Lots of women don’t plan on getting a c-section and therefore they might not know much about c-section recovery. C- section recovery (C-section) is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. Sometimes a C-section is safer for you or your baby than is a vaginal delivery.
Your doctor might recommend a C-section if:
- Your labor isn’t progressing. Stalled labor is one of the most common reasons for a C-section. Stalled labor might occur if your cervix isn’t opening enough despite strong contractions over several hours.
- Baby is in distress. If your health care provider is concerned about changes in your baby’s heartbeat, a C-section might be the best option.
- Baby’s abnormal position. A C-section might be the safest way to deliver the baby if his or her feet or buttocks enter the birth canal first (breech) or the baby is positioned side or shoulder first.
- Twins. A C-section might be needed if you’re carrying twins and the leading baby is in an abnormal position or if you have triplets or more babies.
- Problem with your placenta. If the placenta covers the opening of your cervix (placenta previa), a C-section is recommended for delivery.
- Prolapsed umbilical cord. A C-section might be recommended if a loop of umbilical cord slips through your cervix ahead of your baby.
- You have a health issue. A C-section might be recommended if you have a severe health problem, such as a heart or brain condition. A C-section is also recommended if you have an active genital herpes infection at the time of labor.
- You’ve had a previous C-section. Depending on the type of uterine incision and other factors, it’s often possible to attempt a VBAC. In some cases, however, your health care provider might recommend a repeat C-section.
What Happens During a C-Section Recovery?
Let’s begin with explaining the procedure itself. The doctor will anesthetize you from the waist down so that you can remain awake (as opposed to general anesthesia, during which you would be asleep).
The doctor most often makes a horizontal incision at your bikini line — cutting through skin, fat, and fascia — moving muscle, and then cutting into the uterus to remove the baby and placenta.
Once the baby is out, then the stitching of several layers of tissue begins. Moving abdominal muscle also affects the pelvic floor since the abdominal and pelvic floor tissues are so intricately connected. You may think that a C-section causes less stress to the pelvic floor muscles, but in many cases, the exact opposite is true.
Effective C-Section Recovery Strategies
Nutrition Strategies for C- Section Recovery
- Collagen-rich foods: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is essential for increasing the strength and elasticity of tissues in the body, which can help with scar healing. Eating a diet that helps stimulate collagen growth can be beneficial. Bone broth has become popular recently, as have collagen powders to add into a smoothie.
- Reduce constipation: Constipation is common after birth, especially a C-section, due to temporary factors like the fluctuating and rebalancing of your hormones, pain medications, reduced mobility after surgery, lack of sleep, and the stress of having a new human to care for. “Bearing down” on the toilet from being constipated, however, spikes your intra-abdominal pressure (the pressure inside your core), which could worsen Diastasis Recti and/or Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.
Exercise Strategies for C- Section Recovery
- Postural Alignment: This one can be tough in those early (sleepless) postpartum days, but poor alignment increases the stress on your core muscles, thereby slowing your recovery. One tip that can dramatically expedite your healing is to focus on neutral alignment during your everyday movements and while seated (especially given how much time you spend in this position feeding your baby). Watch this neutral alignment video to learn how to find, and move in, neutral.
- Practice Core and PF Exercises As soon as possible following delivery, begin Belly Breathing. This is the first, and most important, core recovery exercise. It will not only help you strengthen your critical deep core muscles, but it also helps to support your healing by activating your body’s parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” system). Practice this exercise on its own and then practice incorporating it into your movements by focusing on exhaling on the effort . Resume (or begin) gentle pelvic floor activations: As mentioned earlier, the trauma to your abdominal muscles during a C-section delivery impacts your pelvic floor as well. Resuming (or beginning) gentle pelvic floor activations (PFAs) as soon as possible after delivery helps increase circulation in the area to expedite healing.
- Practice Stretching : During the time when your scar is healing –limited range of motion in certain areas of your body, especially your pelvic hip region and side of your core which is on average about 5-7 weeks but varies highly by individual – you will likely have some movement restrictions.
Other Remedies for C- Section Recovery
- Postpartum Belly Wraps: While we do not recommend a belly wrap to heal DR or shrink your waistline after baby, they can be helpful temporarily if you are in pain. They can also offer support if you are engaging in more strenuous activities like long walks or wearing your baby.
- Scar massage: Once your scar has fully healed, and is free of infection, it’s important to begin scar massage. This increases blood flow to the area to expedite healing, reduces adhesions, and helps realign your collagen fibers. In addition, the more you touch an area of your body, the more precise the map of that area becomes in your brain, thereby improving your brain-to-core connection. Here is a helpful article on How to Perform a C-Section Scar Massage
- Work with a Specialist: Given how important proper recovery is to your long-term health, strength, and quality of life, working with a specialist in this area can be instrumental in ensuring the most effective recovery. Consider working with one of our expert FemFit Trainers .