What To Expect When You’re Recovering From A C-Section

C-sections are no joke. Now that you’ve either scheduled or have been told by your doctor that this is the safest route for you and your baby, there is quite a road ahead of you. There are dozens of ways you can prepare for the surgery and the hospital stay, but it’s important to have an idea of what to expect after Baby is safely in your arms.

You will be extremely tired. 

Even though you (might not) have had to push, your body has undergone serious trauma. If you’re the kind of person who’s always moving, get comfortable. Rest is critical for healing. You will also be experiencing new levels of pain and medication that will make you exhausted. If you feel yourself falling asleep, let it happen.

You might not feel like yourself.

This could be the case for a very long time, especially if you experience postpartum depression like millions of mothers. Even if you don’t experience PPD, your medications are ebbing and flowing and your hormones are going bonkers after giving birth. You can feel pretty much every emotion on the spectrum within a minute or two. It’s normal. If you randomly start weeping, you don’t need to apologize. If you’re angry at imposing family or feeling claustrophobic in the hospital, it’s normal. 

You will be in a great deal of pain.

A cesarean is a major abdominal surgery that is very traumatic on your entire body. Before and during the surgery, it’s unlikely you’ll feel anything. As soon as your heavy medications wear off, however, you will start to feel a lot of sensitivity on the area around your incision and internally. It might hurt to laugh, it might hurt to speak as loudly as you usually do, it might hurt to hold your baby in your lap (pillows are crucial!) and it will most certainly hurt to walk. Good nurses will have you up and walking around your room and the hallways within a day of your procedure and you should expect it to hurt. Anything that your abdominals normally do (help you walk, help you laugh, help you stand or sit up, etc.) will probably cause you some pain. As you recover over the next few weeks, each day will get better. Take it slow and easy and don’t over exert yourself.

You will likely be given several different medications for pain management.

Some moms might be hesitant to take medicines prescribed. While it is certainly your decision, after a c-section is probably not the best time to decline medications. Additionally, nurses will have all of your medications on a very specific schedule. If you decline a medication that normally lasts 8 hours, you might have to wait through some pretty severe pain to take it again because of your medication schedule. In other words, you might not be able to change your mind. Medicines that doctors prescribe to you, whether intravenous or oral, can often help you relax and feel pain-free enough to sleep. Again, sleep is very very critical for your body to recover. 

You will not be able to hold your baby alone right away.

Because of your heavy medications needed to conduct surgery, your body won’t function like it normally does and you certainly won’t be as strong. You might not have full function of your arms and hands, and so a nurse will likely “hold” the baby in your arm and/or on your chest with you. 

You will still bleed.

Once Baby and placenta are taken out, your uterus goes into post-baby overdrive and is working hard to expel anything that would normally leave your body through your vagina during traditional vaginal delivery. Though you won’t experience tearing or stretching, you will still experience pain down south and there will be blood. The hospital can offer you mesh undies, which can be thrown away, ice packs, and other items such as peri-bottles to help keep things clean in the lady parts. Nurses will guide you through the process of how to do this.

Your appetite might be all over the place.

Now isn’t the time to diet. Just listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If you miss a meal (not unlikely given the weird hours you’ll be awake and asleep between recovery and nursing), don’t worry about it. It’s also very important to drink lots of water for building your milk supply. Don’t be surprised if you spend as much time in the bathroom as you do in the bed.

Dresses and robes are your best friend. 

You’re going to have a serious (and large) incision in your abdomen. There will be a big scar. It’s very cool and it’s definitely the mark of a warrior. That said, not all warriors wear pants after battle! It’ll be much more comfortable to have a couple different robes you like and a couple jersey-knit sling style dresses ready so that your clothes don’t come into contact much with your incision.

You might feel like you aren’t as much of a mom, or you skipped the birth process, or you didn’t really deliver your baby. 

You did. You very much, 100% did deliver your baby. No matter the reason that you had a c-section, you are every bit as much of a mother, and the only mother for your child. You’re no less a mom, you’re no less strong or less valid in your experience of childbirth. In fact, most of your pain comes after, when you’re juggling it with new motherhood. Each day gets better. You are a rockstar. 


One comment

  • Thank you. I didn’t have time to prepare for either of my two csections. But I struggle with that last point daily. Thank you for recognizing how emotionally painful a csection is for many of us moms whose birth plans were vastly different then their actual birth experience.

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