A medically assisted birth isn’t part of most pregnant women’s birth plans, yet nearly one-third of all babies in the United States are born via C-section. If you are planning for a C-section or are currently recovering from one, here’s the real scoop on what to expect in the first few weeks.


photo: Sanjaya via Pixabay

The Pregnant Pause

A mom-to-be wants nothing more than to hold her new baby, but even though you waited months to meet your new joy, you may need to wait just a little bit longer. A C-section is major surgery, so your baby (or babies; C-sections are common with higher-order multiple births) will most likely get a quick check-up before being handed to you. When you are handed your newborn, the initial embrace may be brief (but, don’t worry, it’s still magical!). Be sure to ask someone in the operating room to take a photo or video of this amazing moment.

Fed Is Best

It can be a huge letdown to learn that your baby’s first meal may not be from your breast. Many infants delivered via C-section receive formula immediately following birth for medical reasons. And because your maternal hormones may need to play catch-up with your surgery schedule, it could take days before your milk comes in. Try to remain calm. Skin-to-skin contact not only helps increase breast milk, it also offers a similar bonding experience to breastfeeding, so cuddle up!

Stop. the. Pain.

Anesthesia and the initial pain medication administered during surgery can take up to 24 hours to wear off. For up to four days post-surgery, you will find it painful to do simple tasks even with medication.You don’t need to get out of bed to feel the dagger effect of a Cesarean. Laughing, coughing and sneezing will all trigger the pain receptors. If narcotics make you uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about alternatives.  For some moms, Tylenol and Motrin are enough. Take your medication on time and above all else: Be sure to stay ahead of the pain!

Get Plenty of Support

And we’re not just talking about an extra set of hands (but you’ll need those, too!). While all new moms feel that pre-birth jelly effect around their middle, C-section mamas have an internal battle, too. A Cesarean cuts through many layers of tissue and muscle, leaving nerves crying out to be reconnected. Give the area some extra support with a binder. It helps speed up the healing process by making bending and moving easier.  It can also help reduce swelling and minimize scarring. And it minimizes that post-birth “jiggling” sensation.

photo: Aditya Romansa via Pixabay 

The (Hopefully, One Day) Invisible Line

For the first few days, you won’t be able to see your incision site (we’re betting that’s a good thing), but when your new scar is revealed, you may be shocked. The fluids you received during surgery along with natural postpartum fluid retention will make you feel puffy and swollen. Swelling can make the incision site appear uneven, which —we’ll be honest—can look borderline Frankenstein-ish. The good news: The swelling will subside (don’t forget that binder!) and silicon scar strips do work.

Let’s Twist Again

You’ll be instructed to reduce your physical activity for four to six weeks. At first, you’re barely going to want to move (even with pain medication, the discomfort can be intense). When you feel like you can start to sit up and stand (usually day two or three for most), start slowly. In the beginning, you’ll need to force yourself to move. It’s extremely painful and, we’ll be honest, it’s easier to just lay down and enjoy that self-adjusting hospital bed. After two weeks, however, slow and steady can start to feel a bit boring. You may physically feel a lot better (light years from the searing hospital pain), but internally you’re still healing. Be sure to keep moving, gradually building up your regular routine, but don’t overdue it.

Everybody Poops

Except C-section patients! Most women struggle with their first bowel movement immediately following birth (thanks, hormones!). But anesthetics used during a Cesarean can further complicate the situation. Some women report being constipated for up to two weeks. And the urban legend about the postpartum poop being a brutal, painful experience? Yep, it’s not a myth. It’s hard. It hurts. Be sure to go before you leave the hospital. Drink plenty of water and if you need some help, ask the nurses for a stool softener.

Meghan Meyers

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