This is a guest post from natural mama Abby Deliz. Abby is a mother of three children (Luke, 8; Hannah, 5.5; and Landon, 7 months), and she is also a Master’s student at Claremont Graduate University. Follow Abby on Instagram or connect with her on Facebook.
Some natural mamas enter into labor and delivery with the intention of having a natural childbirth but are confronted with an unexpected turn of events, finding themselves in an operating room instead of a birthing tub. That was my experience, and I hope to provide some much needed information and support to natural mamas dealing with c-section recovery.
I have had three c-sections.
My first was an emergency after a cascade of interventions (Pitocin, epidural, premature rupture of membranes, immobility) caused fetal distress. I had labored for 24 hours, dilated to 10 centimeters, and pushed for two hours. What a disappointment! My second was a voluntary repeat cesarean, and my third was a planned vaginal birth that ended in cesarean after 36 long hours of labor (despite months of preparation, a midwife, a doula, and attempting every trick in the book!).
After my third, I developed a hypotonic uterus (a uterus that continually contracts without cessation), a hematoma the size of a small ball, blood loss leading to three blood transfusions, dangerously high blood pressure, an incision that did not want to heal, uterine and vaginal infections, and lingering health concerns.
Believe me when I say, I know EXACTLY how hard c-section recovery truly is!
Cesarean Section by the Numbers
Over 1.2 million mamas every year are undergoing cesareans, including incisions through both the abdomen and the uterus. In fact, despite the World Health Organization’s plea to keep the rate of cesarean sections between 10-15% per country, c-sections in the United States are at an all-time high—almost 33% according to the CDC. This is why it is more important than ever to help mamas with c-section recovery (naturally!)
No matter what the reasons were behind your cesarean, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists list several potential complications following the procedure:
- Blood loss
- Blood clots in the legs, pelvic organs, or lungs
- Injury to the bowel or bladder
- Reaction to medications or to the anesthesia that is used
ALL of these complications, as well as the aches and pains associated with ANY surgery, can benefit from an arsenal of natural, post-operative tools including essential oils, proper nutrition, herbs, supplements, and more.
C-Section Recovery From the Hospital
Chances are, you will be stuck in the hospital for three to four days. This is an optimal time to start promoting healing in your body. Here are some basic tips:
- After the first 24 hours (your hospital will most likely keep you on a soft food diet until then), do not be shy about eating plenty of fiber. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes go a long way in combating post-operative constipation and gas pains.
- Take a high-quality probiotic (where to find), zinc (where to find), and magnesium supplements for the same reason.
- DRINK CONSTANTLY. You could also do fresh lemon juice in water. You need to flush the anesthesia and medications from your body.
- Keep moving! It might sound counterintuitive, but the more you walk, the better you will feel.
- Consume a lot of protein, iron, and vitamin C. Protein helps your body tissue heal and repair as well as build muscle, iron is vital for blood loss, and vitamin C can help fight potential infection.
Should I Take Prescription Medications?
This is a tough one for natural mamas who generally try to avoid pharmaceuticals.
What if you are in pain? What if you have high blood pressure? What if, like me, you ended up with a post-surgical hematoma or other issue and have added pain and discomfort?
When it comes to prescription medications, every mama has to make that decision for herself. High blood pressure can lead to stroke or seizures; high pain levels can make it hard to rest and care for yourself and your baby properly. Only you and your doctor can determine what is right for your particular situation.
However, there are some natural remedies that might help you minimize prescription drug use, or avoid them altogether:
- Use arnica gel or tables (where to find) to relieve muscle pain, swelling, and bruising associated with c-section recovery.
- Cinnamon and garlic supplements, coconut water, omega-3 fatty acids, hawthorn berry tea, hibiscus tea, and apple cider vinegar can also help.
- Calendula supplements can help avoid vaginal infections, a common side effect of this surgery.
- Nettle, Echinacea, and yarrow supplements or teas can all help fight post-surgical infection.
- Drink at least one cup of bone broth per day to help restore vital nutrients depleted during blood loss.
What Do I Do About This C-section Scar?
Let’s face it: You’ve come out of childbirth with a battle wound. This is just part of c-section recovery. How can you take care of it?
This has become a pertinent issue after my third cesarean. Following my first two surgeries, the small, thin scar just above my bikini line (low transverse) was thin and fairly unnoticeable. For whatever reason, after this last surgery, it is jagged, raw-looking, and, well, ugly. And I’m “lucky” – many moms have T-incisions (both vertical and horizontal), or one vertical incision (either high or low in the abdomen) that further complicate recovery.
Here’s how to promote scar healing:
- Keep it DRY AND CLEAN. Do not scrub it in the shower; simply let soap wash over it. Pat dry and keep a maxi pad over the wound for at least 1-2 weeks to absorb sweat and drainage.
- On the scar itself, use aloe vera gel (where to find), and a released Vitamin E capsule to minimize swelling and visibility.
How Are You Feeling Emotionally After Surgery?
This can be HUGE for cesarean mamas, and may be a “Mama Wound” that takes some time to come to terms with your experience. In fact, cesarean mothers are at an even higher risk for postpartum depression and anxiety. What can you do to prevent or alleviate these feelings?
First and foremost, GET REST AND GET HELP. All new mothers need help of some sort, but this is even more emphatic for cesarean mamas, especially if you have other children to care for. I was fortunate enough to have other mothers bring us dinner on a rotating basis, help with laundry, and offer childcare. This experience really brought home the fact that women need the support of a village! Cesarean mamas should not be lifting, cleaning, or cooking for quite some time (easier said than done, right Mamas?!).
In addition, homeopathic remedies like Ignatia Amara (where to find) and Rescue Remedy (where to find) can help with stress and emotional upset after surgery.
Online support groups like ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and post-cesarean grief networks offer invaluable support. As always, seek help from your doctor, counselor, or religious community if feelings of grief, sadness, or anxiety linger or are too hard to manage during your c-section recovery.
How About Your C-Section Recovery?
What steps did you take to recover naturally from a cesarean section? Share with us in the comments below!
- “Identifying barriers and facilitators towards implementing guidelines to reduce caesarean section rates in Quebec.” World Health Organization Bulletin. Web: 2 March 2015. https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/85/10/06-039289/en/
- “Births – Method of Delivery.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web: 2 March 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/delivery.htm
- “Frequently Asked Questions: Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Care.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Web: 2 March 2015. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Cesarean-Birth