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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

C-Section Surgery and Recovery 101

This is an easy peasy post to write. I'm essentially copying everything from my TAC surgery post word for word, because the surgery and recovery were virtually identical. Only it was easier this time - apparently it's common for your second surgery to have a much faster and easier recovery. Because your body is used to it? Because you know what to expect? Because you're more aware that it's temporary? Whatever the reason, it definitely rings true.

So here are my world-famous (not) patented (not) c-section surgery hints and tips.

1. If it's planned, get the first surgery slot in the morning!
On time. Relaxed. Not rushed.  The later in the day, the more likely it is to get pushed back, start late, have stressed  or tired doctors....yes, you have to wake up at an ungodly time, but it's so worth it.

2. Bring your travel pillow...and lots of other pillows and blankets.
Ok, maybe not lots. But we brought the travel neck pillow (which is recommended up the wazoo by other ladies who have been here, for good reasons), and two full size pillows: a body pillow and a slightly firm foam pillow. Both from home, straight from our bed. First, it's comforting to have something from home. You don't even realize it, but the smell and the shape and the way you sink into it just like you do at home...all those things help you relax a bit more. Second, the hospital pillow was nothing. Maybe an inch thick. Might as well have tried to use an envelope for a pillow. Third, it helps you get into and stay in a comfortable position by offering support around your sides. Why the travel pillow? You press it against the incision when you are sneezing, laughing, walking...anything that requires movement. Hold it tightly against the incision (it doesn't hurt, I promise!) to support those crying muscles.  You'll thank me later!  I also brought a blanket - my "blankie" if you will. It's not a full-size blanket; more like a throw. Suede-ish texture on one side and faux fur in a tan zebra print on the other. I'm sure it sounds hideous, but it's a) really cute and b) really warm and c) super soft and d) super comfy and e) super comforTING. It was a Christmas present from one of my friends years ago, and while I don't go so far as to take it with me on vacations and stuff, I do use it almost every night. I had it in the hospital with me while I was on bed rest and had it with me when we delivered Caleb. So it's very special. But outside of the sappiness, hospital can be cold, so it's nice to have a good blanket. (This paragraph was taken straight from the TAC surgery post and I brought the same pillows and blanket to the c-section.)

3. Think about an abdominal binder.
Actually, don't think. Just get one. It's pricey, yes. But now having used it (twice - once for the TAC and once for the c-section), I'd pay twice the amount.  I have this one. There are other products out there, like the Belly Bandit, but this one was made specifically for post C-sections and abdominal surgery.  I tried to stand up after my section without it and was faint from pain - after three tries I remembered the binder, put it on, and was able to get up much more easily and with much less pain.  I wore it for the entire time I was in the hospital (taking it off a couple hours a day while laying down to let it air out) and a couple weeks afterward at home.  Bonus: I really think it helps you get your shape back more quickly. [Check with your doctor: some hospitals have them available.]

4. Keep ahead of the pain.
Use the pain meds they give you. They are there for a reason! You won't get a prize at the end for not using them. And if you're nursing, they're safe for breastfeeding, so don't hesitate for that reason.

5. Move around.
The more you move, the more it hurts...but the better it feels in the long run. It's painful. It's excruciating. You might experience a weird burning sensation that is more painful than everything else put together, which is the nerves that were severed regenerating. I had it horribly last time; not so much this time. It will hurt the first time, but it goes away, and each time you walk it will go away more quickly. Make your spouse or whoever is taking care of you make you get up and walk every couple hours. There were many times I wouldn't have done it without Chris, and I'm glad he was there.  Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you, limping along, walking slowly, hunched over, clutching your travel pillow to your incision or leaning on the bassinet. You will never see these people again, and you need to take care of yourself. Just do it! Plus half of them probably had c-sections themselves and will be doing their own walk of shame shortly.

6. Don't overdo it.
You don't want you incision to open up, and you don't want the pain to become unbearable. If you overdo it, you'll be less likely to want to move around again in an hour, and in the long run that will prolong your healing time.

7. Drink lots of water and eat healthy food with lots of fiber.
Don't eat heavy, rich foods before or after the surgery. You won't poop for a few days anyway. Eating light foods - avoiding fried food or any of that food that makes you tired afterward - and drinking lots and lots of water will help you work through it. So say no to that hamburger and yes to that grilled salmon salad. Or something. I started taking Colace three days before the surgery and am continuing now.  Last time, I didn't follow my own advice very well and when I finally pooped a week or so later it was HORRIBLY and so painful.  I cried.  So drink MORE water. MORE. Have a water bottle with you at all times for the few days leading up to the surgery, use the water bottle at the hospital (and have the nurses keep it full!), and have one with you when you leave. Make sure it's always full, and always be drinking from it. Also, eat lots of high-fiber foods. Raisins. Prune juice. FiberOne bars. Whatever it takes! And maybe take some of your drugs before you go for the first time if it's been a while.  I followed my advice this time and it wasn't too bad at all.

8. Go pee regularly once your catheter is out.
I don't know if this is universal, but for me, the pressure of a full bladder is really, really uncomfortable and actually makes standing and walking painful. So go pee right when you first feel that little tingle to avoid it. Keeping your bladder as empty as possible will keep you comfortable. And besides, you should be walking all the time anyway. ;)

9. Stretchy, comfy clothes.
Last time, I wore the hospital gown the entire time I was at the hospital, but I was only there overnight.  This time, I was itching to get clean and into real clothes and did that the second day, when I showered.I changed into lounge pants, a tank top, and a sweater. I bought the lounge pants at Target a size larger than normal (they tie so I can cinch them tighter if needed) so that I could  wear them above the incision or below and they accommodated my still pregnant-looking stomach. I have a million pairs of these Supersoft Hiphuggers from Victoria's Secret and they are the perfect post-surgery underwear. No tight elastic and they sit higher than the incision so there's no rubbing, although for a week or so I rocked the mesh panties proudly (TMI: you still bleed with a c-section). I also brought a light summer dress (like this chemise from Anthropologie; thank you birthday gift cards!) that would have been completely perfect and I wouldn't have to worry about the waistline irritating the incision, but it sucked for nursing so I never wore it.  And if you're nursing, make sure you can *easily* whip a boob out in whatever it is.

10. Get a Brazilian wax.
I'll give you a second to compose yourself. But seriously. It helped. Well, it didn't help, I guess, but it definitely prevented some uncomfortableness and pain. You don't have to go full Brazilian, but getting rid of the hair around where the incision was going to be definitely made life easier for both me and the surgical staff. When they pulled off the bandage, it didn't hurt at all, since there was no hair for the tape to pull out. Before the surgery, the staff didn't have to shave or clean up the area at all. I guess usually they shave it, and then use strong tape to pull up any remaining hairs, so basically a wax anyway. Might as well get it done by a pro! One of the nurses asked if I got it done just for the surgery, and said she always tells friends to do it when they're having C-sections or other surgeries in the same area. And yes, it's pretty painful if you've never had one before. But compared to the surgery itself, it's a piece of cake. Take a few ibuprofen, forcefully breathe out with each strip getting pulled off, and if you're really worried use some of this.

11. Communicate with your doctors
This is a new one! A non-self-plagiarized addition!  I knew from the other surgeries I'd had and Caleb's delivery that I don't handle anesthesia well. I was extremely nauseated and shaky with both the epidural and general.  I let the doctors know this, and they handled my drugs so well I didn't feel sick for even a second.  I also let the anesthesiologist know that I wanted to know what was going on during the surgery, so he gave me the play-by-play.  If you have any concerns or desires (maybe not that one desire about the black leather chaps and rubber duckie) at all be sure to let them know so they can address it if at all possible.

Recovery this second time was such a breeze - I was feeling 95% by the time we left at four days post-surgery and could have gone home with no pain meds whatsoever.  I kept taking them because I'm a druggie and also because I wanted to make sure that if I moved weird or something I'd be okay, but I really didn't need to.  Yes, it was still very very very painful getting up the first time, and I shook so bad during my first shower I was scared I might pass out, but overall it was honestly a breeze.  If it's easier each time, I'll be able to go home five minutes after surgery by baby three.  I'll probably be able to do the surgery myself with a butcher knife and some twine by the fourth one (note: we're not having a fourth one).


  1. I heard about the abdo binders that they weaken rather than strenghten the abdominal wall, so I never got one. I had very little pain after my c/section, honestly the breastfeeding was the most painful experience out of the whole thing.

  2. Oh, I totally disagree! I'm sure it's a personal thing, but I loved the extra support, and my doctor said she gives them to any patient who doesn't bring their own. I don't know that it's so much for abdominal wall support as it is incision support (at least for me) that kept it from pulling. Basically it was like having the travel pillow pressed in all the time. I needed it! I definitely had massive pain the first time I tried to stand up, walk, shower, etc, but it went away quickly.

  3. One thing I love about our hospital they provide the belly binder

  4. This was the best advice I read in a long time. I am having my 3rd c-ssection in 4 weeks and I can say that the first 2 times were horrible because I wasn't prepared.
    Thanks for this advice...i think i am ready this time...

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