Postpartum recovery after birth can take anywhere from weeks to months. Allow your body the time it needs to fully recover. I’m sharing my postpartum recovery story and c-section recover tips that helped me. This post is sponsored by AdventHealth for Women. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Baby number three was nothing short of a blessing. From getting pregnant to his birth, everything about Trevor coming into our lives is special. For months I looked forward to welcoming my baby boy into the world and taking him home. Since he came unexpectedly we were a little less prepared than we wanted. Only experience can prepare you for what to expect after delivering a baby.
With my first and second babies, recovery after birth was super smooth. I was up and walking around within hours of delivery. Within a few days I was starting to feel back to my normal self and the pregnancy weight practically fell off from breastfeeding. My postpartum recovery with Trevor wasn’t as easy. It was hard and lasted forever, or at least it seems like it did. This time around I realized that postpartum recovery after birth can take anywhere from weeks to months.
My Postpartum Recovery Story
When I found out I was expecting I thought that this pregnancy would be the easiest of them all. With the Progesterone shots to help prevent premature labor and being closely followed by my medical team, I was sure that everything would go the way we prayed. Of course it wasn’t that easy though. I had a high risk pregnancy due to my many medical issues and two previous premature babies. Towards the end of my pregnancy I developed borderline severe pre-eclampsia which caused me to deliver baby Trevor earlier than expected.
Honestly delivering him was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. I had so many fears about what could go wrong with bringing a 32-weeker into the world but I also had to consider my health. My kidney function was declining with every day and my blood pressure was the highest it had ever been. Despite being able to get my blood pressure down, it just wasn’t enough. I delivered Trevor 8 weeks early via c-section.
This was my first c-section as my other two children were born via vaginal delivery. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was what I had read online in the past. Articles about how this major surgery was very hard to recover from and how the lingering scar was a constant reminder for moms of the pain they had endured. My c-section was anything but easy. It was my first c-section and my very first surgery ever. I had never in my life before undergone surgery. The most I had ever done was getting wisdom teeth pulled and that was nothing.
I remember being prepped for surgery and the process being explained to me. It was a quick and easy surgery given there were no complications in the operating room. Once I was prepped I was wheeled back and the operating began. Less than 30 minutes later, I heard Trevor’s first cry. It was loud and powerful, something I could never forget.
Once he was here and surgery was complete, my recovery began.
I knew that once the c-section was over I would be admitted to the ICU because my blood pressure had not gone down after delivery. My body wasn’t responding to the medications. What I didn’t expect was how long I would have to stay there. I was there for 4 very long days in the most excruciating pain in my life. I couldn’t move and I could barely talk. My husband and the nurses had to do everything for me. The pain was so unbearable, so bad that even the strongest medications did nothing for me. I mostly slept through those 4 days thanks to all of the medication and to be quite honest, some of it is still a huge blur.
After my blood pressure began to slowly lower, I was transferred over to a postpartum recovery room on the high risk pregnancy floor of the hospital. I stayed there almost an entire month trying to recover during my postpartum period and anxiously awaiting that first bowel movement. Healthcare providers typically look for a bowel movement as a good sign after giving birth or having a major surgery. It’s a sign that all of your internal organs are back to working the way they should.
The first week after giving birth was the hardest. Every time I needed to turn over, use the bathroom, take a shower or sit up, I needed help. Moving around came with so much pain.
Honestly, I had never felt so helpless in my life. Never have I ever had to depend on a team of people so much. Had it not been for the nurses and medical staff at AdventHealth for Women, I probably wouldn’t have gotten through my long stay at the hospital with such a positive mindset.
My kidney function had declined over 50% after the delivery, my blood pressure wasn’t going down, and my baby was in the NICU. Those were all hard pills to swallow all at once. Couple that with the mood swings and the hormones, I definitely experienced some postpartum depression after birth. It was hard getting through each day feeling so helpless and hopeless.
Each day the team at AdventHealth encouraged me to continue recovering and practicing patience with my body. They gave me the best care in quite possibly one of the hardest periods of my life. It was about a week before I was able to get up and walk alone with the support of a wheelchair but I did it. It was hard but with the help of my husband and the nurses, I took those first steps.
The recovery that comes along with a high risk pregnancy is difficult but I’m living proof that you can get through it with an amazing group of supporters and a rockstar health team.
C-Section Recovery Tips
1. Take it easy
As a mom you’ll have the instinct to want to get up and get all the things done. When you’re recovering from delivery, whether it’s a vaginal delivery or c-section, you’ll have to slow down a bit in order to heal. The more active you are in those first few weeks, the more postpartum bleeding you may have. Slow down and allow your body to recover while enjoying your family. Get in all the snuggles you can while you can.
2. 6 weeks or more
Doctors usually recommend allowing your body to heal for at least 6 weeks before having any sexual intercourse to avoid infection. This is super important because the last thing you would want to deal with is an infection on top of caring for a newborn while trying to recover. Studies have also shown that having sex before you are fully healed can lead to pregnancy.
3. Let go of expectations
I had so many expectations after Trevor was born. I expected my body to heal and to bounce back like I did with my other two children. Boy was I wrong. That wasn’t the case this time at all and I was so disappointed. When going into delivery just take in every moment. Don’t think about how you’ll “bounce back” or how long it will take. Allow yourself to enjoy every moment with your baby. I let go of the expectations of getting my body back to its pre-pregnancy condition quickly. Remind yourself that a pregnancy is 40 weeks long and give yourself at least that long or even that first year to recover.
4. Recruit help
There are so many options when it comes to postpartum support. Ask your friends and family members to step in to help with anything you need. If that isn’t an option, I highly recommend a postpartum doula. They can help with everything from lactation to household chores and helping you recover. Some postpartum doulas even offer sibling support and care. Having loved ones in your life who are hands on during your recovery period is essential to a successful recovery.
5. Look for signs of complications
Ask your doctor about postpartum complications to look out for. They can give you a list of symptoms to watch for and what to do in the case of an emergency. Complications to watch for were large sized clots, trouble peeing and headaches that don’t go away with over-the-counter treatment. Upon discharge your nurse should tell you everything to be aware of.
6. Don’t skip your checkup
Your scheduled postpartum checkup is how to tell if your body is recovering from delivery or not. It’s important not to skip it if you want to make sure that you’re on track and not experiencing any complications. During your appointment your doctor will screen for postpartum depression.
7. Eat well and stay hydrated
Eating well and staying hydrated is a general rule when recovering from delivery or a major surgery like a c-section. It will help you to recover quickly. If you’re nursing your body will be burning extra calories now so you’ll want to chat with your doctor or lactation consultant about how many calories you should be consuming daily.
The team at AdventHealth for Women was amazing with me when it came to this. I had a really hard time eating and increasing my water intake post surgery. In the first few days after delivery I hardly remember eating at all because I just couldn’t stomach it. The nurses and doctors made sure that I was eating as much as I could to avoid becoming dehydrated. Once I was settled and out of the ICU, they sent over a nutritionist to make sure that I was on a diet that was right for me while nursing. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re eating or drinking enough, consult with your health team.
8. Sleep when your baby sleeps
This one is a hard one especially in those first few months when your baby is eating every 2-3 hours. It’s hard to get good quality rest in 2-3 hour increments. When you have other children to care for it seems nearly impossible. This is when you bring in others to help so that you can sleep or at least try to. Your body will need as much rest as possible to recover.
9. Support your belly, core and back
After my first two deliveries I did nothing at all to support my core. I honestly didn’t feel the need to and didn’t know any better. Looking back now, it’s one of my biggest regrets of my postpartum recovery. Only after having a c-section did I realize how important it really was. Your core is the part of your body that strengthens every other part of your body. If your core and back are solid, it will make it easier to recover. Wearing an abdominal binder or belly support will help to facilitate quicker healing. An abdominal binder can help to get your organs back into their pre-pregnancy position and help your abs to tighten. Not wearing an abdominal binder caused me to develop Diastasis Recti which only got worse with each pregnancy.
10. Take your pain meds
I am not the biggest fan of taking medication. Having a c-section was definitely not the time to have the mindset. The pain that you feel after having a major surgery is unreal. I honestly don’t even know if I can describe the pain in words because that’s how bad it was. My nurses and doctors at AdventHealth for Women were adamant about me taking medication. I didn’t feel pressured or pushed to take it but they made sure that I was educated on how important pain management was. They gave me all of my options for pain medications and allowed me to find one that I felt was best for me. They even made sure to consult with lactation since I was nursing. Being on medication that didn’t go through my bloodstream was highly important to me.
11. Buy all the high waisted things
Something I wish people would’ve told me is how my cesarean incision scar would itch after birth. Like, oh my gosh! I don’t ever think I have had a part of my body that was so itchy in my life. The mesh underwear that you wear after delivery are a huge must. They are loose fitting and are high enough so that they don’t irritate your scar. Once you’re home you may want to continue wearing high waisted underwear.
I am 5 months post surgery and am just beginning to not feel the itchiness anymore. Occasionally the scar itches but not so much that it’s unbearable like it was before
Postpartum Recovery Timeline
Doctors typically recommend taking six to eight weeks for recovery. Of course this time varies on a case by case basis. For me, it took me about 3 full months before I felt I was able to fully function on my own without any assistance physically. Talk to your doctor to develop a postpartum care plan that works best for you based on your delivery experience and your current health condition.
During your recovery you’ll experience exhaustion, your uterus contracting to go back to its normal size, bleeding, possibly vaginal pain and more. Movement might be difficult and your hormones may be all over the place. It’s likely that you’ll feel overwhelmed but it’s normal.
In those first 6 weeks you’ll learn how to cope with being new parents and begin to learn what works best for your body.
Personal Postpartum Essentials
- Witch hazel or TUCKS pads
- Disposable underwear
- Peri bottle
- Flushable wet wipes
- Nursing pads
- Stool softener
- Prenatal vitamins
- Any medications prescribed by your doctor
- Ice packs
- High waisted underwear
Postpartum healing is one of those things that we dread having to go through. It’s inevitable after giving birth. With the right health team and support system, you can get through it like I did. Hopefully these c-section recovery tips and my postpartum recovery story will help you navigate your postpartum journey.
How was your recovery after birth? I’d love to hear more about your story.