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What to Expect After Your C-Section & Postpartum Must-Haves

My C-Section Experience:

On October 20th, 2020, I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, Noah, via a c-section. This was a planned c-section, but my last resort after failed attempts to turn my breech baby head down through spinning babies techniques, chiropractic work, and an ECV. You can learn more about my experience with these failed attempts to turn my breech baby here in my YouTube video. And this video details my ECV experience and what to expect if you choose to get one if you’re in a similar situation.

Even though I desperately didn’t want a c-section, it was obviously worth it because it brought me my precious son. He was delivered at 3:17pm weighing 8 pounds 5 oz and 19 inches long.

Of course the c-section was 1000% worth it, but I honestly had no idea what to expect with my c-section. I went in thinking the recovery wouldn’t be that bad, but boy was I wrong. It was brutal. But it may not have been quite so bad had I known what to expect. If you have an upcoming c-section or are simply curious what it’s like to recover from one, I’ll lay out all the details of my own experience for you. Everyone’s experience is different, but my hope is that my experience can give you an idea of what yours might be like. Also, if you want to watch my YouTube video on my experience before, during, and after my c-section, you can view part 1 here and part 2 here.

C-Section Recovery Pain:

I was sent home from the hospital 43 hours after my procedure. I didn’t have an accurate understanding of how severe my pain was. I had to ask for a prescription of stronger pain medicine – they weren’t planning on giving me any had I not asked. My medication wore off at 11:45am and we left the hospital around 10:30am. We had to stop by the pharmacy on our way home and wait for my prescription to be filled. By the time we finally received my pain medicine, what I had taken previously at the hospital had worn off.

When we arrived home just 5 minutes from the pharmacy, I was in excruciating pain. Getting out of the car felt like stabbing knives and by the time we got in the door I was crying hard in pain. My entire body was shaking.

This type of nerve pain continued for 2 weeks after my procedure. During the first week, I had the most severe flare ups. I had no idea nerve damage pain was even a side effect. I discovered that’s what I was experiencing through research and talking to my sister who is a doctor and surgeon.

Being brutally honest, I couldn’t even sit down to use the toilet without having Luke, my husband, help lower me down and lift me back up. I couldn’t take a shower for the first 3 days because lifting my leg to step into the tub sent shooting stabbing pain through my incision on one side. I couldn’t get out of bed to change Noah’s diaper for the first week. It would take me over a minute to just get out of bed and back into bed. And it was always extremely painful. Luke would have to bring Noah to me every time he needed to feed. 

I don’t think everyone experiences severe nerve damage pain after a C-section, but it is a common occurrence after a surgery because surgeons can’t avoid cutting through nerves when performing a surgery, especially over a wide area. 

Any time I would stand up or walk during those first few days and my nerve damage pain flared up, my entire body would shake violently, especially my stomach. 

I didn’t always have nerve damage pain flare ups. I would experience normal c section incision pain any time I moved, which was painful, but the nerve damage pain was an entire different kind of pain and the most pain I’ve experienced in my life. At its worst, I’d be crying out in pain and couldn’t do anything until the flare up would subside. The nerve pain flare ups always took place on the left side of my incision, the right side of my incision experienced normal c section pain but never experienced nerve damage pain. 

The Light at the End of the Pain Tunnel (but don’t push it)

You’ll start to feel better around week 2, but if you push it the pain will get worse. That 100% happened to me so I had to keep that in mind and really limit my activity as much as I could to help my pain management. My nerve damage pain would flare up badly when I pushed it too hard – and by pushing it I simply mean walking around too much.

One time, over a week after my surgery, I tried to walk from the couch to the bathroom on my own. Usually Luke had to help me but I wanted to try on my own. I made it through the room to the kitchen, but halfway through the kitchen I knew I had made a big mistake and couldn’t take another step. I froze in my tracks and called to Luke on the couch to come help me.

By the time he reached me, the flare up was at full force and I was crying and shaking in pain. I had to stay there, clinging to the kitchen counter and to Luke, for minutes until the pain passed. It was excruciating and I remember crying out asking God to help me. I know it sounds dramatic, but I wasn’t being dramatic. It was that painful.

It’s important to remember your stomach was cut open. A c-section is a major surgery and something that requires extensive rest and healing. A little bit of activity is good to get the blood flowing and encourage circulation but walking around your house for a few minutes is enough – then back to sitting and resting. I could barely walk down my road and back by week 3 without having a lot of pain and increased bleeding. 

GAS AND GOING NUMBER 2:

Gas is extremely painful after having a c section. You’ll absolutely want to make sure you’re taking GAS-X or something like that for the first few weeks. I no longer experienced pain from gas at 4 weeks postpartum, but during the first 3 weeks if I didn’t keep up on GAS-X it was very painful, and even with Gas-X the bit of gas I did experience felt like labor pains or severe cramps. 

Going number 2 was also painful and not easy (lol). It was difficult because I was on strong pain medication which makes you very constipated, so I’d take stool softener daily and even a laxative daily during that first week. I still didn’t go number 2 for three days after my surgery, while taking stool softener and a laxative daily. So that goes to show how constipated strong pain meds and a c-section can make you. 

SWELLING:

I had NO IDEA I would swell so much after my c section. My baby and placenta weighed 16 pounds total. When I came home from the hospital I was curious how much weight I had lost after giving birth, and thought it’d be at LEAST 16 pounds since that’s how much my baby and placenta weighed combined. I had only lost 2 pounds by day 3 after my c-section since the last time I was weighed on the day I had my c-section. 

Within 2 weeks, my swelling was completely gone and I had lost 25 out of the 30 pounds I had gained during my pregnancy. So if you’re swelled up like the michilan tire man like I was, don’t freak out. It will go away. I was so swollen I couldn’t see my ankles for a week and my body didn’t look like my own. It will go away, I promise. 

LAUGHING/SNEEZING:

Laughing and sneezing was extremely painful, especially in the first couple of weeks. As sad as it is, I’d ask my husband to stop making me laugh because it would make my incision burn badly. Sneezing also made my incision burn. I’d dread every time I felt a sneeze coming on. At 5 weeks post-part, I no longer felt pain from laughing or sneezing.

PAIN MANAGEMENT:

Pain meds: I used Norco and Ibuprofen around the clock for the first 2 weeks. I eventually weaned myself down to ibuprofen through the third week and by the 4th week I no longer needed any pain medication. I tried going with just ibuprofen before the 2nd week was over and the pain was too much for me. It’s a personal decision you’ll make yourself for how long you’ll want to take strong pain medicine. Just make sure you have a prescription written before you leave the hospital. My hospital wasn’t going to write me a prescription but I asked my nurse and she had my surgeon write me prescriptions for ibuprofen, a stool softener, and Norco before I left.

Belly Binder: I used a belly binder for the first week and then no longer felt I needed it. It was helpful in keeping my core supported when everything in my stomach felt like it was going to fall out after the surgery. It also helped my incision feel less painful by adding support and pressure to the incision site. 

WOUND RECOVERY: 

I had stitches. Some people have staples. Over the top of my dissolvable stitches, I had steri strips. My steri strips slowly started coming off around week 2 and were fully off by week 3. At 5 weeks postpartum, my stitches were partially dissolved. They fully dissolved sometime after 6 weeks, I’m not sure exactly when.

I never used soap on my steri strips as I was told not to. I would use soap to wash my stomach and let the soap run over the steri strips to sort of cleanse them but I never applied soap directly to my incision in those first 2.5 weeks. 

My incision looks pretty good today at 11 weeks postpartum. It’s a light pinkish/red line but has healed nicely.

I had MAJOR swelling the first week all around the incision, and it progressively went down each week. Now at 11 weeks postpartum I have no noticeable swelling. During the first couple of weeks, probably through about week 3, my swelling looked like a shelf above the incision. It was painful and quite noticeable if I wore joggers or leggings. 

BLEEDING:

My bleeding finally slowed down around 4 weeks. I was told it could last up to 6 weeks and it’s different for everyone. Maxi pads and big underwear, diapers, or the mesh underwear from the hospital are your best friends. I asked for extra mesh underwear to bring home from the hospital and I’m REALLY glad I did because it wasn’t tight on my incision/stomach and my big underwear I bought for postpartum were uncomfortable to wear that first and second week. I wanted loose fitting everything so the mesh underwear came in clutch.

POSTPARTUM ESSENTIALS:

Some of these postpartum essentials contain affiliate links for your convenience. If you want more information, please visit my disclosure page.

Here’s a list of my postpartum essentials that I used –

-huge maxi pads: for obvious reasons

-pain management pills: once again, obvious

-breastfeeding supplies (click to purchase – lanolin nipple cream, Medela gel numbing pads, soft comfy bras):

Lanolin cream is a must-have if you’re breastfeeding. It will be painful, but after about 2 weeks it will get MUCH better. Lanolin cream will help you get through those first 2 weeks and the best part is it’s okay for the baby to ingest so you can put it on before latching your baby on.

Gel numbing pads by Medela helped me get through those first 2 weeks as well when I wanted to cry every time my baby would latch on. I would just tell myself to get through the feeding and then I could put on my numbing/cooling gel pads.

Soft comfy bras without padding are a must-have because they won’t rub uncomfortably on your raw nips. I’m so sorry, but yes, you’ll most likely get raw nips.

gas-x, stool softener, gentle laxative (click to purchase): Read my post above if you’re not sure why you’d need these.

-loose fitting clothing: Especially pants! You won’t want anything rubbing on your incision or stomach because it’ll be sore. You also will still look pregnant and very swollen for a few weeks (or longer) after the birth so loose clothes are just the most comfortable option in my opinion.

bassinet next to your bed (this is the one I have – click to purchase): You won’t be able to get up on your own the first couple of days and will still have difficulty/pain moving that first week and most likely into the second week. Having a bassinet next to your bed will help you have access to your baby more easily. 

-breastfeeding pillow (click to purchase): It can be painful having the baby against your stomach/incision so a breastfeeding pillow helps with this. I use my boppy. 

-Meal train if possible: Luke and I were extremely blessed to have church family and our family members bring by meals during those first 2 weeks. Luke also prepared about 5 freezer meals a couple of weeks before our baby was due so we’d be prepared with food and not have to cook dinner once we came home from the hospital. We ended up having enough meals to last the first 2.5 weeks. It was SO NICE because those first few weeks are extremely exhausting and difficult enough, the last thing you’ll want to do is cook.

Have you had a c-section or are you preparing for one? What item is on your must-have list? Let me know in the comments!

 

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