes, it really depends what you count as "recovered," and of course for everyone and every surgery, it's a little different. I think the hardest thing for me was that within a couple of weeks, I looked and felt fairly normal, so other people would forget that I couldn't walk very far or very fast without having pain or getting really tired. So just remember to advocate for yourself and speak up and remind people that you are recovering from major surgery AND you have a newborn, and you need help and rest.

Looking back on the most recent experience, I don't think I really felt completely myself until my daughter was 2 months old. And even then, there's a heck of a lot going on in your body, especially if you're breastfeeding.

About the surgery itself: 2 things I wish I had known--if you are claustrophobic, it might make you anxious (you are flat on your back, with your head lower than your feet, you're not supposed to move your arms, you have oxygen tubing in your nose, a cap on your head, and a surgical drape inches in front of your face). If that's a concern, tell the anesthesiologist ahead of time. And the second thing: I don't know how common this is, but during the procedure I had a sharp pain radiating from my sternum up to my right shoulder. It lasted for at least a week after the surgery. My OB said later that it was probably air that had gotten trapped while the abdominal cavity was open, and it took awhile to dissipate.

This is not at all to scare you, just to help you be as informed as possible, since I didn't read or hear about those 2 things anywhere, but it would have been helpful to know. I had the shakes as well, and for me holding my baby a lot helped, but they are pretty awful while they last.

Re: exercise--I felt able to start slowly after about 2 months, but generally I think you can start at 6 weeks, after your postpartum checkup. And of course you can walk as tolerated before that.

Don't worry too much about your blood sugars. You need a mental break after 9 months of intensive management! Also, you will most likely be low rather than high, especially if you are nursing. Just check regularly and adjust food/insulin as needed. Focus on recovering first.

Best of luck. Hope some of that was helpful.

Thank you both for the helpful shares and advice! It definitely helps me imagine a bit more realistically how it might go and I will try the things you recommended.
I have only 11 more days to go! Aaaa! excited, worried, scared...

This is all great advice! Like kphil said moving around sooner really helps. I didn’t push myself but I did make progress and I believe my recovery was quicker. I haven’t given birth while being diebetic so that will be a journey I’ll share with you! I think you’ll be just fine. I can’t offer any more advice as the ladies here have covered it, good luck!