Proper c-section recovery requires special care and planning. It’s much different than recovery from other surgeries. After all, mothers have to make sure they are resting enough while also caring for a newborn. This is no easy task.
Luckily, there are many things moms can do at home to help support their recovery. In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s important to put together a c-section recovery plan, and how to incorporate self-care habits into life with a newborn.
What Is A C-Section?
Cesarean section, or c-section, is a type of surgery that involves birthing a baby by making an incision in the mother’s uterus and abdomen. It’s commonly used when a vaginal delivery is not possible due to risks to the mother or baby.
A c-section can be planned or it may be something your doctor chooses to do in an emergency situation if problems arise during the birthing process.
During the surgery, anesthesia will be administered and a drape or screen will be used to keep the incision site sterile. Your doctor will make an incision into the abdomen and uterus walls to safely extract your baby. Your doctor will then close the incision and your recovery process begins.
Why Do I Need A C-Section Recovery Plan?
After the anesthesia wears off, you may start to feel the pain from the incision. You may also notice that you have vaginal discharge after the surgery. This is due to the shedding of the lining of the uterus. The discharge is referred to as lochia. It will be red at first and then change to a yellow color.
It’s important to make sure your body heals properly after the surgery so that the incision or lochia does not become infected. Many women are told they need bed rest after a c-section. However, tending to a newborn as well as a household with other children can be hard if you don’t have help.
Remember that putting your needs first during this time is just as important as those of your baby. You may need additional support during this time from your partner or family.
C-Section Recovery vs. Natural Birth
C-sections often take longer to recover from than vaginal birth. However, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point-of-view, both involve loss of qi and blood, which are detrimental to the woman.
According to registered TCM physician Lim Sock Ling, “C-section poses similar risks as other major surgeries, such as blood loss, infection, blood clots, injury to the bowel or bladder, and reactions to the anesthesia. It involves external intervention that weakens the body system and structure. Therefore, the healing process may be longer.”
Physician Ling continued, “In comparison, the pelvic floor muscles and vagina can stretch to accommodate delivery, and have a natural healing process. Even if an incision is needed during birthing or the perineal tears naturally, the wound is smaller than c-section, hence less detrimental.”
How Can TCM Help With C-Section Recovery?
According to physician Ling, TCM herbs can be incorporated into the mother’s diet to aid in postpartum recovery. These can help invigorate qi and nourish blood, warm the body and remove cold and wind, restore hormonal balance and promote emotional wellness. Moxibustion helps to warm the body and remove coldness from the body.
Physician Ling recommends these herbs to assist with your recovery:
- Ginger: Aged ginger helps to expel Wind, which can cause chills and aches. Dried ginger warms the stomach to combat gastric pain, which is a result of yang deficiency or lack of heat in the body. Baked ginger can provide pain relief and reduce bleeding. Ginger peel reduces swelling and water retention.
- Longan, red date, and astralagus root tea: This combination helps invigorate qi and nourish the blood.
- Si Shen Soup (四神汤): This helps strengthen the spleen and removes dampness.
- Back strengthening soup: This helps invigorate the kidneys and strengths tendons and bones.
- Bu Zhong Yi Qi Soup: This helps invigorate spleen qi and lifts energy.
- Ba Zhen Soup: This invigorates qi and nourishes blood.
- Dang Gui Bu Xue Soup: Take this to nourish and move blood through the body.
Although you may need bed rest immediately following the surgery, there are some gentle exercises you can do to help with your recovery once you start feeling better.
Physician Ling stated, “Engaging in pelvic floor exercises can help with weakened pelvic floor muscles that cause urinary incontinence. Seek medical help if you experience intense uterine cramps or difficulty urinating.”
You may gradually engage in pilates or yoga to strengthen your core and lower back. Be sure to consult your doctor or a fitness instructor for advice so that you are working on the right muscles.
Some women may experience diastasis recti, which is a condition that occurs when both of the rectus abdominal muscles break up into small parts and move to the side. This leads to the bulging of tissues in the abdominal wall and can cause a herniation of the abdominal viscera, but it’s not a hernia itself. This condition can be worsened if your posture is incorrect during exercise.
“Walking helps to reduce the risk of blood clots and other heart or blood vessels issues. Not only does walking help to keep you fit, but it also helps in maintaining good mental health,” stated physician Ling.
Additional Self-Care Remedies
Physician Ling provided some additional advice for ample recovery:
- Keep the wound clean and dry to avoid infection. Go to the emergency room if the wound ruptures or if a fever emerges.
- Eat a diet that is nourishing and warm in nature. Try cooking with herbs such as ginger, goji berries, red dates, codonopsis, and eucommia.
- Hydrate your body with plenty of soups and red date tea. These herbs help to invigorate qi and nourish blood, restore hormonal balance (this benefits the liver and kidney), and promote emotional wellness.
- Allow your body ample rest. This may require you to ask for help from family members during this time.
- Nurse regularly if you wish to build a stable milk supply and to help your uterus shrink back to size.
- Shower with herbal soup to warm the meridians, expel Wind and coldness
What To Avoid When Recovering From A C-Section
Even if you feel good after your c-section, it’s advisable to take your time with your recovery. Don’t try to do too much at once. For example, avoid strenuous activities and high-intensity workouts in the first few weeks of recovery. This includes lifting weights.
Physician Ling also recommends that you avoid cold. This includes temperature, wind, night showers, and food, such as chilled beverages and cooling food, as these can impede your recovery. You may also wish to avoid spicy, pungent, sugary, and oily food, alcohol and smoking, and broccoli and chocolate (this may cause a baby to become bloated).
Remember, after a c-section, your body has undergone hormonal, psychological, and metabolic changes. You should follow a confinement procedure for the body to recover. Be sure to work closely with your doctor and seek immediate help if a medical problem arises. Never try to self-medicate.
- Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Cesarean Birth (C-section).
- Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Pregnancy: Physical Changes After Delivery.
- Invitra Certified Medical Magazine. 2021. Is natural childbirth or cesarean section better? Advantages and disadvantages.
- PubMed. Diastasis recti abdominis – a review of treatment methods.
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