All birth is beautiful, and no two births are alike. Similarly, healing in the postpartum phase is unique to each mama, baby, and birthing experience. C-sections are often overlooked in this. Knowing how to heal from a cesarean section can help to take the mystery out of a potentially unexpected and unfamiliar situation.
How to Speed Healing after a C-Section
After a vaginal birth, there’s perineal care to consider and a recovery time to honor, but you’re often able to walk around and generally function as normal shortly after birth. When taking time to heal from a cesarean section, your body has more to repair.
A foundational part of recovery, you have to let your body heal itself. Rest your muscles, organs, and mind with sleep whenever possible. Rest all of your body’s systems and functions with hydration and good nutrition. Tap into whatever postpartum support you can find in order to minimize unnecessary stress and strain.
Use the pain medication available to you through your OBGYN. While we obviously advocate natural medicine and herbal support here, a C-section is extensive surgery and should be treated as such. In between pain pills, though, Nurtured Mother can help to soothe the anxiety and tension that comes with a painful and difficult recovery.
Like the support of family and friends, a good nursing pillow can prop you up and keep you from getting tired! Use pillows to hold baby in a good position and off of your healing incision. It takes a lot of abdominal muscles to prop yourself up while holding a feeding baby. Let the pillows do the heavy lifting so you can focus on a good latch that will help prevent mastitis, plugged ducts, and other breastfeeding difficulties.
Self-care and hygiene
It’s so easy for a new mama to forget to take care of herself. The early weeks after birth seem to be a blur, with no real sense of time. But time is indeed passing, and you need to stay clean. Not only because it’s refreshing, but because you need to keep your incision free of infection. Follow the cleansing practices that your OBGYN gave you, and make yourself a priority.
Cesarean recovery spray
A wound sometimes needs help staying clean and healing well. My C-section recovery spray is formulated to keep gentle, cooling, soothing herbal extracts on the site of the incision as needed. The herbs included are well known as antiseptics and partners in the healing process.
Once your staples are removed, you can speed healing with a postpartum herb bath. Not only is there an effect on your incision, but baby can join you without affecting his umbilical cord. Plus, a nice long soak in the tub forces you to slow down, rest, and allow time for healing and processing internally as much as externally.
Unexpected Scars from Cesarean Sections
The steps that we take from the moment we see that positive test to the moment we hold that little one in our arms shape the rest of our lives, no matter what the birth looks like. Still, we tend to hold lofty and specific expectations of ourselves and our births. When a cesarean section becomes a necessary option or last, urgent resort, the healing process that we had planned for takes on new layers.
Even when a planned c-section goes off without a hitch, healing is more extensive than from a “normal” vaginal birth. With all of the normal, hormonal shifts and adjustments that come with postpartum recovery, any mama has a good deal to adjust to. Adding recovery from a major abdominal surgery to the list creates a special circumstance that should be treated with care, respect, and a great deal of support.
But it’s the unexpected scars that come with a cesarean that often go without attention.
When a c-section isn’t the plan, it’s often surrounded with urgency and worry, sometimes fear. Instead of accommodations for a peaceful transition, the goal is only to get the baby OUT. And with the verbiage and expectations surrounding birth so often performance related, healing from a cesarean section may include emotional scars as much as physical.
It’s important to consider our whole selves – mind, body, spirit – during the healing process. You carried your child as a whole woman, you delivered her as a whole woman, and no matter the circumstances surrounding your birth, you will recover and raise her as a whole woman.
Heal from a Cesarean Section Mentally and Emotionally
If your c-section was the product of a difficult birth, allow time and direct energy toward healing your mind and emotions. Somewhere in the space of early parenthood, caring for your physical health, caring for your new little one, and adjusting to the new life with baby, take some time for you. The real you, the you that has always been there and always will be no matter what motherhood makes of her. (It’s easy to get yourself lost in this motherhood thing. Don’t!)
- Be aware of emotional swings as you filter through the circumstances surrounding your difficult birth and Cesarean section.
- Don’t ignore the spiritual side of pregnancy, labor, and birth. Acknowledge and honor the journey into motherhood that you have taken and are taking, and that not all paths are predictable or even safe. It’s okay. The journey still goes on.
- Allow yourself to process the events guilt free. Yes, your baby is here safe. Yes, C-sections are a wonder of modern medicine. Yes, things could have been better or worse or anything in between. Feelings are big enough all on their own without attaching any guilt or expectations to them. Process them for what they are, and allow yourself to move on when you are ready.
Not everyone will struggle to heal from a Cesarean section. And, just as certainly, not everyone will be healed when the scars close and physical pain subsides. Both perspectives, and any range in between, are valid and more than okay. Your perspective belongs to you alone, and no one has a right to dictate otherwise.
But that doesn’t mean you are alone. Reach out to the community of mamas on our Facebook page, and comment here. We’d love to here from current, past, and soon-to-be mamas healing from a Cesarean section.
If you are supporting a mama who is or will be recovering from a C-section, consider getting her a C-section recovery kit, and certainly plan to be there for her to facilitate the healing process!