I am not a medical expert, I am a regular mom with two kids only a year apart in age. For various reasons, they were both delivered through cesarean section. I had a really hard time recuperating from the first surgery, while the second time was a breeze. I think this had to do with knowing what to do the second time around. While recuperating from the first cesarean, excellent nurses gave me invaluable advice, but it often came too late, so it only became helpful when I had my second baby. Every one is different; here is what I learned that worked for me:
1- Walk as soon as possible after the surgery. With the first surgery, almost 24 hours had passed before I stood up and walked. Whereas the second time around I was walking six hours later. I did not get very far, but it made a HUGE difference. I was walking the hallways the next day and my speed of recovery was exponentially faster.
2- Keep on walking. Make walking the hallways part of your daily routine while at the hospital and develop a regular walking routine after you go home. It gave me a sense of accomplishment to extend my walks just a little every day, it help me bond with the baby who came along in every walk, and at the very least it got me out of bed. I felt less depressed and physically stronger.
3- Stay in the hospital as long as they let you. Unless you have an army of helpers at home, the hospital is the best place to recuperate from a cesarean. Nurses provide help with the baby, food is brought to you, as are medications. You can concentrate on your baby and taking care of yourself. And the hospital bed makes it less pain full to get up and start moving right away.
4- Avoid anything that can give you gas. Which means stick to warm liquids, don’t do any leafy greens. NO cold drinks or ICE. Do NOT use a straw. Again, walk the halls. Walking reduces gas. Request an anti gas pill on the first day, and have them give you one of those pills as often as possible. Once gas accumulates in you belly it is very painful and hard to get rid off.
5- Stay ahead of the pain. Take your pain medications on a schedule. Most hospitals have a policy so that pain medications are only given WHEN REQUESTED by the patient, but no more often than every X number of hours. (In my case it was every three hours.) I did not know this, so during my first recovery, I would wake up in the middle of the night in severe pain because the medication had worn off. It was not until a nurse had pity on me and explained that I NEEDED to request that my pain killers be administered every three hours and that I should also request to be WOKEN UP for my meds. It sure beat waking up with pain in the middle of the night. Think about it. If you have to wait until you are in pain that means you are uncomfortable for about an hour before the pain kicks in, then you call the nurse and it is another half hour before you get the meds, an finally another hour before the meds start kicking in. That is about three hours of pain, and this cycle will repeat every four to five hours. That is over 12 hours a day of pain or discomfort per day. This is what I went through after my first cesarean. It is difficult to breast feed in pain. It is difficult to walk in pain. It is even difficult to go to the rest room when you are like that. It is unnecessary and it amounts to a much slower recovery.
6- Request a stool softener the first day. The anesthesia you were given during surgery slows your vowel movements and you want to get them going right away. After my first surgery no one explained this to me, I was not given a stool softener until the day of discharge and it was not until several days later that I had a vowel movement. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life (much worse than labor). The second time i gave birth, I requested a stool softener the first day, so I had a vowel movement three days after surgery, at the hospital, while still under the effect of pain killers and it was uneventful.
7- Nurse right away and often. Everyone is different, but even if you are not planning on nursing at home, nursing after giving birth, helps your body recover faster, even if you had a cesarean. The uterus gets the necessary hormones to begin contracting and (the contractions can be painful – but no more than menstrual cramps) it does speed the recovery time dramatically – not to mention what it does for your child in the long run. Breastfeeding after a cesarean does not need to be painful. Instead of placing the baby across your chest, use the “football hold” and place him on your side. A lactation consultant at the hospital taught me how to prop the baby on pillows so he would still be against my skin, but I did not have to exert any force to hold him.
8- Sleep when the baby sleeps. I do not know anyone that is actually able to follow this advice. Visitors, doctors, nurses, etc. make it impossible to truly sleep when the baby sleeps. Ask your attending nurse when the doctors are most likely to come by, set up your own limits on visitor hours (in addition to the time frame of the hospital) and assign the rest of the time as your quiet time. My husband brought me music, and I made it a habit to play it during those hours. So from 10:00 AM to 2:00 everyday, the baby and I hung out together, breastfeeding, reading, eating and sleeping, listening to the most glorious and soothing music I could hope for. This gave me a couple or extra hours of sleep per day, not to mention how relaxed I felt and how I bonded with my child.
Enjoy your pregnancy. This is a prescious time and you will miss it! And if you are afraid, (I was) remember that it is a normal feeling and it will go away. I wish someone had told me how quickly the surgery is, and how fast your baby ends up in your arms!