After nine months, you’re finally ready to meet the baby growing inside your belly. This is an exciting time, but childbirth can also be taxing on your body especially if you’ll be undergoing a cesarean delivery. Whether yours is planned or not, getting a C-section can affect both your physical and mental health. Here’s everything you need to know on how to achieve a healthy C-section recovery.
In Singapore, the rate for cesarean deliveries rose up to 34.4% in 20141, so there’s a good chance that you too will undergo a C-section. It’s best to know all you can about the procedure and what it takes to undergo a successful C-section recovery.
When is a C-section necessary?
A C-section is done by making an incision across your abdominal wall or uterus to deliver your baby. While a cesarean delivery is considered safe, it is still major surgery, and going under the knife is more risky than a vaginal delivery.
A cesarean delivery may be carried out as a planned procedure (Elective C-Section), usually during the 39th week3. For example, an ultrasound may show that your baby is in a breech position (feet first) or transverse (sideways). In such cases, the baby might not exit the womb safely, so your doctor may recommend a C-section.
In other cases, however, emergency C-sections will be done when complications arise before and during labour. One instance can be when labour suddenly stops or progresses too slowly. Another is when the baby is in fetal distress and not getting enough oxygen.
Mothers with pre-existing chronic conditions or infections such as diabetes, heart disease or HIV are recommended to undergo an elective cesarean procedure4.
C-section recovery involves both time and care. Post-surgery, you are required to stay at the hospital and be observed closely for two to four days, ensuring no complications have developed from the procedure prior to being discharged, followed by at least six weeks of recovery at home2.
What to expect after surgery
Before you learn the dos and don'ts of C-section recovery, it’s important to educate yourself on the significant changes your body will go through post-surgery. Some of them include5:
Vaginal discharge: Vaginal bleeding is your body’s way of getting rid of the extra blood and tissue in your uterus.
Afterpains: These pains closely resemble menstrual cramps, as blood vessels narrow to prevent you from bleeding too much.
Soreness: Your breasts will be more firm, sensitive, and larger than usual.
Changes in hair and skin: Due to significant changes in your hormones, your hair might thin out in the next three to four months. Moreover, stretch marks are likely to form around your belly and breasts.
Mental health issues: Pregnancy, in general, is a very emotional time. And the arrival of your baby can trigger all sorts of emotions — you might cry one moment and feel anxious the next. Sometimes, these emotions can escalate into postpartum depression. To maintain your mental health, you should consider going to therapy as part of your C-section recovery.
Should you experience worrying symptoms or if you are in doubt, please contact your doctor for further clarification and assessment.
Recovery tips and tricks
C-section recovery is no easy feat. It can be overwhelming at times, but remember to take as much time as you need to recover, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
1. Be gentle with physical activity
A C-section is a major surgery. Take it easy and keep your physical activities to a minimum. Walking around will help you heal and avoid blood clots6, but expect that you’ll tire easily. So don’t engage in rigorous activities like exercise just yet. Avoid lifting heavy equipment and as much as possible, keep everything within your reach.
2.Manage the pain and bleeding
Your body is still fragile, especially along your abdominal region. Support your stomach when you need to cough, sneeze, or laugh. You may also hold a pillow over your incision. For vaginal bleeding, use sanitary pads instead of tampons or douches to avoid infection. A heating pad or warm washcloth can also help with the afterpains or cramping.
3. Care for your wound properly
Expect your C-section incision to be painful as it heals. Over time, the pain will subside eventually, so just make sure to properly care for the wound as it becomes a scar. Always keep the area dry and clean. You’ll know it’s starting to heal once it becomes itchy, but avoid scratching or else it will get irritated. Moreover, allow your wound to breathe; wear soft, breathable fabrics as much as you can.
4. Eat healthy food
C-section recovery also means getting the right nutrition. Constipation is common after C-section7, and to combat this, you need to eat plenty of fibre-rich food to maintain healthy digestion. These include fruits and vegetables such as pears, apples, broccoli, beans, and legumes, to name a few. Finally, don’t forget to drink lots of water to replenish all fluids lost during labour.
5. Get emotional support
Always remember that you’re not in this alone. Seek the help of your family and friends when the going gets tough. It’s perfectly normal to get tired and feel a whirlwind of emotions. The important thing is to surround yourself with people who love you. Your loved ones can help you take care of your child or take over your duties for a while in case you need some time for yourself.
Taking care of yourself, especially after childbirth, is just as important as taking care of your baby. Listen to your body and take as much time as you can to recover. And remember that C-section recovery involves not only your physical well-being but also your mental and emotional needs as well.
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Dr. Raymond Choy Wai Mun
MBChB (UK), Aviation Medicine (Singapore)
Trends and predictors of cesarean birth in Singapore, 2005-2014: A population-based cohort study (2018). Retrieved October 16, 2020 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29453821/
Going home after a C-section (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2020 from https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/discharge-instructions/going-home-after-a-c-section
Cesarean section: Recovery (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2020 from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/
Cesarean Sections (C-Sections) (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2020 from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/c-sections.html
C-section recovery: What to expect (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/c-section-recovery/art-20047310
Caesarean birth: c-section recovery tips (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2020 from https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/different-types-birth/caesarean-birth/caesarean-birth-c-section-recovery-tips
Cesarean Section: What to Expect at Home (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2020 from https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=ud1242