C-section UK: What to expect from the procedure and c-section recovery
Shave your bits, trust me, you'll thank me for that little nugget of wisdom during a c-section recovery.
C-section recovery was my biggest concern when I learnt very late on in my pregnancy that I would be having a cesarean. Never having had one before I had no idea what to expect in terms of the actual procedure or how long c-section recovery would look like for me.
Since having Hollie, a few people have gotten in touch to ask about the experience and how my recovery is going, so thought I'd share a few learnings/things I wish I'd known before surgery in the hope that it might be helpful.
Before I start, however, I do want to stress that this is simply my experience, and everyone's c-section recovery will be different. There are so many variables that can affect how and when you get back on your feet – how surgery went, blood loss, existing health conditions etc – so please be mindful that you may experience something very different to what is written here.
If you'd like more information on your after birth recovery, head over to my mummy MOT article to find out what to expect from the assessment.
C-section UK: What to expect
I had a spinal anaesthetic, which meant a fairly substantial sized needle going into my lower back to numb the lower part of my body. It was fairly quick and painless to administer, and once it had taken effect I couldn’t feel anything from just under my boobs right down to my toes. Having never had a spinal (or anything like it) before, I found having my entire lower body completely numb very unsettling sensation, but, obviously, wouldn't have been without one.
It took a good five to six hours for the spinal to properly wear off for me. Hollie was born just before 7am and I first attempted to use my legs to get out of bed at 1300. And I almost passed out. It was too soon. When I tried again at 1530, I faired much better.
I was very conscious to take things at my own pace and not feel rushed or pressured to get up/move before I felt ready. Having been led down for such a long time, getting up and walking around the first time was really hard. My body definitely needed time to adjust to being back in an upright position. Thinking about it now, I wish I’d positioned the bed in an upright position before I attempted to get up as I think that would definitely have helped me feel less light headed.
Never in a million years did I think I would say this, mainly because I loathe them, but I wish I’d bought more nightdresses ahead of surgery. As it turns out, I was quite underprepared for a c-section in the end, in terms of clothing. I had lots of super-comfy joggers, which were great in terms of not affecting or touching where the c-section incision was made. But what I didn’t account for was a swollen belly, and having elasticated waistbands around it was hugely uncomfortable. I came home and lived in nightdresses for the first week (and then promptly burnt them lol).
Speaking of swollen bellies, I had a vaginal birth with Rex, and remember being really surprised at how quickly my pregnancy pouch disappeared after. I'm not blowing smoke up my own ass there, I simply mean I no looked pregnant I would say maybe a week after he was born.
Three weeks on from having Hollie, I still look a good four/five months pregnant, which, from an aesthetic point-of-view doesnt bother me at all. But it has meant finding clothes that fit and are comfortable much more tricky as wearing anything even remotely tight around my stomach is wildly uncomfortable. At my last midwife appointment I questioned whether the size of my stomach was normal and was told yes, in a nutshell. The trauma to your insides caysed by surgery causes swelling that can take weeks to heal. So I will be living in my oversized leggings and maternity trousers for the forseeable.
(Unruly) pubic hair
For some reason, I assumed that my lady garden would get out of childbirth unscathed this time, so I paid little attention to any, let’s say, ‘maintenance’. At eight and a half months pregnant, I hadn’t been able to see my bits for quite a while and I’m reckoning you could probably have plaited my pubes by the point I got to surgery.
That said, I'm not an animal, and had planned to try and tidy things up down there before we got to hospital. But Hollie put pay to that by putting in an early appearance. So instead my midwife got the wonderful job of shaving my bits before surgery. The problem with this is they only shave what they need to in order to proceed. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting a full on trim while they were just, you know, because, but it would have been nice for them to take off enough to accommodate the superglue-like dressing that is used to cover the scar after surgery.
Instead I ended up with half my impressive in length pubes well and truly stuck down, and I'm not lying when I say having a midwife then try to peel it off 24 hours later to check the wound was no fun at all. Had I known this was going to happen, my lady garden would have been as bald as a baboon’s ass before going into surgery.
Head over to my c-section UK YouTube video on unruly pubic hair for more (because why wouldn't you want to know more about my overgrown lady garden, right?).
I've now experienced both a c-section and a vaginal birth, and I can honestly say I was equally terrified by my first post-birth poo. However I’m happy to report that neither time was as scary as I thought it might be.
I really suffered with constipation when pregnant with Hollie, which was mainly down to me not drinking enough water. So I made a conscious effort to stay hydrated and All Bran a staple part of my diet in the last few weeks of my pregnancy to help keep things moving. When the midwife asked if I had ‘opened my bowels’ (why don’t they just ask if you've had a poo?) I said I was a bit scared to try. She was very reassuring but advised I wait until I felt the need to go, then just sit there for as long as I needed for nature to take its course and avoid any straining or pushing. As luck would have it, a whopping bowl of All Bran is one of the last things I ate before having Hollie, which I reckon stood me in good stead for that first post-birth number two.
In the limited time I’d had to prepare for a c-section, I’d read that trapped wind was common after surgery. And I did have a lot of wind, however it was not trapped, luckily. Or not, in this case.
What I didn’t realise was that I would have no control over when said wind would, er, 'present' itself. The first night after surgery, I was farting like a trooper with no way of holding it in if I needed to. I don’t know if it’s because I was still a bit numb from the anaesthetic or what, but I lost count of the amount of times my bum let rip when I was mid conversation with a midwife. They (yes, there was more than one poor soul) took it very graciously. Peppermint tea is supposed to help with this so I wasn’t surprised to see it stocked up in the day room at the hospital.
I didn't know what to expect when it came to my recovery and how long it would be until I was up and about. Being the drama queen that I am, I genuinely thought I'd be bed bound for days. The reality was very different – I was out of bed and walking around less than 12 hours after surgery.
It really didn’t take long for me to feel ok being on my feet. The biggest challenge I had was getting up from a sitting or laying position. I totally underestimated how much you use your stomach muscles to pull yourself up, and the couple of times I tried on my own (which I shouldn't have) were very uncomfortable.
In the first week this made doing a lot of things quite tricky. If I was in bed feeding and wanted to get up or move, I had to wake Eamo and ask him to help me as I couldn’t physically do it on my own. In the end I got a load of cushions behind me in bed and on the sofa so I couldn't lean back too far. Now three weeks post surgery, this is a lot better, but I still have to have something – Eamo, the arm of the chair etc – to assist me.
Blood thinning injections
I wish I could say I've saved the best until last, but the blood thinning medication I was given after Hollie was born was hideous.
In my final antenatal appointment, I remember the consultant saying after surgery I would need to take some blood thinning medicine home, which is used to help prevent blood clots. He didn’t specify what kind of medication it would be at the time, and I don’t know why I assumed this would be in the form of a tablet. But I was not overjoyed to learn it’s actually a series of injections in your stomach that you have to self administer.
I had the first one in hospital so I could be shown how and what to with the following nine I had to take home. I don’t know whether I was still a little numb from surgery, but the initial injection didn't bother me at all. So when I got Eamo to do the second one at home the following night, I was not expecting it to sting like an absolute mother fucker. Not only did it hurt, it also made me feel really nauseous.
I had to do them at 10pm each night and honestly dreaded them. They were very much hit and miss in terms of how much they hurt, which the midwife explained could be whether you hit or were near any nerves. So each night I would keep everything crossed that I'd picked a good spot in which to jab myself. Note I say myself, the first injection administered by Eamo was, without a doubt, the most painful, which he seemed to revel in way more than he should've (bastard lol, so his doctor duties were very swiftly revoked.