Cesarean Section Recovery

Over the past few years I have had the joy and pleasure of working with families, in varying capacities, throughout their child bearing years. This work has been both fascinating and rewarding, and has taught me many things about the miraculous capabilities of the human body and spirit. Some of these lessons have come from watching women recover from cesarean deliveries while caring for their newborn babies. Instantly selfless, these women's unwavering love and commitment to their new baby so often results in their own health and wellbeing becoming secondary. To me, these women are the perfect example of the innate transformation into motherhood that follows birth.

According to 07/ 08 data from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, inclusive of home births, 31.8% of babies born in the Victoria area were delivered by caesarean section. This means that close to one third of Victoria mothers will have spent the first few days caring for their newborn while healing from major surgery herself.

If you are one of these women you'll know that no matter the circumstances that have lead to your cesarean birth, the recovery from it is both an emotional and physical journey. At this time, surrounding yourself with attentive support, spending lots of time skin-to-skin with your baby and taking the time to nurture your own healing are some of the most important steps you can take towards a healthful recovery.

Women recovering from cesarean births are often met with a host of unique challenges. Initially your abdomen and tissues surrounding the incision will be swollen and may be numb or painful. You may need assistance with standing, walking, lifting and bending movements. It is, however, gentle frequent movements that produce the most pain relief and improve circulation post surgery. You may begin to do this by wiggling your toes, rolling your wrists and ankles and sliding your legs in bed. With the support of loved ones, brief walks within 6-12 hours of surgery should be encouraged as they stimulate digestion, improve bladder tone, and reduce your chance of developing postsurgical complications.

In the days and weeks following the birth your body will begin to heal. The pain from the incision will wane, movements will feel natural again and many aspects of caring for your newborn will feel easier. Maintaining proper body mechanics and relieving muscle tension will keep you on the road to recovery throughout this time.

As your incision heals, a scar will form in its place. Underneath this visible scar adhesions will develop as part of the body’s natural healing process. During this process, tiny strands of collagen rush to the site that has been cut and attach in a random pattern to create the powerful, glue-like bonds we call adhesions, otherwise known as scar tissue. Wherever they form, adhesions can remain in the body for life.

As a by-product of abdominal and pelvic surgery adhesions are known to form connections between tissues and organs that are not normally connected. For example it's common for adhesions to form between the skin, intestines, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, and other organs. Symptoms of these adhesions include:
• abdominal pain
• diarrhea or constipation
• irritable bowel syndrome
• acid reflux
• pelvic pain
• pain with intercourse
• blockages in the fallopian tubes
• deep “tugging” or “pulling” sensations
• Low back pain
• puckered, raised or asymmetrical scar formation
• numbness and/or itching

Scar tissue after a C-section is a common and totally normal result of surgery. But adhesions that prevent tissues and organs from moving freely can become a health issue. I've seen first hand that many of these potential problems can be avoided with the appropriate care of your c-section scar.

Massaging your cesarean scar for even a few minutes a day can have a huge benefit. In fact, knowledgeable self massage is one of the best things you can do to avoid complications from adhesions and to improve the look and feel of your scar itself. Because massage can help stimulate the nerve endings to grow, it can also be used to help to relieve numbness and restore feeling where it has been lost.

With massage, self or otherwise, the best results are achieved when begun immediately after the scar has healed. However, older scars can benefit from increased circulation and the release of abdominal adhesions as well. Most importantly, by releasing the scar, relieving muscle tension and encouraging rest, relaxation and hormonal balance, post surgical massage can help to restore your flexibility, strength and natural movement patterns.
Because every mother’s recovery is as unique and individual as the mother herself, you should talk to a professional about which techniques will help nurture, repair and promote your overall healthful recovery. With personalized instruction, self massage can be done both safely and effectively.

The birth of a baby is a monumental life event, after which you'll be busy learning to feed, change, love and care for a new life. I understand that as a new mother, time is so very precious but I encourage you to find some for yourself. If only for a moment or two a day, empower yourself by actively assisting in the healing of your body, and honouring the great gift it gave you.

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