Optimal Recovery from Caesarean Birth

After a Caesarean birth, you will be given a list of recovery tips from your medical care provider.  The following additional information contributes to optimal recovery following a surgical birth.

Taking care of a baby is a full-time job and deserves recognition as such.  Recovery from major abdominal surgery is also a full-time job.  For most people, in 6-8 weeks life will gain a new normal but it takes longer than that to fully recover from a Caesarean birth.

FOR BIRTH MOM:

REST, REST, REST!

This is essential for recovery. Although you have a newborn (perhaps other children too) at home, do the best you can to rest and recover. Get the support needed to do this, such as from a Postpartum Doula.

  • Sleep while the baby sleeps. Really, really!!! Let the house go for now! Enlist help if other responsibilities prevent you from napping.
  • No lifting or hard exercise. Listen to your body. Any pain means stop and rest right away. This will be humbling.
  • Hire a cleaner if you don’t have good live-in support. A weekly or bi-weekly cleaning works magic for your sanity.
  • Have an open house / meet-baby gathering to entertain all friends at once rather than spend hours daily with visitors.
  • Learn to accept help. Just say thank-you! Ask for help from friends & family. They’d love to make food, babysit siblings, walk the dog, feed the pets, do laundry etc. Your turn to help another will come later.
  • Make a “guest rule”. Any visitors must bring or prepare food (and clean up their mess), and/or do a chore from a list you’ve made. Make it clear they will not be entertained! They are there to help. This gets you help and decreases visitors.

For internal healing:

Osteopathy, Visceral Manipulation Therapy, and CranioSacral Therapy help resolve trauma and restore fluidity to organs & tissues, which speeds healing, decreases pain and facilitates long-term recovery. When internal tissues are exposed to air, adhesions can form. During surgery, organs are shifted from their optimal placement. Wait 4-6 weeks before starting treatment.

If you’re into Homeopathy: Traumeel (drops or tabs) during the entire post-surgical recovery phase, or homeopathic Arnica 200CH first 3-5 days (3 granules once daily).

Emotional Recovery:

Emotions following a Caesarean birth vary from woman to woman. One may feel completely satisfied with her birth and emotional recovery is not an issue. Conversely, another may feel loss, regret, blame or disappointment. There are infinite factors that lead to Caesarean birth.

Many people will say, “At least your baby is healthy”, but a woman’s birth journey is important too. Give yourself permission to feel sadness about your birth; it doesn’t mean you’d trade your baby’s health for your “ideal birth” nor that you don’t love and appreciate your baby. There’s room for being totally in love, feeling anger or sadness or happiness – all of it!

Other well-meaning folks might say at least you didn’t have to “suffer” in labour or that you got to take the “easy way out”. Forgive their ignorance. Many people don’t realize how difficult a Caesarean birth and recovery can be, often much more so than a natural birth.

  • Rescue Remedy as needed for grief, shock, disappointment.
  • Be kind and forgiving to yourself and allow space for grieving if you need it.
  • Several local health professionals can help with emotional trauma. Some use Flower Remedies, homeopathy, Reiki, other energy work, and/or verbal counselling styles.

For the scar:

  • After the stitches have dissolved, healthy high-quality oil such as rosehip seed oil (Rosa masquetta) on the incision site as often as possible to nourish the skin and decrease scarring. Combine with an essential oil blend to decrease itching, scarring, incidence of thick scarring and to speed healing (eg Blaine Andrusek Scar-B-Gone). If you don’t have these, vitamin-E oil will do.
  • From 6 weeks on, Castor Oil packs over the incision to help with healing. Soak a cotton cloth in castor oil. Put cloth against skin, cover with plastic bag or saran wrap (to protect bedding or clothing), then apply hot water bottle. Leave on for an hour daily or until you intuitively feel you’ve had enough. If the cloth is still clean it can be folded away in the plastic and reused. Once the cloth appears to have absorbed toxins use another one. This treatment can be done for as long as you wish – weeks or months.

To Counter the Antibiotics:

While antibiotics can prevent or treat infection, they also lead to an imbalance in normal flora by killing the good bacteria in our gut. Balance can be restored by ingesting unpasteurized, fermented foods (e.g. kombucha tea, kimchi, sauerkraut) or probiotics such as acidophilus powder or caps – high quality only.  That’s the ones found in the fridge at health stores or your holistic care providers office.

  • 3 caps or ¼ tsp, twice daily for 3-4 weeks. This decreases Candida albicans overgrowth, which in turn protects the digestive system from pathogens and boosts immunity. It protects you from diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections, and painful nipples commonly associated with antibiotics, and will protect the baby from thrush (mouth sores/diaper rash).
  • If you or baby show signs of such side effects, add a third dose until 2 weeks after symptoms disappear, then go back to the regular dose. Make a little paste to apply to nipples or pinkie-finger at feeding time to dose your baby.

Nutrition:

  • Eat whole, healthy foods and lots of them.
  • Continue your high-quality prenatal vitamin for the duration of breastfeeding or 8 weeks, whichever is later.
  • High quality, easily assimilated iron supplement such as Flora Dix or placenta capsules. You’ll take less of this type of iron, absorb more overall, and avoid constipation associated with most iron supplements. Helps after blood-loss associated with surgery. (Women lose an average of up to 1L of blood after a Caesarean birth, compared with 300-500 ml with vaginal birth.)
  • Eat well and drink lots of water. Continue drinking your raspberry leaf and nettle tea, optimally 3 cups daily, for at least a month. See herb tea recipe, “Essential Herbs for Pregnancy & Nursing”
  • Ingest healthy absorbable protein; your body’s doing a lot of rebuilding now.

FOR BABY:

Caesarean birth is also traumatic for the baby. Osteopathy, cranio-sacral therapy and newborn chiropractic care by someone who specializes in newborn-care is essential.

To Counter Antibiotics Side-Effects: Acidophilus powder (see above). Continue for 3-4 weeks. This will decrease Candida overgrowth, which in turn protects the digestive system, boosts immunity, protect thrush (mouth sores), diarrhea, and diaper rash commonly associated with antibiotics. Make a paste from 1/8 tsp and rub on nipples just before nursing, twice daily. Or dip a wet pinkie-finger into the powder and let baby suck it off.

If you’re into homeopathy, there are remedies that are safe and effective for baby too, in case you notice thrush, trauma, or other long term effects.

I teach a variety of Child Birth Education classes and prenatal workshops online for people all over.  I have been a birth doula since 2002, and have helped over 300 clients with their births and over 1000 through prenatal classes. Learn more about my birth doula services, and contact me with any questions you may have.

Golden Nuggets for Breastfeeding Early Days

Some little-known gold nuggets for breastfeeding in the first days (you may wish to print this and stick it on the fridge or by your feeding-nest):

  • Breastfeeding may take practise but is designed to work
  • Watch for feeding cues* and offer breast.  Crying is considered a late sign of a stressed babe.
  • Offer one cue, then pause to let babe work it out.  E.g. nipple to baby’s lips, then pause for 5 seconds to allow babe to sort out latch.  If she needs another cue, then give on, pause, and repeat if needed.  Baby is learning too.
  • Babies rest/pause with eyes closed.  If babe stops sucking but stays on breast, let him rest and resume feeding.  He’s likely not actually sleeping, so don’t take him off.  (Sleep test – lift and drop arm.  Sleeping baby’s arm will fall; wake baby’s arm will respond.)
  • You should feel a tug or pull, but no pinching.  Avoid the temptation to feed through a bad latch, no matter how demanding baby is.  Not even once!!  Break the seal (insert pinkie into babe’s mouth) and start again.  Even if it takes 10 tries.
  • Don’t hold baby’s head while feeding.  It may be sore from birth.  Sore or not, the stimulation causes baby to pull back from breast.  Hold head by putting hand on bones at top of neck if necessary.
  • Don’t “pet”, rub, stroke babe while feeding.  Holding and feeding baby is an act of big love in and of itself.  (Imagine if you were trying to enjoy a fine meal, and someone was petting and rubbing you all over.  Ok that might be fun, but not conducive to eating.)
  • After 3-6 weeks the effort of breastfeeding becomes way less than the effort of formula.  Keep going – it gets easier and is worth the early efforts.

Best Start has an excellent 1 page chart for the first days –  feeding guidelines, newborn stomach size, diapers and other info.  Print this!

* Here’s a great graphic to help you identify visual feeding cues.