Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 Things Your Best Friend Would Tell You About Recovering from a C-section (If she had a tendency to overshare.)

Here's my story: The whole time I was pregnant, our plan was for my husband Dan to deliver our baby. He was in his final year of an ER residency at the hospital where we delivered, he had already helped deliver babies there, and my awesome OB-GYN thought it would be amazing for him to deliver our child. Her plan was to sit nearby in the rocking chair while he delivered, just in case he needed any advice. Then my amniotic sac (aka "water") developed a slow leak without me going into labor. About ten hours after it had started leaking, I still hadn't had a single contraction and I was only 1cm dilated, so I was hooked up to a Pitocin drip. After a whole night on Pitocin (and 24 hours after "the leak" began,) I was only 4cm dilated, my son was face up, his head was not at all engaged in my pelvis, and his heart rate started dropping after each contraction. So we talked with my OB, and we all decided that a c-section was the best option. (When my OB delivered our son, she realized that his umbilical cord had been trapped between his head and my pelvis, so if his head had moved down, it could've clamped off his cord and become an emergency.)

I hadn't even bothered to pay attention when they talked about c-sections in our childbirth class, because I "knew" I wasn't going to have one. So here are some things I didn't know that you might want to know if you've just had a c-section, if you're having a scheduled c-section, or if, like me, you're totally sure that you'll never need a c-section. You know - just in case.


(Just to warn you, I'm going to talk about some things that could potentially be awkward. Like pooping. And sex. So if you don't want to read about those things, go read something I wrote that's less awkward. Like my recipe for chicken with zucchini and squash.) 

Nothing in this post should be misconstrued as medical advice, and it definitely shouldn't take the place of real medical advice from a real medical professional - these are just some friendly tips from one mommy to another. When in doubt, ask your doctor/midwife/nurse.


1. Walk, walk, walk.
When I shared the news of my son's birth on Facebook, I also shared that I had a c-section. And I got a few messages from awesome women in my life (at least one of whom - an old friend from summer camp - I hadn't spoken with in years) who had had c-sections and offered advice and encouragement. The one thing they all advised was to walk as much as I could, so I started walking (up and down the halls) the day after Lucas was born, and I think it helped a lot (not that I have anything to compare it to, but still.) As with anything else, listen to your body and don't overdo it.


2. Take the stool softener.
From what I've heard, pooping the first time after you have a child is always a pain - literally - whether you delivered vaginally or by c-section. But if you have a c-section, you have the added problem that many pain medications can make you constipated. I was on Percocet after my c-section, and that stuff stops you up like you wouldn't believe. It was kind of awful. So any time they offer you a stool softener/laxative in the hospital, TAKE IT! (And if they don't offer you one, ask for it.) Drink prune juice, mix fiber in your drink (if your doctor says it's ok), eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies, and TAKE THE STOOL SOFTENER. I cannot stress that strongly enough. For me, constipation was the worst part of my recovery. Moving on from the fact that I just told everyone I couldn't poop...

3. Stay in the hospital as long as they'll let you.
I know, I know; you just want to get home to your own bed and your own clothes and your own nursery that you spent the last nine months decorating. But those things will still be there in a day or two, and in the meantime, you should  take advantage of the fact that you can have healthy meals delivered to your bed and a few extra pairs of hands to help with diaper changes. Remember, you're recovering from a major surgery; more help is a good thing. Most insurance companies cover four days in the hospital after a c-section, so if you can get it, take it.

Our last morning in the hospital. Goodbye, 24-hour nursing staff! Goodbye, being able to have ice water delivered to my bed at 4am with the touch of a button! Goodbye, all-you-can-eat steamed broccoli!

4. Sleep as much as you can.
All new moms are told to sleep when the baby sleeps, but this is especially important when you're recovering from a major surgery on top of new-mom sleep-deprivation. The laundry will wait. The dishes will wait. Go take a nap.

5. You still can't wear tampons.
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I kind of thought that the whole "no sex or tampons for at least six weeks" thing was just because your vagina goes through a traumatic experience during childbirth and needs some recovery time. Actually, it's because you still have an open wound where the placenta was connected to your uterus. So putting anything into your vagina is a no-no while this wound is healing because you run the risk of accidentally introducing bacteria into your uterus and causing an infection. So even if you deliver by c-section instead of vaginally, you're still going to have to use pads for your postpartum bleeding. Sorry. And while we're kind of on the subject...

6. Sex still might hurt for a while.
This is something I neither knew nor expected. I knew that sex was painful for the first few times if you had a vaginal delivery, but I assumed that it was just because, you know, you had pushed a baby out of your vagina. But sex was still painful for me the first few times after having a c-section (and I don't mean it was painful at the site of my incision, if you catch my drift.) I'm guessing it was because of hormones (and my son was breastfed, which causes you to be extra dry.) Use lots of lube, and take it slowly. It gets better.

7. It's ok to feel sad, but if you're too sad for too long, talk to your doctor.
Some women feel some sadness after having an unplanned c-section. If you had a picture in your mind of how your baby was going to be born and then circumstances outside of your control resulted in an unplanned c-section, it's normal to feel a little disappointed. I was fortunate in that I didn't deal with any feelings of sorrow over my c-section after my son was born (although I did cry when we all realized I'd need to have one,) but I know that some women do feel sad over it, and that can be totally normal. But my concern is that if it seems to you that your excessive feelings of sadness, guilt or anger have a legitimate cause, you might be less likely to recognize if they're actually symptoms of postpartum depression. So if your feelings of sadness don't go away or if they get worse, talk to your doctor about them.

8. Ask for (or accept) help.
This one can be tough, but things will go much more easily if you do it! If someone asks if there's anything they can do to help, say yes! And if they don't offer, don't feel bad asking for specific favors from close friends or family members. If you're breastfeeding, no one else can take over the feedings (obviously,) but that doesn't mean they can't change diapers, do some laundry, or rock your baby while you take a nap. If your neighbor's planning a trip to the grocery store, ask if she can pick up a few items for you, too. The women from my Bible Study brought me meals for two weeks, and I can't even tell you how wonderful it was not to have to think about getting/making food while I was recovering.

9. You might have to buy more pants.
I forget how long it took before I could fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, but even when they fit well, I still couldn't wear my jeans comfortably. The waistbands on all of my pre-pregnancy jeans were positioned at just the wrong height so that they were fine while I was standing, but when I sat, they pressed right into my c-section scar. The scar was tender if something rubbed/pressed against it for at least nine months after my son was born, and I had given up on ever wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans again and purchased all new jeans with higher waist bands by the time the sensitivity finally went away. Now I have tons of jeans, so I guess that wasn't necessarily bad.

10. It gets better.
At first, simple things like laughing are going to hurt. You're going to be tired and sore for a while. But it gets better. I promise. And yes, your scar will fade a whole lot. On the days (or the nights. Especially the nights.) that it's really tough, it doesn't hurt to tell yourself out loud - "This is temporary. It will get better." Then send an email or a text to a fellow mom who can relate, and tell her you need some encouragement. (If you don't know who to email, my email is bejaneum[at]gmail[dot]com.) It gets better. Pinky swear.

Bonus tips for if you haven't had your c-section yet:

11. Daddy might be able to do skin-to-skin contact with baby if you can't.
Skin-to-skin contact - also called Kangaroo Care - is when a newborn baby is placed naked (or wearing only a hat and diaper) on mom's bare skin, and it's great for newborns. (You can read more about why it's good for them here.) I was really determined that I would do skin-to-skin contact with my baby as soon as he was born, so one of the first things I thought of when we realized a c-section was a distinct possibility was that I wouldn't be able to have skin-to-skin contact right away since I'd be getting sutured closed. So Dan asked if he could do it instead. My OB had the nurses bring him scrub pants and a hospital gown, which he wore with the opening in the front, and he was able to hold Lucas against his bare chest while I was still on the operating table. Since then, my OB recommends it to all of her c-section patients, and she even wrote a letter about it that was published in a medical journal (I have a copy in Lucas's baby book.) If you've found out that you're going to need a c-section, ask your OB about this ahead of time. (You can even mention that it was suggested in the May 2013 issue of OBG Management if you really want to sound like you've done your homework on the subject.)

Yes, I know Dan is wearing a jacket here. This was taken later. We don't have a picture of it, ok?
12. Bring one or two pairs of long, comfy socks to the hospital.
Because you'll likely stay in bed for 18-24 hours after your c-section, they'll probably put these plastic things on your lower legs that inflate and deflate to massage your legs and prevent blood clots. When they first put them on, you'll be like, "Ahh! Leg massage! This is so luxurious!" And then after ten minutes, you'll be asking the nurse to please, please, pretty please take them off just for one minute, please!! Plastic against your bare skin just feels sticky and sweaty and uncomfortable. I imagine that soft cotton knee-high socks would help a lot. (I say "I imagine" because I didn't know about the plastic massagers of misery and was stuck trying to bargain with the nurse that if she took them off for just five minutes, I swore I would flex my legs the entire time and also use sheer force of will to prevent blood clots.)

So there you have it: c-section recovery advice from a mom who "knew" she wasn't going to need a c-section. Do you have any advice to add to this list? Please share in the comments!

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40 comments:

  1. I came across your blog on Top Mommy Blogs. I love this post! I did not have a csec, but I was induced so I understand the pitocin (& I'll keep this post in mind if I'm pregnant again!). Thank goodness you didn't end up in am emercency c! I look forward to going through your archives and catching up. I'm new to blogging so feel free to visit me at www.highheels2hiddentoys.com

    Caroline

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    1. Thanks for visiting! I love your blog name, and I'll definitely be checking it out!

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  2. The socks!!! How i wish I had longer socks. I cried and begged them to take the boots off (for just a minute.)

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    1. Oh my gosh, me too. I was whining pathetically to the nurse and using my best persuasive speaking to get her to take them off. It worked for approximately 12 minutes. Best 12 minutes ever.

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    2. Ha! I think I had mine off for 7 minutes....while the nurse changed me....I didn't realize THAT would be happening. EVER!

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    3. Yeah.... I think I could've lived without having someone change my underwear. Maybe that should've been on the list. "Someone will change your underwear and help you shower."

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  3. I didn't have a C-section with any of my children (I have 3) but I did have to deal with the plastic inflatable things after my daughter was born & I had my tubal & for other surgeries & I completely agree, I think long socks would have been better!!

    I would have never thought that sex after a C-section would hurt. And have always wondered if you needed pads or if tampons would be fine.. Thanks for the information! I've got this lodged in the back of my mind, just in case any family members or friends go through a C-section & I can then tell them!!

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    1. I think "extra long socks" should be on the list for every pregnant woman's hospital bag. Because best case scenario, you don't need them at all, and you only wasted two inches of bag space. But if you need them and you don't have them, you will so wish you did!

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  4. One of the best bits about talking to other mums is comparing birth stories! I love it and mine are all teenagers now! I think it's important people know stuff like this, they don't always tell you the things you really need to know - like the pooping (or lack thereof!), the warm socks thing - it's all important stuff. Mine were all natural deliveries but they were all very different, I would just add that with natural delivery you bleed - quite a lot - paper pants are a good option, and the most absorbent ST's that you can find.
    Ah, now I feel I may have overshared too!

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    1. Haha! I felt kind of awkward with my oversharing (since people I know in real life read my blog), but there were a lot of things that I didn't know, and I really think it's helpful to go into things like childbirth with as much information as possible!
      I thought Always Infinity pads were GREAT for postpartum bleeding. I mean, after I left the hospital and stopped using the giant pillow pads they give you there.

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  5. Great advice! I always wondered about #5. My mom has c-sections, but I didn't and I could just not bring myself to ask. And #11, oh your sweet husband! What a good man!

    Happy SITS Day!

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    1. Haha! Yeah, I really wondered why my hospital discharge paperwork still said no tampons even though I had had a c-section, so I went on a quest to find out why. It's too bad. I much prefer tampons.
      And yes, he's a very good man!! :)
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. I wish I had read this right before I had my c-section!!! Great job! And I agree with Sorta Southern Single Mom...your husband sounds like a sweet guy! Happy SITS Day...

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    1. I wish I had, too! Haha. Thanks for stopping by! I'll have to pass along the compliments to Dan. :)

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  7. LOVE the stool softener one, because seriously everyone...YES!! This is a great post and should be read by any woman about to have a baby! Happy SITS day! :)

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    1. Stool softeners are a new mom's best friend.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Stopping by from SITS! This list had me cracking up. I didn't have a c-section but a lot of these apply anyway! Hello #3, I was in the hospital for 11 days with my first and 5 days with my second.

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    1. Oh wow! They should've named a hospital wing after you!
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Visiting rom SITS! Where were you 16 years ago?! Wish I'd had this list with my c-section then. I was in the hospital a week though - I think I was sick. Honestly that part of it was a blur. And I was happy to be there.

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    1. Haha! Sorry I couldn't help you out earlier! ;) Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Visiting from SITS. I had two C-sections. Good list. I would also add, get out of bed slowly the first time. I launched out of bed and then saw stars. Also, it might be hard to pee afterward due to trauma from catheter. Oh the memories!

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    1. Very good advice. And how could I forget to mention the joy that is the catheter?? I thought I'd lost the ability to be embarrassed after having someone else change my underwear, and then my catheter bag leaked and my friend accidentally set her purse in it. I'm cringing just thinking about it.

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  11. Your tips are bang on. Having had 3 C-sections I eventually learned to actually DO most of them. Took me three though :) Visiting via SITS.

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    1. Haha! Yeah, the advice is easier to give than to follow...
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. At my hospital the boot things are covered in fabric, so no socks needed! :) Also yes about the walking. With my son I had an unplanned c-section and didn't walk (because I mean really, it HURTS and I refused pain meds because I'm an opiate addiction counselor--don't wanna go there!) and my stomach got so distended and full of gas it looked like I was still 9 months pregnant. It was more painful than the scar. With my daughter I was bugging the crap out of my husband I wanted to walk around so much because I didn't want that to happen again!

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    1. Fabric-covered massage boots?????? I'm so jealous!!!!
      I delivered at an inner-city hospital, and my OB had prescribed two percocet at a time, but I asked that they only give me one. I think I may have been the first person in the history of that hospital to refuse extra pain meds. All of the nurses thought I was losing it. Did you get weird looks when you wouldn't take any?

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  13. I didn't have a c-section, but I had those boots on for other surgeries and they are horrible to deal with. I wish I had thought to have longer socks! Great list, a lot of these apply to vaginal delivery too - take the stool softener for a long time just to be sure you won't be hitting the ceiling in pain! :) Happy SITS day!

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    1. Those dang boots. I think hospitals should just have massage therapists there to give you a massage instead! :)
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  14. My husband was also able to do skin-to-skin with Ivy while I was still in the O.R.. It made the disappointment of having a c-section much less difficult, and made for some of the sweetest pictures we have of her first 24 hours on earth.

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    1. Aww! It's so great that your husband did it too and that you got pictures!! I wish we had thought to get pictures!

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  15. I think the no tampons thing may be more than that even. I've not had a c-section (or a baby) but I've had two laproscopies (for endo) and in both cases they told me no tampons or sex for 2 weeks. I was bummed because both of those surgeries caused bleeding.

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    1. Interesting! I wonder if they were worried about you introducing bacteria if there was bleeding from the laproscopy?

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  16. Great tips! I too had a c-section and didn't realize how tough the recovery was until going through it!! Visiting from SITS :)!

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  17. I can totally relate to the post to a T! I to ignored all the c-section talk as I was having my thoughly planned out natural drugfree birth - I laugh at myself now for being so niave! I wish i read this 21 months ago :) Great advice for any pregnant lady especially the one with all the plans.

    Rebecca x | The Beauty and Life Edit

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  18. I love this post, it's so down-to-earth and funny. And no need to apologize for any potential grossness. I think after becoming a mother, the threshold for gross is completely different. Talking about poop is an integral part of my life now. :)

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  19. I too wasn't expecting to have a C-section with our second child but I had no choice :( Recovery for C-section was quicker for me than a when I had our older child through normal delivery. Maybe because I had a stich down there so it was hard to sit down. Having a C-section in the Philippines is twice as much as having it normally, so paying the hospital bill was more difficult than recovery haha! From the SITS family :-)

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  20. oops sorry, what I meant was it's more expensive to have a C-section, twice the amount of a normal delivery :-P

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  21. I h ad a c-section the second time around and it wasn't planned. It was such a difficult recovery! C-sections are no joke! Today I'm celebrating that baby's 9th birthday! ;) Thanks for dropping by on my SITS day.

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  22. Dont forget the pillow!!! If you have to cough.... make sure you hold a pillow over your stitches. It hurts and you don't want to bust it open.
    I also had the same mind set as you with my first, I had the whole delivery planned. Ha! My kids sure taught me a lesson... 3 c-sections later ��

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  23. Oh man! I had an unplanned c-section with my son too! This is all great advice. I was also in the "it will never happen to me" camp. I look back and laugh at how incredibly confident I was about how good at childbirth I would be (completely unfounded of course).

    -A
    http://welcometomummyhood.blogspot.ca/

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