7 Things You Can Do To Speed Up C-Section Recovery
By SRC Health
32% of women in Australia deliver by C-section. Difficulty with walking and getting in and out of bed are common after giving birth, precisely during one of the most challenging times for a new mother, especially one who has undergone a C-section. She needs to not only speed up recovery from a C-section but also care for her newborn baby; lifting, feeding, bathing, and caring for a bundle of joy that is completely dependent on her.
What does faster C-section recovery after pregnancy mean? It can mean different things to different people at different stages of their post-partum recovery which is why it is important to adopt a holistic perspective that addresses all factors that can speed up C-section recovery and assist in returning new mothers to optimal health. Certain aspects of recovery from a C-section are somewhat similar to recovery after a vaginal delivery but with the added challenge of recovery following major abdominal surgery.
The following are 7 factors that play a critical role in speeding up recovery after pregnancy, and these are especially important for C-section recovery.
1. Look after your mental health.
Recovery after giving birth is one of the most challenging times for women and their families. Emotional and mental health is just as important as physical, with the two being intrinsically linked. Perinatal anxiety and depression is common, has many faces and does not discriminate – it can affect anyone, and have devastating consequences for individuals and families if left untreated. If you or someone you know is struggling with perinatal anxiety and depression, please seek assistance by visiting PANDA– Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia website or calling the National Helpline 1300 726 306 or alternatively Postpartum Support International is another great way to find support in your country.
2. Get pregnancy fit and stay fit throughout your pregnancy, it’s never too late
It is said that the fitter you are before getting pregnant and the fitter you stay through your pregnancy, the faster you are likely to recover after C-section. Simply google “get fit for pregnancy” and you will have no shortage of great advice. To be on the safe side check with your health care professional to make sure the advice and exercise routine is safe in your specific circumstances.
3. Most importantly do not stress
If you are already pregnant it’s not too late to start, in fact today many women make it a priority to start looking after themselves as they get pregnant.
Make sure you consult your health care professional for a suitably gentle routine. There are lots of exercises you can do regardless of your fitness level.
4. Healing wounds and stitches is a vital step in your C-section recovery journey and gentle constant compression plays an important role.
What many of the articles on C-section recovery fail to mention is that healing is accelerated with Rest, Ice, and Compression to these wounds. Compression should be gentle and constant, not just for healing but for the practicality of being able to function whilst your body is healing. Although there are no shortages of sports compression clothing out there, there are very few specialist post-partum compression garments that were designed specifically for this purpose.
SRC Recovery Shorts and Leggings were designed in consultation with an obstetrician to assist with providing constant gentle compression to swollen and sutured areas.2 They also assist with back support, healing abdominal muscle separation (DRAM) and perineal trauma/stitches.
5. Protect your weakened pelvic floor muscles because having a C-section will not prevent incontinence.
Nearly 5 million Australians experience bladder or bowel control problems. The Continence Foundation of Australia's provides information on funding, referral and products. They offer free resources for individuals, careers and professionals, you can phone a nurse on 1800 33 00 66 for free advice. www.continence.org.au has a wealth of information.
Choosing a C-section alone will not prevent incontinence.3 One of the most enduring myths surrounding birth is that a C-section prevents damage to the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues, which support the organs of the pelvis: bladder, uterus and bowel. The pelvic floor supports these organs, however if muscles are weakened, or ligaments are stretched, different forms of incontinence can arise:
Urinary incontinence affects 30-50% of childbearing women by age 40 especially during extra exertion, such as coughing or running, sometimes referred to as stress incontinence. Fecal incontinence affects up to 25% of childbearing women.
The best way to reduce your risk of incontinence is to protect and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles which in turn will assist in speeding up your overall recovery from C-section.
According to a leading Women’s Health Physiotherapist, Shira Kramer of BeActive Physio, pelvic floor exercises can usually start within a few days C-section as tolerated, and a slow return to walking over the first few weeks. The benefits of exercising in motherhood are well known – not only the physical benefits (posture, core, pelvic floor, back health) but also for psychological well-being or the ‘feel good’ factor. After a C-section it is important to allow core and pelvic floor recovery:
- Avoid lift anything heavier than your baby, and get help wherever possible
- Roll on to your side when lying down before sitting up
- Rest horizontally as much as possible
- The first 6 weeks is really about rest, allowing recovery and enjoying your baby.
The Australian Continence Foundation says you can protect your weakened pelvic floor muscles if you squeeze, lift, and hold your pelvic floor muscles before you sneeze, cough, blow your nose or lift. Some other tips include:
- Cross your legs and squeeze them tightly together before you cough or sneeze
- Avoid lifting heavy loads
- Avoid bouncing exercises
- Do pelvic floor muscle training to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles - there are some great videos here http://www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au/pages/videos.html
- Avoid getting constipated (drinking enough water and getting sufficient fiber will help)
- Avoid straining when you go the toilet
- Get the support you need to improve mobility
Mobility is critical to all new mums as they endeavor to heal themselves and begin caring for their baby, which comes with new and physically challenging demands. Invest in a specialist post-partum compression garment like the SRC Recovery Shorts and leggings which will provide you with the support to move more freely post-delivery and make lifting, feeding, bathing and caring for your baby much easier.
6. Healing Abdominal Muscle Separation or DRAM is another critical step in C-section recovery
Healing DRAM is more challenging due to C-section recovery presenting an extra stage in the process. Like everything else in the body, the different organs and muscle groups are connected and no part of you works or lives in isolation. Your abdominal muscles, pelvic floor and back muscles are all interdependent on one another so make sure you adopt a holistic approach to your recovery and get a tailored program, preferably from a qualified Physiotherapist who specializes in Women’s Health to reach your goals safely and effectively.
7. Take it easy and return to exercise gradually.
Approximately 6-12 weeks after the C-section when you have regained your mobility and generally feel ready, you can resume exercise with the approval of your health care professional.
The physiotherapists at BeActive Physio urge new mums to return to exercise gradually:
“At approximately 6 weeks you can progress to gentle core exercises and resistance / weights exercises and low impact cardio options (e.g.: bike). The recommendation for returning to running and high impact exercise is a minimum of 3-6 months. It is imperative to allow repair of your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. See your women’s health physio to give you more specific guidelines and exercises that are tailored to your needs and remember, these timelines are a guide only, there is no one-size fits all approach for recovery.”
Wishing you a speedy C-section recovery.
- Spitznagel T, Leong F, Van Dillen L, Int. Urogyn J. 2007 Vol 18(3):321-328.
- Antonio I Cuesta-Vargas Cátedra de Fisioterapia, Universidad de Málaga, Andalucía, Spain. June 2017.In lab. testing SRC Recovery Shorts Nº 8.0615.87.4707
- bit.ly/jiMgXX BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, online April 8, 2011
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.