My C-Section Recovery Experience: 7 Things I Wish I Knew

Worried about the aftermath of a cesarean section? Follow these C-section recovery tips from a real-life mom, who underwent the surgery for her second child.

Pregnant Woman Holding Hands With Partner in Hospital Bed
Photo: RyanJLane/Getty Images

My second pregnancy ended with a cesarean delivery. Even though I conducted plenty of research beforehand, I still wish I knew more about the C-section recovery process. Every woman's experience will be different, of course, but here's an idea of what to expect after surgery.

Let yourself take things slowly.

After my C-section, my husband and mother waited on me hand and foot, caring for my son and doing the household chores. Being stuck on bedrest made me feel antsy, so I started doing "forbidden" things around the house: unloading the dishwasher, attempting to pick up a laundry basket, running around with my older child, etc. The result was C-section recovery pain that set me back further. Indeed, I found myself spending more time healing from my attempts to prove my resilience. My biggest advice is to take things slowly, and you'll get back on your feet sooner.

Be mindful of your other children.

I was told not to lift anything other than my newborn baby, but I had a 19-month-old son who was anxiously awaiting my return. He couldn't understand why I refused to pick him up—and our relationship suffered as a consequence. I wept almost daily, worried that he thought I wasn't interested in him anymore. Luckily, everything went back to normal once I regained my strength and was able to settle into a routine with him. I wish I'd brainstormed ways to make my older child feel loved during my C-section recovery time, and I encourage you to do the same.

Painkillers are not your enemy.

On the third day after my C-section, I had about four relatively pain-free hours, and I stopped taking my pain medication. Bad idea! I woke up in the middle of the night, about eight hours after my last dose of medication, writhing in pain. I couldn't even reach for the bottle on my nightstand. I wish I had known not to wait for the pain to work itself up to an intolerable level before popping a pill.

Don't be embarrassed about bodily functions.

Before leaving the hospital, your nurses need to make sure you're passing gas and having normal bowel movements. They'll ask some pretty direct questions about your intestines—and like me, you might feel embarrassed at first. But if there's one thing I learned after having two children, it's that you need to check your pride at the door when you get to the hospital. Your doctors are there to help, and being honest can prevent medical complications.

Laughing, sneezing, and coughing might hurt—a lot.

When I was waiting out my recovery after C-section, I spent a lot of time scrolling through Facebook and watching ridiculous YouTube videos. I quickly learned that laughing feels like stabbing yourself in the gut. I even worried that my stitches were coming apart (they weren't, of course). The best thing you can do when you feel like laughing—or coughing or sneezing—is to put a pillow over your stitches and press it onto yourself. I wish I'd known this pain-soothing C-section recovery exercise beforehand.

You might need help in the shower.

Maybe you've never dropped a shampoo bottle in the shower— but I promise you, it will happen during your C-section recovery. It's nearly impossible to bend over and pick things up yourself, so consider showering with your partner nearby. You could also get some "soap on a rope" or an easy-to-dispense bottle of mild liquid body wash.

Every woman has different C-section recovery symptoms.

I bled much more after my C-section than my vaginal delivery. The amount of blood scared me at first, since I was convinced I was hemorrhaging (the nurse assured me this was normal). The bleeding also stuck around for several weeks; I went through many boxes of extra-absorbent sanitary napkins. My C-section recovery experience won't be the same as yours, though—some women have heavy bleeding, while others have super-light bleeding. Similarly, everyone will have a different level of pain. Talk to your doctor to make sure your specific symptoms are normal.

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