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Tips for Healing from a C-Section Birth & 3 Exercises to Aid in Recovery

Having a caesarian birth is not an uncommon event. Studies such as this one and this one state that cesarian sections are the most common type of surgery performed in the US, with over 1 million c-births performed annually. While they are common and can be lifesaving, c-section births are also major abdominal surgery that require ample recovery, yet the recovery part is not generally addressed beyond what "not" to do in those early weeks, and how to keep your incision clean. It can be impossible to know what to expect, especially if this is your first time having a c-birth!

In this article we will provide you with some useful tips to help you feel more prepared for recovery post c-section, as well as our top tips for a faster (and easier) postpartum recovery.

The Stuff No One Tells You About Postpartum, But Should

This may come as a surprise to some people, but even with a caesarian birth you will still bleed vaginally for anywhere from 4-6 weeks postpartum as the wound from where the placenta detached from the uterine wall heals and your uterine lining sheds. Be prepared by having a stock pile of maxi pads and disposable mesh undies on hand in your bathroom. We love the postpartum recovery kit from Frida Mom. If you pushed at all before your c-section and have any discomfort or swelling down there, you can wet some maxi pads with water or witch hazel and pop them in the freezer, then place them aside the mesh undies for some relief. (Sound weird, but you'll thank us later!)

Another not-often-talked-about but equally as important thing to note is that your first bowel movement postpartum will feel scary. (IYKYK) Taking stool softeners, drinking plenty of water, and eating fiber rich foods will help make your first few BM's easier and more comfortable to pass. Breathe out your BM's and try not to strain! Use a squatty potty or kid's step stool to elevate your feet which will make it easier to pass and take pressure off of your pelvic floor and incision site. You can also use a rolled up towel or small pillow to press against your incision during your bowel movement to create counter pressure. Water-based baby wipes may also be more comfortable to use than regular toilet paper too.

Remember, you just had major surgery and your body needs time to heal. While rest is essential, there are things you can do to help with the healing process and make moving through your day easier and more comfortable. There are also some things to avoid in the early weeks. You will likely be advised by your healthcare provider to take it easy during this time, not lift anything heavier than your baby, not to drive or operate heavy machinery, and to get plenty of rest. Then at around 6-8 weeks post c-birth, chances are that if your incision site appears to be healed, your healthcare provider will clear you to resume exercise and "normal activities." Aside from that there's not a whole lot of guidance! You should feel empowered during your postpartum recovery, not afraid. Let's take a deeper look at some of the things to avoid after a c-birth as well as some things you CAN do to aid in your recovery.

What NOT To Do In The Early Weeks Post C-Section:

  • Avoid lifting anything much heavier than your baby in those first couple of weeks while your incision site is fresh. If you have older kids, try letting them do things on their own, or have your partner, family member, or friend lift them for you.

  • Don't go up and down flights of stairs more than necessary.

  • Don't jump back into exercise without being cleared by your healthcare provider and first taking the time to rehabilitate your core. (Rehabilitation is SO important!!! We cannot emphasize this enough.)

  • Avoid taking baths, hot tubs, or swimming until your incision is fully healed and you are cleared by your healthcare provider to do so in order to help reduce the risk of infection.

  • Don't engage in heavy housework or other physically taxing activities. It can wait! And don't be afraid to ask for help. Your people want to support you!

What You CAN You Do Post C-Section:

  • Rest in bed with baby.

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing regularly.

  • Exhale when you stand up from a sitting or lying position and gently engage your pelvic floor, as well as when you sit down (especially when holding baby) to help decrease intra abdominal pressure and get your core muscles to turn on naturally.

  • Place a pillow over your incision when you need to cough, sneeze etc to provide gentle counter pressure and reduce pain.

  • Begin LUNA's C-Section CoRebuild Recovery Series as early as 1 week post c-section, or whenever you feel ready to begin.

  • Go for short walks when you feel physically ready to do so. Walking can help aid in digestion, increase circulation, improve energy levels, and aid in healing. Start small, maybe just down the street at first, then go a little longer when you're feeling up for it. Avoid hills, stairs, and rough terrains.

  • We'll say it again - ask for help when you need it! Your people want to support you!

  • Once your incision site is fully healed, you can start massaging your scar to increase mobility, decrease pain and sensitivity, and break down any scar tissue and/or adhesions. Check out our video on how to massage your c-section scar HERE.

When you are recovering postpartum and caring for a newborn, it can be tricky to know what warrants a call to your healthcare provider and what doesn't. If you experience any of the following, it's time to call your healthcare provider (though if there is something else you aree concerned about, it's always best to make the call.)

  • Vaginal bleeding that soaks through a pad in under 2 hours

  • Increase in vaginal bleeding

  • Blood clot larger than a gold ball

  • Fever of 100;4 or higher

  • Vaginal discharge that has a foul odor

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Signs of infection at incision site such as increased swelling, redness, puss, fever, or swollen lymph nodes

  • Incision site opens up

  • Difficulty passing urine or stool

  • Sudden nausea or vomiting

  • Feelings of depression, sadness, hopelessness, or troubling thoughts

Our Top 3 Exercises To Start Right After a Caesarian:

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Start by sitting or lying down with your ribs stacked over your hips, spine and pelvis neutral, shoulders belly, inner thighs and glutes fully relaxed. Place one hand on your chest and the other at the base of your ribcage. Inhale through your nose, sending the breath into the small of your back and feel your ribs expand out 360 degrees. Exhale through your nose, feeling your ribs retract back down. Repeat for 3-5 minutes. You can also view our in-depth tutorial here.

  2. Pelvic Floor Contractions: Start in a seated or supine position with your ribs stacked over your hips and your belly soft and relaxed. Relax your glutes, inner thighs, and shoulders. Inhale diaphragmatically feeling your ribcage expand out in 365 degrees. As you exhale, draw the 4 corners of your pelvic floor (pubic bone, tailbone, and two sits bones) inward as if you’re trying to pick up a marble with your pelvic floor, and then lift upward toward your heart. Think of it like grabbing the marble and lifting it up off of the floor with your exhale. Then as you next inhale, lower the marble back down and let it go. Repeat with your breath. Another way to think of this is as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine and gas at the same time as you exhale. Then relax as you inhale.

  3. Core Connection Breathing: This is different than a diaphragmatic breath. There is no exercise component of diaphragmatic breathing. It's just breathing. Our core connection breath incorporates the engagement of the pelvic floor and TVA on the exhale. Start in a seated or lying down position with your ribs stacked over your hips and your belly soft and relaxed. Relax your glutes, inner thighs, and shoulders. Inhale diaphragmatically feeling your ribcage expand out in 365 degrees. Now as you exhale, engage your pelvic floor the same way as above, and then begin to wrap your transverse abdominis (the corset-like muscle that wraps around your torso, attaching to the bottom of the ribcage an the top of the pelvis) around you as if you're lacing up a corset from your hips up to your ribs. Pelvic floor should lift first, then imagine you are zipping up the two sides of your abdomen, like a jacket. You should feel your belly button drawing in and up. Slowly relax you core and pelvic floor as you inhale and then repeat. You can also watch our in-depth tutorial here.


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