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C-Section Recovery: Tips - What I Didn't Know

Okay - so I wish I had known so much more at 4am when suddenly I was about to have a c-section. There are so many things that I look back on and have realized would have helped if I had been told. So.. here are my tips for you who are about to have a c-section or the new and healing c-section Mom: Also see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Topics pages for more information.
Shaking: My arms shook the entire time that I was in the OR for my procedure -- it was as if I were freezing cold, but I wasn't. I just couldn't keep my arms still. If you are getting this tip ahead of time, just don't be surprised. They tell me it is a normal reaction to the anesthesia (I had an epidural which was used to add in more major medication for during the procedure). I have also heard of hospitals which require/request that women's arms be strapped down for the duration of the procedure - though this was not my personal experience. Pain Medicine I: When my c-section was done, the doctors pumped some major pain killers into my IV. They made me pretty spacy for the first hour or two after the procedure was done. I have a clear memory in recovery of holding my son in my arms and not being able to speak quickly enough to keep in time with the conversation around me. It was scary to be in the middle of all that and not be able to communicate.
Gas: During abdominal surgery it is common for air to get trapped inside you. Think about it and it makes sense. What might not make sense to you is why your shoulder hurts incredibly. This is a common form of transferred gas pain. Stay away from carbonated beverages and take the anti-gas medicine the nurses give you access to. It will pass eventually (at which point they will let you start eating real food again!). Pain Medicine II: Don't let it wear off completely. The day after my c-section I didn't understand that the reason I wasn't feeling a lot of pain is that my IV pain medication hadn't worn off yet. I made the huge mistake of assuming I didn't need the major pain killers I was being offered. And then the medicine wore off in the middle of the night. I was not a happy person. Once the pain catches up to you it really is hard to get back on top of it again. All this also made it much harder for me to get up and around.
Get Moving : Of course listen to your nurses and doctors, but do what you can to get walking as soon as you can. I have heard from many others that though this was hard, they believe it sped up their recovery. I will always wonder how much of my slow recovery was a result of my not getting up and around as soon as I could. Lactation Consultant: If you are intending to breastfeed - request a lactation consultant ASAP. Even if you took all the classes (like I did!), the c-section adds so many new challenges that a professional showing you the best positions and making sure you are as successful as you can be is a great booster. See the breastfeeding topic page for websites and books to support your efforts.
Help: Ask for it. Demand it. Assume that you will be recovering from your major abdominal surgery and learning how to be a mom to your new baby (or babies!). If you have questions about your physical condition - call your doctor! I can't tell you how many times I reasoned myself out of calling and asking a simple question (Am I bleeding too much? Too long? Should I feel this specific pain?). Your doctor is out there to answer questions - it is part of what they get paid for. Consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you through this challenging start to being a mom. Physical Therapy: This one is most important 6 weeks or more after your c-section. If you are feeling pulling from your scar... if you are taking a LONG time to get to the point where you can move without pain - ask your doctor about a referral to a Physical Therapist. There are amazing things they can do. It was only after getting myself to a Physical Therapist for a few sessions of scar mobilization that I really started to feel as if I could move like myself again. If you are in the DC area - I highly recommend the kind people at http://www.painpoints.com .

So there you have it -- an assortment of the bits of knowledge I learned too late to help me, but maybe in time to help you.

Good luck and quick healing!

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