C-Section: 5 things you need to know for a speedier recovery
Thousands of babies are born via C-section in Ireland every year.
In fact, the rate of women requiring a section during labour has increased close to 50 percent since the year 2000, and this trend is not showing any sign of slowing down.
And while C-sections can be a life-saving intervention for women and newborns in the case of labour complications, it is important to remember that it is major abdominal surgery, and the recovery process is often longer than what can be expected after a vaginal delivery.
April is C-section Awareness Month, and we recently caught up with Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife – the award-winning skincare brand for pregnancy, birth and beyond – to ask for her top tips for recovering mums.
C-section recovery – what to expect?
As C-section birth is major abdominal surgery, recovery time can vary from one mum to the next and uncertainty around self-care can be tough both mentally and physically.
The abdominal muscles that have supported the growing womb, and which pregnancy may have already weakened, can feel quite sore and tissues cut during the surgery have been stitched back together and need time to heal. Therefore, it’s more important than ever during this time that new mothers make themselves a priority and dedicate special time to their recovery.
My Expert Midwife’s Top Tips for C Section Recovery:
Rest – and say yes to help
After a C-section, mums will need to be extra careful when moving about and lifting things. Rest and nourishment are key to recovery and the healing process so eating healthy, nutrient dense foods are a must.
Planning ahead, if possible, can help, ensuring batch cooked meals are stocked up in the freezer and healthy snacks are close to hand at all times. Asking for help doesn’t always come naturally to us but this is one time in life when we should avail of any help we can get.
Try to arrange for help with normal day to day things by asking partners, family, older children, friends or hired help for extra assistance with daily chores, food prep and general life.
Wound healing and minimising risk of infection
The first six weeks are often the toughest after returning home following a C-section while your body rests and repairs.
In the weeks following the surgery, it’s important to check the wound regularly to make sure it’s healing well. Gilchrist recommends watching out for any redness that is spreading or any smells or oozing coming from the wound site.
Once the dressing has been removed and normal wound healing is taking place, personal routines to care for the wound and scar can be developed to help optimise recovery. For anyone worried about how they are healing, don’t hesitate to contact your midwife, GP or public health nurse for advice.
Cleaning the wound
Having a shower or bath everyday should be part of the wound cleaning routine, but Gilchriste recommends creating a hygiene station. This could be a box or tub containing everything you need, such as cotton wool, moist fragrance-free wipes, a mirror, a clean bowl, nappy bags, a small towel, spare sanitary pads and, of course, Spritz for Bits.
Fill the bowl with warm water and dampen the cotton wool. Sit reclining or lie propped up comfortably, then gently lift your tummy to expose the wound. Some women find it easier to have someone to hold the mirror so they can see it properly.
Wipe gently in one direction with the dampened cotton wool part way or fully along the scar and dispose of it into the bag. Use another piece or two if needed. Try to let the air circulate around for a few minutes and pat dry if needed.
As scar tissue tends to develop slowly, a regular routine of self-massage can help to improve the appearance and mobility of both external and internal scar tissue after a C-section. Massage can also help women reconnect their body and mind which may also help with processing feelings surrounding their birth experience.
During the healing process, C-section scars can vary from being quite prominent to almost invisible. As scar tissue forms slowly, using scar massage can encourage the scar to form flatter and have a less raised appearance externally. Regular scar massage can help increase mobility around the pelvis and decrease feelings of tension around the scar area, as well as influencing the development of scar tissue from as early as the first few weeks, right up to 2 years after having a C section.
Scar recovery essentials
For those looking to aid their recovery with some sought-after essentials, the midwife-developed C-Section Recovery Essentials collection from My Expert Midwife contains products to soothe bruising, swelling and soreness, all of which are common after having a C-section.
During the first few weeks after birth, once the dressing has been removed and normal wound healing is taking place, Spritz For Bits can be used to provide instant relief for sore and itchy C-section scars. The fine spray combines selected ingredients including vitamin E for improved skin health and elasticity, tea tree oil for its anti-bacterial effects, and witch hazel and lavender to clean, soothe and protect. The no-fuss pump can be used one handed to deliver a broad, fine spray.
The collection also includes Soak for Bits, a recovery bath soak added to warm water to clean, soothe and help relieve soreness, as well as calm aching muscles and aid recovery. The bath soak can be used once the C-section dressing has been removed and normal healing is taking place. It is made with premium Epsom salts, made up of two naturally occurring minerals, magnesium and sulphate, known for their relaxing and soothing properties. Perfect for the weeks after childbirth, the soak is blended with essential oils including tea tree and calendula for their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, bergamot to aid relaxation and arnica to help bruising and swelling. A regular self-care routine including a relaxing bath can contribute to both physical and emotional recovery after childbirth.
As well as these, the Super Scar Recovery Oil has been developed by midwives to help improve the appearance and condition of scar tissue, whether it is from C-section, episiotomy, tears, stretch marks or general scarring. The natural oil is expertly blended to help soften and soothe scar tissue through massage.
“As midwives we know that C-section wounds can feel tender and itchy as they start to heal," Gilchrist explains.
"Our C-Section Recovery Essentials includes three midwife-developed products that can help new mums focus on their recovery and encourage healthy healing. This C-section awareness month we really want to shine a spotlight on recovery for women who have undergone C-section surgery. We’ve created a complete guide to C-section recovery which is available free of charge on our website, and want to give women the tools to help them recover from what is essentially major abdominal surgery as comfortably as possible.”