A cesarean birth is a major surgery, and most women aren’t given the information they need to help them take care of their bodies and heal properly.
It can be overlooked just how many layers of tissue are cut to get to baby. This means that the incision we see on the outside is not the only one. It’s important to remember this, because you may feel pains or different sensations in areas outside your incision and this could be coming from inside.
Here are some tips on what you should be doing immediately after surgery to improve recovery!
Stay on Top of Your Pain Medication
Taking more medication may be the last thing you want to do, but research shows that inadequate pain management after a cesarean increases the need for opioids, delays recovery, and increases mama’s risk of chronic pain and postpartum depression.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Ibuprofen, can help to reduce inflammation and pain and are commonly after a cesarean. But depending on your situation, your physician might prescribe different medications to help manage pain. Therefore, always talk to your physician about the best plan for pain management and follow that plan.
Hydrate and Eat Healing Foods
Drink all the water! Staying hydrated can help speed up recovery by helping you return to normal eating habits and light activity (like walking) sooner. Staying on top of your hydration can also help to promote healthy tissue healing.
Try to choose foods that are nutrient-dense and filling. Combining carbs and protein will help to regulate your blood sugar to avoid crashing after you eat and help stay on a schedule.
Adding in collagen to your diet, such as bone broth or a collagen powder, will help with healing and recovery from the inside out.
Get Moving When You Can
It can be daunting to get up and moving but as soon as you and your nurse think you’re ready, it will help you in the long run! Gentle movement will get your blood moving and after a surgery we need fresh blood to the incision site to help heal.
Start by taking a short walk to the bathroom or just walking from one end of the room to the other. A tip for once you do feel ready to get moving, raise your bed when you get in and out to make it as easy for your body as possible.
Once you start moving more, be mindful of how you’re moving! For example, when getting in and out of bed rolling to your side and then sitting up can help to take pressure and stress off your incision. If coughing or sneezing is uncomfortable, take a pillow or blanket and squeeze it between your arms and you belly (or just use your hands) to give it some support.
Caring For Your Incision
The best way to prevent scar tissue from building up is to focus on controlling the inflammation around the scar.
There are several ways you can control inflammation:
Ice: prep an ice pack and place it over your incision, making sure there’s some sort of barrier between the ice and your skin.
Compression: there are several different compression garments but trying to find something that isn’t too tight but provides light compression. Sort of like a sports bra for your belly!
Silicone Strips: silicone scar removal sheets help to facilitate wound healing and prevent keloid (thick, raised scars).
Most women experience sensitivity or numbness around their incision, which can be uncomfortable. This is due to the nerve endings, that were cut during surgery, starting to heal. Scar tissue desensitization can help reduce sensitivity and bring back sensation to this area.
Start with something soft (like a cotton ball or silk) and rub it on the skin around the incision. Once that feels ok, move on to something a little rougher (like a paper towel or hand towel). After 4-6 weeks postpartum you can move over the scar itself, again starting with something soft and working towards something rougher.
You can start this process around 1 week postpartum and continue daily or as often as you can.
When an incision is healing, the scar tissue that is being laid down grows in all different directions and through several layers of tissue. This can make the scar feel thick or raised and can cause discomfort down the road.
Start by performing these techniques above and below the scar. After 6 weeks postpartum and you are cleared by your OB, you can start gentle massage on the scar. Start slow and with light pressure and you can start to increase the pressure based on your tolerance.
Scar mobilization can help to get the tissue moving in all directions so that is becomes softer and more pliable. This can also help to reduce that shelf of skin above the scar. If you don’t feel comfortable performing this on yourself, don’t stress! This is something we treat in the office and there are other techniques we can use, such as cupping, to help get your scar moving comfortably.
You can start scar mobilization around 4 weeks postpartum, trying to work on it for 3-5 minutes every day. This is also something that can be done at any point, so it’s never too late!
Have questions or want to learn more? Send us a message or give us a call and we’re happy to chat more about how we can help!