My son’s birth ended in an emergency c-section. Although I had some idea about what the recovery would entail, here are 10 things I wish I had known before my c-section:
- It won’t hurt as much as you think. That’s not to say it didn’t hurt, I had a 6 inch incision across my abdomen, of course it hurt, but once the epidural wore off I felt fine with just taking paracetamol and diclofenac for a week or so (as long as no one made me laugh!).
- Gentle exercise is the key. Don’t push yourself too hard. Everyone keeps reminding you that you’ve had major surgery and, as frustrating as it is, it will take time to recover. The only time the pain was bad was on days when I tried to do too much (like walking 2 miles at 7 days post-partum, what was I thinking?!). At the same time though, it felt great to get out the house and feel more normal, and gentle exercise is important to reduce the risk of blood clots (see point 4)
- You won’t be able to drive. This was incredibly frustrating. I spoke to my insurance company and they said I couldn’t drive for 6 weeks, even though I felt absolutely fine to drive after about 3 weeks. Grr.
- Blood-thinning injections. I was sent home with a week’s worth of blood thinning injections, and some people will be given compression stockings to wear too, as you are at risk of developing a blood clot in your legs (DVT). You, or a family member, will have to administer an injection once a day into your tummy or the top of your leg, a midwife will show you how to do it. It stings a little but it’s not too bad- I used to do it first thing in the morning so I could forget about it for the rest of the day.
- Constipation. You are likely to get bunged up at first. The best thing you can do is drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that are high in fibre such as fruit, brown bread and cereals (although you may not feel much like eating at first). If this isn’t enough then speak to you GP or midwife for advice on which laxative is best to take (word of warning, if you have trapped wind (see point 7) don’t take lactulose it will make it so much worse!).
- The first poo. This was scary and amazing in equal measure. You feel as though you’re going to burst your stitches (you won’t), but the relief from my first poo post-surgery was amazing! It happened to be on the morning of my birthday too- the best birthday present ever (apart from my gorgeous baby son of course!).
- Trapped wind. Oh my god, this was horrendous! I was getting awful abdominal cramps that I had to breathe through as if they were contractions. It even made me throw up at one point. I wish I had known that this would happen so I could try and prevent it. If I knew I was having a c-section again I would pack peppermint tea and peppermint capsules in my hospital bag to start taking from day 1 to try to minimise the pain from trapped wind.
- Bleeding. You will still have vaginal bleeding, like you would if you had a vaginal birth. This lasted about 3-4 weeks for me.
- Numb scar. I really didn’t like the numb feeling around my scar. For some people this feeling will be permanent, but fortunately mine felt much better by about 6 months and had full feeling back by a year.
- Emotional recovery. As I was lucky enough not to experience any complications, I didn’t find the physical recovery too bad. It did, however, take me a long time to come to terms with the emotional aspect of the surgery. Whether your surgery was an emergency or planned, it’s ok to feel upset/disappointed/angry about what happened. It doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for your healthy baby, but you need to take time to grieve for the birth experience you had envisioned. If you’re interested, I’ve written about my emotional recovery here.
**Disclaimer: This post is based on my own personal experience of having a c-section and does not constitute medical advice. If you have any concerns about your own recovery please speak to a health-care professional.**