Every day, roughly 10,000 babies in the United States are born.1 About a third of those babies are born via Cesarean section.2 Most moms would agree that having a Cesarean birth is not their first choice. But for some moms, having a C-section is necessary. When you are pregnant, you can try for a vaginal birth or plan for a C-section. Some women choose a C-section for personal preferences, but many moms schedule a cesarean for medical reasons.
The medical reasons for needing a planned C-section are:5
- Abnormal positioning, such as breech or transverse
- Placenta previa
- Repeat C-section
- Birth defects
- Health conditions of mom and baby
- Carrying multiples (Note: Twins can be born vaginally if Baby A (baby closest to the cervix) is head down. But if Baby A is not head down, a C-section will need to be performed.3,4)
Many women have C-sections because of unplanned and emergent reasons, such as:5
- Prolonged labor
- Failure to progress
- Fetal distress
- Placenta abruption
- Cord prolapse
- Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD)
Having a C-section is not the “easy way out.” Recovery for many women is longer and more painful. At Baby Chick, we want all mothers to have the best birth and recovery experience possible, so I am sharing the top C-section recovery must-haves I recommend to all C-section mamas. I’ve consulted with hundreds of C-section moms in our Facebook Group, and they agree! Here’s what you should have ready for a smoother C-section recovery.
C-Section Recovery Must-Haves
1. Abdominal Binder
A C-section is major abdominal surgery. Having some support and compression around your belly and incision site will feel necessary. An abdominal binder provides the support and stability women need and makes women feel more comfortable. The hospital will give you an excellent belly binder! So many women rave about them, and I highly recommend you take yours home. If you don’t get one from your hospital or one that is the wrong size or doesn’t feel right, here are some other postpartum belly binders I love and recommend. An abdominal binder is my #1 most important C-section recovery must-have!
2. Pain Relief
Controlling your pain after surgery is crucial because it makes it easier for you to care for yourself and your baby. If you didn’t have relief, the pain you would experience would stop you from wanting to get up and walk and take deep breaths. Movement and deep breathing are essential during recovery since they help avoid getting blood clots or chest infections like pneumonia. Taking the medication that your doctor prescribes you on schedule to stay on top of your pain relief is important. Some doctors will prescribe you an opioid painkiller (like Norco) for the first week or two and then recommend taking an Ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) and or acetaminophen (Tylenol). As always, consult with your doctor before taking any medication.
3. Stool Softeners
Many physicians give their C-section patients a laxative for the first few days after surgery. This helps make that first poop less scary and more tolerable. Stool softeners also help prevent you from straining, which could irritate your incision. And if you’ve been prescribed an opioid painkiller post-cesarean, taking a stool softener is especially important because opioid painkillers can cause constipation. Consult with your doctor before taking any stool softeners at home.
4. Postpartum Pads
Even though you did not give birth vaginally, you will still experience postpartum bleeding. This bleeding will first look like a heavy period that will gradually get lighter and darker in color over the next two weeks. If your bleeding becomes heavier or bright red again, use this as a guide that you are over-exerting yourself. Give yourself rest so that you can heal. For postpartum bleeding, I recommend a large postpartum pad free of chemicals.
5. Disposable Underwear
Many women love the mesh underwear the hospital provides, which they are great! Take as many of them as you can home. They are soft and stretchy, and most importantly, the waistband lies well above your incision. This means no rubbing or irritation! Once the mesh undies have outlived their usefulness, switch to Depend Silhouettes. They are also comfortable, high-waisted, and have a pad inside (which mesh panties don’t include), so it’s like an all-in-one!
6. High-Waisted Underwear
Get some cotton high-waisted underwear once you have ditched the mesh undies or postpartum bleeding has stopped. Here are two brands that I love and highly recommend.
7. Skin Salve
To take care of your C-section incision, you must keep it clean and dry and wear soft, loose clothing that will not rub against it. It can take several months for a C-section incision to heal. Still, at your postpartum visit with your doctor (around 6-8 weeks post-delivery), your doctor will check your incision to ensure you are clear to resume regular activity. Everyone’s recovery time is different, but it’s important to rest and take care of your postpartum body for a healthy recovery.
After several months, you will notice that your incision will heal into a scar. Many women say their scars are still tender to the touch for months after surgery, and some say it is still numb for up to a year. This is normal, but immediately consult your doctor if you feel any pain. If you’d like to help avoid having a noticeable scar, I recommend this balm or these scar sheets. These C-section recovery must-haves can help heal your scar and lessen its appearance.
8. Loose Fitting Clothing
If you plan on breastfeeding after your C-section, I highly recommend having several nursing nightgowns. Wearing a soft, loose nursing gown with a cotton bathrobe can be so much more comfortable than wearing pants that could rub too much on your scar. Even sweats or stretchy leggings can sometimes be uncomfortable on your abdomen and incision. A gown with a robe is always a great way to go when recovering at home with baby.
9. Nursing Pillow
Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, having a nursing pillow is helpful for all parents. A soft pillow designed to fit around your body is an excellent barrier between your incision and the weight of your baby. It also helps bring baby closer to you so that you don’t have to bend or lean over, which can irritate your incision.
Your baby will want to eat (what feels like) constantly throughout the night. Getting in and out of bed after a C-section isn’t easy, so having a co-sleeper is a major postpartum recovery must-have. Getting up every two to three hours at night would be awful for you and your recovery, so having your baby nearby is essential. This makes breastfeeding or bottle-feeding so much better since baby is close.
11. Diaper Caddy
As I just mentioned, moving around is hard early in your recovery. And if you have multiple levels in your home, it’s recommended that you only take the stairs once a day or none during the first two weeks, if possible. To make things easier on yourself, have a diaper caddy filled with everything you need for your baby—diapers, wipes, diaper cream, thermometer, nail clippers, nail file, etc. This way, you can bring the items you need for your baby wherever you go.
12. Comfy Seating
Many women have difficulty getting in and out of bed after a C-section and getting comfortable. This is why so many women recommend having a comfortable recliner or seating area that you can sit in to nurse or bottle-feed baby for the next few weeks while you recover. Think in advance about where you might want to sleep and spend your day that will be easier and gentler on your abdomen.
13. Nursing/Feeding Station
Once you have figured out a good recliner or glider to rest in, make it your nursing/feeding station. Get a cart and stock it with everything that you need close at hand: burp cloths, extra baby clothes, nipple cream, nursing pads, your medications, water bottles, remote control, phone charger, one-handed snacks, and anything else that you’ll need every time you feed your baby.
If you know you will have a C-section for your delivery, reading up on what to expect before, during, and after will make you feel much more prepared.
I hope my list of C-section recovery must-haves helps you have a better transition from pregnancy to motherhood.