Parenting / 26 April, 2022 / My Baba
This Caesarean section Awareness Month, Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife talks to My Baba about how women can plan and prioritise their recovery after a C-section.
Choosing to have or being recommended to have a C-section can be a much more challenging path to take when deciding how your baby will be born. The day you have your C-section you will not only be giving birth to your baby, but also having major abdominal surgery, so there is a lot to consider when making the choice to give birth this way. Once your baby has been born via C-section there is both the short-term and long-term recovery time to consider, so it is essential to have plenty of information to draw from to help optimise your recovery. There can often be a focus on your physical recovery, and whilst this is clearly important, women can sometimes feel that their emotional needs are side-lined, especially if their C-section was unplanned and happened during their labour.
C-section birth is major surgery and recovery time should be planned in but is very individual from one woman to another. However, remember that whether you’ve had a planned or emergency C-section, it is likely to take longer to heal and recover from than a vaginal birth. During the first few weeks, extra care when moving around and lifting things is advised as your movement will be more restricted. Arranging help in advance from family, friends or hiring a postnatal doula can provide much needed help especially if your recovery takes longer than you anticipated.
Scar massage can help influence the development of scar tissue from as early as the first few weeks to up to two years after having a C-section. As scar tissue tends to develop slowly, a regular routine of self-massage can help to improve the appearance and mobility of both external and internal scar tissue after your C-section.
Most women are not aware that they can improve their long-term recovery through regular scar massage. It is not talked about by many healthcare professionals in the immediate days after a C-section, but the benefits of scar massage can impact upon not only the external appearance of scar tissue but also improve comfort long term by helping to reduce the development of adhesions.
During the healing process C-section scars can vary from being quite prominent to almost invisible. Using a scar massaging technique can help improve most scars. As scar tissue forms slowly regularly massaging it can encourage it to form flatter and have a less raised appearance.
Scar tissue also develops internally and may adhere to other tissues creating adhesions. These are bands of scar tissue that can tighten and constrain internal tissues. It is most common on the colon, ovaries or between the bladder and uterus and can cause pelvic and back pain during long-term recovery.
This is a guide to the frequency of massaging, but everyone is different, so develop a routine that feels comfortable for you. Once you have had your six-week post birth check or when your scar is considered well healed you can gently start the scar massage.
Around half of all caesarean sections are not planned. When how we expected to give birth changes from having a vaginal birth to a C-section, often with little time to process this change, the effect on our emotions can be dramatic. It is totally ok to feel this way and by recognising them you are helping to process your birth experience, which can also help you to heal emotionally, should you need to.
Common feelings after an unplanned C-section include:
It may take some time to process your feelings and that is ok. Talking with people you trust can help and they may be close by around you, or you may need to look further afield for professional help or towards online communities of likeminded people who have had similar experiences.
If you feel as though you have unresolved issues surrounding your unplanned C-section you can contact your hospital and arrange to talk through these events with a doctor or midwife. They will help explain the sequence of events and if things could have been improved.
If you continue to feel low in mood, without any improvement, you can seek help from a qualified professional such as a trained counsellor or psychotherapist to help you develop techniques for managing how you feel about events. Your GP will be able to signpost you towards the resources available in your local area.