Giving birth to a baby is tough work, no matter how the little one decides to enter the world. Having had a c-section and natural births, I can say that while natural birth can be harder pre-birth, c-sections can be much harder in recovery.
At the same time, there are some things you can do before and after a c-section to help with the recovery process. These are things I wish I’d known and been able to do when I had my c-section that have helped many others since then. I’ve tried many of these things while recovering from natural birth as well, and they were really helpful.
1. Beneficial Broth
I’ve written before about the many benefits of broth and these benefits are especially helpful before or after a surgery or illness. Bone broth is packed with amino acids like proline and glycine, which are needed for collagen production and great for skin healing.
Broth also contains gelatin, which is beneficial for wound healing and for the skin.
There is a reason broth is a traditional hospital food for those recovering from illness or injury (though unfortunately, we’ve moved away traditionally made broths that contain these beneficial ingredients in favor of MSG infused broth.
Traditional broth can really help recovery from c-sections and as a bonus, it helps digestion and can ease the digestive discomforts and constipation that sometimes come after cesarean birth.
When I first heard of this, I thought it sounded more like torture than comfort, but after trying it, I’m sold!
The basic theory is that using light pressure and compression can lessen the pain and speed healing after a c-section. In fact, this can be helpful for non cesarean births as well since it helps reduce pain and helps the uterus return to normal size more quickly.
I personally used this binder after my cesarean at the recommendation of one of my postpartum nurses. If you are interested in trying this, check with your insurance since some of them cover these types of devices (for vaginal or cesarean deliveries). I liked that one because I didn’t have to take it all the way off to go to the bathroom, but there are also much less expensive wraps that just go around the abdomen that worked just as well for me in subsequent deliveries (here is a larger size one).
3. Gentle Cesarean
From being a doula for several women during their cesareans and postpartum time, it seems that the circumstances of the cesarean make a big difference on recovery.
Emergency c-sections or ones where mom loses a lot of blood obviously take longer to recover from, but it seemed like women recover more quickly when they have a peaceful surgery and get adequate bonding time with baby right away. This is an emerging movement called gentle cesarean and when possible, it seems to really help recovery.
4. Soothing Salve
A cesarean is major abdominal surgery and there is a substantial incision. I’ve found that using this belly salve during pregnancy can help avoid stretch marks and using this healing salve after delivery can help remove them and speed scar healing.
I used the healing salve multiple times per day after my c-section as soon as I got the approval from my doctor and my staples were removed. It can also be used on the perineum after a vaginal delivery.
Definitely check with your doctor on this, but I took glutamine in the weeks following surgery as there is some research that it can drastically speed recovery:
Glutamine is a key substrate for fast-growing and multiplying cells, including white blood cells. Glutamine stimulates the proliferation of fibroblasts, thereby helping in wound closure. It is the major amino acid lost during any tissue injury, implying a significant role in the preservation of lean body mass. According to researchers, glutamine possesses anabolic properties, which are effective in wound healing only when present in amounts 2 to 7 times greater than required in healthy persons. (source)
From the University of Maryland Medical Center:
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building block of protein) in the body. The body can make enough glutamine for its regular needs, but extreme stress (the kind you would experience after very heavy exercise or an injury), your body may need more glutamine than it can make. Most glutamine is stored in muscles followed by the lungs, where much of the glutamine is made.
Glutamine is important for removing excess ammonia (a common waste product in the body). It also helps your immune system function and appears to be needed for normal brain function and digestion.
You can usually get enough glutamine without taking a supplement, because your body makes it and you get some in your diet. Certain medical conditions, including injuries, surgery, infections, and prolonged stress, can lower glutamine levels, however. In these cases, taking a glutamine supplement may be helpful. (source)
6. Scar Massage
Another thing recommended by my wonderful postpartum nurse. Anytime there is a major incision, there is a potential for adhesions to form where tissue fuses where it isn’t supposed to. To help avoid this, she recommended gentle scar massage once the wound had fully closed and the scab had gone away.
I did this for several months postpartum and it seemed to help soften the scar and bring back feeling in areas that were numb. Here’s how to do it:
7. Water and Magnesium
Many people get constipated after surgery and this can be especially painful after a cesarean (or a vaginal birth!) To help avoid this, my midwife (turned doula during the c-section) told me to drink a lot of water to make sure I was hydrated and to also take some magnesium to help loosen stools and prevent constipation. I used several different forms of magnesium and I talk about them all in this post.
We often underestimate the power of sleep and after surgery or childbirth (and especially both!) you need more than normal. I was not able to sleep much after my cesarean because my little one was in the NICU and I think this slowed my recovery considerably.
The body regenerates more quickly during sleep and it helps speed tissue repair. Certainly, getting sleep with a newborn is easier said than done, but enlist help and make it a priority if you can. This article has some tips for improving sleep quality.
Have you ever had a c-section? What helped you recover? Share below!