Recovering from a caesarean operation can be different for every woman. However, it is important for you to have good pain relief plan for the first few days after your caesarean.
This may mean:
- Topping up the epidural that was used for the caesarean
- Injections of strong drugs such as pethidine, morphine or diamorphine
- Voltarol suppositories which are absorbed through the back passage
to give very good pain relief
Don’t suffer in silence. If your wound is hurting, tell your midwife. It’s better to keep the pain under control and to ask for pain medication before you become very distressed.
Emotionally you may have all sorts of feelings:
- Happiness that your baby has been born safely
- Relief that you have come through the operation safely
- Relief that you didn’t have to go through labour, or that labour was brought to an end by the caesarean
- Disappointment or guilt that you weren’t able to give birth naturally
- Fear that your insides have been damaged in some way
- Unhappiness about the scar you now have on your body
Any or all of these feelings are normal. Major surgery is a lot to cope with and when surgery and birth happen together, it is inevitable that you will need time to come to terms with what has happened.
After your baby has been born, it’s a good idea to ask one of the midwives on the postnatal ward or the midwife who comes to visit you at home to go through the reasons for the caesarean with you. Then, if you choose to have another baby, you will know whether you are likely to need another caesarean or not.
You may be cared for on a ward that is devoted to women who have had caesareans or difficult births, or perhaps on a postnatal ward with other women who have had vaginal births. You will be looked after by midwives, with visits from your anaesthetist and surgeon who will check that you are recovering well. Ask them to explain what happened and why you needed a caesarean birth.
Some practical hints for coping after a caesarean include:
- Drink peppermint water to help with the wind that always troubles people after abdominal surgery!
- Wear very large knickers that don’t put any pressure on your scar. There are a few places that sell special caesarean knickers which are made from very stretchy material. They let air through to the wound, hold a sanitary pad in place and don’t put any pressure on your stomach
- Get a pair of slippers without backs so that you can put them on without having to bend down
- You may need help to lift your baby in and out of the hospital cot for the first few days
Your stay in hospital might be quite a short one, perhaps only two days. Lifting and carrying and even going up and down stairs can be difficult at first so you will need someone to help you.
Your midwife will visit you at home and check that your wound is healing properly, make sure that you’re not showing any signs of infection and help you with feeding if you’re having any problems. You may be advised by your obstetrician that you shouldn’t drive for several weeks until you have recovered. Your insurance may be invalid if you drive within six weeks of having a caesarean. So if you want to drive before then, check with your insurers first.
There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself recover:
- Don’t expect too much of yourself. You’ve had major surgery and you should be giving yourself time to heal for several weeks
- Moving is difficult at first and lifting, carrying, reaching and bending can be difficult for a while so don’t be ashamed to ask for assistance
- You may have negative feelings – be kind to yourself and accept how you feel. Talking things through can help
- Rest as much as you can
- Drink plenty of water and juice to flush out any excess fluid from being pregnant
- Eat well – especially cereals, fruit and vegetables that will provide vitamin C to help you heal and roughage to help your bowels open easily
- Limit the number of visitors you have so that you don’t get over tired
- Ask for help – from whoever and whenever! The visitors you really want are the people who will make you meals, keep the house clean and tidy, and go to the shops for you!
- Enjoy resting after your caesarean. Stay in your pyjamas to make it clear to others that you’re still recovering. This is time you can spend with your baby without having to take responsibility for housework and day to day chores
If you want someone to talk to about your caesarean because you’re feeling unhappy about it or because you need to understand exactly what happened, let your midwife or health visitor know.
Your next baby
It takes your body about six months to a year to recover from a caesarean, so it’s best not to think about trying for your next baby until then. When you do have your next baby, you won’t necessarily have to have another caesarean. There has been a great deal of research into vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) which has shown that most women could achieve a vaginal delivery after a previous section.
Of course, if the reason why you had a caesarean first time round is still valid, for example if your womb is an unusual shape or you have a heart condition that would make labour too stressful for you, then you may want to elect for another caesarean.
However, if the reason for your first caesarean was perhaps ‘failure to progress’ (the cervix didn’t open up properly) or even ‘suspected cephalo-pelvic disproportion’ (there was some doubt whether your pelvis was big enough for your baby), the likelihood is that your next birth will be straightforward. If you had your first caesarean because your baby was breech or became distressed during labour, there is every reason to think that your next labour will be a normal one ending in a vaginal birth. Many women who have had a caesarean worry that a subsequent natural birth will rupture the scar, but this is very rare.