Looking after yourself after a C section
Whether your Caesarean section birth was planned or unexpected makes little difference to the effect it can have on your body. It’s major surgery that involves several layers of tissue, particularly the muscles of the abdomen, which contribute to the strength and stability of your core.
Your body may not be the only thing that is affected by a C-section, however. Your thoughts and emotions may also be impacted. To what level varies widely between mums. Some will barely give it a second thought, whereas it may affect the emotional wellbeing of others.
Looking after yourself after a C-section, therefore, is as much about looking after your mind as it is about your body. In some cases, it may be more important, as your state of mind and mood may affect how well you look after your body.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do help your mind and body in those first 6-8 weeks post-surgery.
Do what you can when you feel ready to
It’s often implied you need to lie back and let others do the work for you after you’ve had a C-section. It is extremely important that you do rest and allow your body to recover; the recommended recovery time is 6 weeks.
Although it is physically necessary to allow this amount of time for your body to recover, anecdotally many women have stated they sometimes feel useless, and heavily reliant on others. Some women feel a loss of control when unable, or forbidden to perform common household chores, like clothes washing or vacuuming the floor.
It is really important to take the recommended time to heal and to ease into doing these activities to avoid straining your abdominal muscles and the area of your incision. For example, where you’d usually vacuum the house from top to bottom, perhaps start by choosing one room or a small area in a day and stick to that. You could try doing light half loads of washing, so you’re able to lift and carry the basket without stressing your body. Only do what you feel up to doing. If it starts to feel uncomfortable or hurts – stop!
Get out and about
This is important for many reasons, to get out and about as often as you can, as it can be of benefit to both your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Short walks outside can help you ease into movement without causing too much stress or strain on your healing muscles. It also gets you out of the confines of the house; physical activity, fresh air and open spaces can have positive effects on the mind as well as the body.
As with doing small tasks around the house, it is important that you ease into activity, especially in the first few weeks. Walk short distances slowly, and listen to your body. Don’t push yourself.
Do stop and smell the roses, and get some sunshine and fresh air.
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If you do need help, ask for it. It’s also important to communicate the kind of help you need. Remember, people around you are trying to help, and at times they might inadvertently say or do the wrong thing so if that happens - try not to let it get you down.
If you want them to hold the baby while you hang up the clothes, ask them to do that. They may feel they’re doing the right thing by offering to hang the clothes for you, so explain to them your need to get outside and stretch a little.
Let them know that watching the baby is just as much help as doing things for you. Or vice versa, if that’s the case for you.
C-sections can be traumatic, and are considered invasive surgery. However, doing nothing in the weeks after may extend and exacerbate both the physical and emotional effects, even if you’ve come out of the surgery relatively unscathed.
However it is really important to do things, in small, cautious steps, whilst being aware of your capabilities after the surgery. The surgery affects people differently, so tune into your body, and make sure you get the rest you need. Take it slowly and safely, and do the things that are good for your body as well as for your mind. And if you feel any pain or have any concerns, see your GP.