My C-Section Experiences + Recovery Tips

c-section recovery tips
C-Section recovery just isn’t one of those things I ever thought I’d write about, ya know?  But since the national average for c-sections performed is about 1 in 3 births, you most likely know someone with kids who has had a c-section.  Since I had Bennett, I have received questions about recovery tips and they’re fair game because I’m 3 for 3!  C-sections are major abdominal surgery and it’s totally normal to feel nervous about them, so I’m hoping I can help put you at ease in case you ended up here in a Google search. 

I love a good Q&A format so if you have additional questions I didn’t answer, please ask away in the comments.

Why have you had three c-sections?

My first two boys were in breech position; my doctor, whom I trust immensely, does not do planned breech deliveries; her standard protocol is to try and get the baby to turn and if we can’t, perform a planned cesarean.  My youngest, that I delivered in October, wasn’t breech (isn’t it ironic) and while my OB-GYN is a huge proponent of the VBAC, she doesn’t support it after two c-sections, so a planned cesarean it was.

So, all three were planned c-sections?

Sadly, no.  I went into full blown labor with my first two kids.  With my first, I was about 5cm dilated when I made it to the hospital; during the cervical check the nurse felt his ankle (gulp) so it turned into an emergency situation as breech births can be riskier.

My second was even more dramatic.  I had been having contractions and finally wen to the hospital (my planned c-section was about 5 days away) and they told me I wasn’t dilated and that it was just false labor and to go home.  Because I had been through this with my first, I pleaded to let me stay and have the c-section because I was in a lot of pain and my contractions were 5 minutes apart, but they didn’t think labor was imminent.

I basically labored all day at home and it was super painful.  I sat in the tub, took showers, paced the house and finally I tried to tell myself it was all in my head and that I needed to sleep and my water broke.  I woke up my husband and we rushed to the hospital and I was 8cm dilated!  The doctor and nurses felt bad for sending me home less than 24 hours earlier (I mean, as they should have) and it was definitely an emergency situation at this point and they needed to act quickly because he was coming out!

My third c-section this past October was planned and it was calm and lovely.  My doctor put on 90s pop music for me and talked me through the while procedure.  My husband held the baby almost the whole time and it was just a really calm and wonderful experience.  Eric even got to announce the sex of the baby!  With the first two surgeries, it was such a blur because I had been laboring for hours and they were in a rush to get the baby out.  

Our cuddly newborn baby Bennett

Any tips to get through the surgery?

  • I had a spinal block with all three–it’s honestly easier than you expect.  The lidocaine shot stings a little, then you feel some pressure and it’s over.
  • I’m not going to lie, I hate the feeling, or should I say lack of feeling, in your legs from the spinal.  It freaks me out.  My doctor told me it’s much more intense than a traditional epidural because you truly feel nothing. It can be anxiety inducing and my doctor told me that she says to close your eyes and embrace the feeling of melting and that helped me.  You don’t feel pain during the surgery but you DO feel pressure and lots of it.  Hopefully your doctor is walking you through the whole thing to put your mind at ease.
  • The baby comes out pretty quickly!  And once the baby is out, it goes by FAST because you get to meet your little one! All in all, the surgery is about 45 minutes.
  • You’ll be in the OR Recovery Room for a few hours; it’s my least favorite part.  You get to hold/nurse the baby but you still can’t feel your legs and it drove me CRAZY.  They also push on your uterus every 15 minutes and not gonna lie–it hurts.  But the point is to watch for fevers, blood pressure, hemorrhaging and make sure you’re ok before you go into a normal hospital bed.

While in the hospital: c-section recovery tips

  • TAKE YOUR MEDS.  I am not a person who pops Advil or Tylenol; medicine is always a last resort to me (I don’t know why–I’m not anti-medicine I just have always been like that). But you just had major abdominal surgery and you need to get ahead of the pain.  It helps you recover quicker, too.
  • I noticed a shift in the meds offered from my first two c-sections to the most recent one I had in October  and I’m 100% certain it has to do with the current opioid crisis.  They let the Norco/Oxy flow easier back in 2014/2016.  With this c-section, I had to ask for it (and I’m glad I did–it made me feel so much better and by the time I got out of the hospital, I only took two 5mg of Oxy at home).  Ask the nurses and hospital what their policy is but don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it.
  • Other meds that helped me: Gas X–I experienced a lot of shoulder pain on day 2 of recovery and it’s due to the trapped gas from abdominal surgery–it helped me a lot.  Colace–trust me…pain meds can back you up.  Senna-T–again, a natural laxative helps with your first bowel movement.  All these meds are helpful to have once you’re home, too!
  • More on the gas: it hurts like hell.  The pain was localized in my neck and shoulders. I cried from the pain with this past c-section because I couldn’t get comfortable; it’s the moment that made me realize you had to ask for stronger pain meds, too.  And once I took them, I was able to relax and recover.
  • Walk as soon as the nurse lets you; you’ll feel like you were hit by a truck but it gets easier every time.  You will need help!  
  • Drink a ton of water; it will help with the catheter removal and will help in keeping the catheter out!
  • Make your partner change the baby’s diapers/hand the baby to you.  You will be uneasy on your feet for those first couple days.
  • Once you’re home, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Stairs can be tough and household chores can wait!  If you overextend yourself, it will just make recovery harder.  I took OTC pain. meds regularly for a solid 10 days post-surgery and that’s OK!

What surprised me about a c-section

  • The dreaded “shelf.”  For a few months post c-section, I have a c-section shelf below my belly button and above my incision.  I googled it after my first and realized it was a thing.  It goes away, though!
  • You still bleed; I guess I thought because I didn’t have a vaginal birth that I wouldn’t bleed–you do, ugh.
  • Anesthesiologists are the BEST.  Honestly, all my experiences with them were so amazing.  All the doctors were great but the anesthesiology team sits by your head during the surgery, chats you up, and keeps checking to see if you’re doing okay.  They are quick with the jokes and are set on making you feel comfortable.  Is it an anesthesiologist thing?  Do they teach you that in med school? They always have the best bedside manner!
  • Your c-section incision will be numb for a long time. It’s a weird sensation, touching something and not realizing it, but for me, it eventually goes away after several months.
  • Not all recoveries are equal.  I had a hard time with #2 because I had a toddler at home I wanted to pick up when I got home from the hospital (a big no-no).  With this c section, my boys at home are older and actually quite helpful so I was able to get them to fetch things for me!  If anything it’s a good reminder to slow down and take it easy.   Recovery WILL happen.
c-section recovery tips

Recovering in my room with baby B

I’m now 6 weeks out and feeling great.  I start to feel SO much better at the 2 week mark but I would say that with all three I felt really good by week 4.  I do with I could’ve experienced a vaginal birth; I know some women feel bad about having c-sections but I truly din’t feel that way. Before I had kids, I thought I’d be like my mom, who had four med-free vaginal births (my sister had one, too!) and a c-section honestly never crossed my my mind.  But at the end of the day, I brought my babies into this world safely and that’s all I could ask for; and while I feel like I missed out a bit, I don’t spend much time mulling over it.  

Also, here are a few items that REALLY helped me post c-section recovery:

C-Section high-waisted underwear – I LOVE these and am still wearing them!

My Breast Friend breastfeeding pillow – A boppy works, too but I prefer this for it’s flat surface.  

Postpartum belly binder – The hospital should be able to give you one but you can get them on Amazon, too

From the archives!

Read Harry’s birth story.

Read Teddy’s birth story.

  • Omg I totally forgot about the trapped gas 😩. I will also say to mamas going in for a second time that I noticed quite a big difference in how dramatic the uterus contractions post delivery were. Last time
    I tried to be a hero and declined norco and this time I actually asked for some but stopped bc I pick that pain over constipation 😂. I’m so glad the third experience was so laid back comparatively, especially during covid! Bennett is such a sweet little squish 🥰

  • Oh my gosh, I still have nightmares about the gas. I found it to be incredibly painful with both of my c-sections.
    And yes to your comment about anesthesiologists. Mine were both so wonderful and helped keep me calm (same with my anesthesiologist when I had a hysterectomy). Maybe they really do teach them bedside (or head side) manner in school!

  • This was interesting ! Silly question… but do you have 3 separate scars? Or they “use” the old one? And did you use scar sheets? It’s my biggest regret that I didn’t use one early on after my c-section.

    • Not silly at all! I think it can depend on the person but my doctor has used the same scar for the inscision all three times! I didn’t use scar sheets…maybe I should explore it for this one since i’m done but I always felt like my scar was so low it was hardly noticeable.

  • My sister in law made a rude comment to me about having a section. It was so hurtful and made me feel like a failure. So be very careful about what you say. The important thing is there is a beautiful healthy baby- not how the baby was delivered.

    • I’m hoping that sharing my experience of only having c-sections helps break the stigma! I agree that delivering a healthy baby is the most important thing, BUT I also think it’s ok to feel some longing for what you missed out on. People who make you feel like a failure for having a c-section are simply ignorant on the subject, in my humble opinion, because c-section recoveries are no joke!

  • Anna, I always appreciate your candor and ability to balance fashion with some real-life stuff mixed in, thank you. I’m currently going through IVF and will (hopefully) need info on birth sometime in the near future. I feel like first hand accounts are so often of women who pursued unmedicated and/or vaginal births and there’s a real stigma in sharing c-section experiences. I grew up with a mom who had unmedicated births at home in the 80s when it was pretty fringe, and so I feel like I’d internalized a lot of not-so-great ideas about what was “best” for babies (and not so much for moms) from a fairly young age, despite my mom rarely talking about it. After seeing the miracles of modern medicine in trying to conceive, I am such a huge fan of whatever it takes to keep everyone safe and sane. It is AMAZING what medical teams are capable of doing. This was very reassuring and helpful, thank you!

    • Best of luck during IVF! Yes, I too, am fully embracing modern medicine–bringing baby to this world safely is what matters most! I’m always curious about how the birth plan got included in the mommy wars…seems so unnecessary, right?!

  • Thank you for sharing your stories! In regards to missing out, I can relate in the opposite way. I had two vaginal deliveries. The first was easy breezy, the second was an absolute nightmare. I was with a midwife who was very against intervention, so even when things started to go haywire, we soldiered through it. I ended up with a severe third degree tear, an allergic reaction to my stitches, a cauterized wound (ow ow ow still thinking about that one thee years later) and a pelvic floor that still isn’t 100% years later. I wonder what I missed out on by not having a c-section. Would I have felt better sooner? Would I feel better now? It just goes to show that there’s no “better” way to have a baby.

    • Oh no – that’s so traumatic! I have a friend who went through something similar and insisted on a c-section for her third baby. There really is no ‘best’ way–I have certainly come to terms with it but wish I wouldn’t have wasted any time worrying about it!

  • I love this!! And feel all of the same sentiments. My first baby was breech so I had a very calm, planned csection. I am going in for my second csection on December 8, and look forward to the same experience. I would love to know what’s in your hospital bag having had 3 csections!

    • So glad you’ve had calm experiences! My last, planned one was vastly different than my first two and I’m really grateful for it. As far as hospital bag, I am a true minimalist when it comes to this because the hospital has EVERYTHING and I’m usually pretty out of it: long cord iphone charger, my own pillow, robe, comfy high waist pajamas for leaving the hospital and nursing tank. I forgot the breastfeeding pillow this time around, that’s all I would’ve brought!

  • I am SO grateful for c-sections. My first was an emergency, and I’m here (so’s my baby….I mean, 3rd grader).

    My second was planned, like your most recent, and it was much less dramatic. I, too, had terrible pain from the gas, and wasn’t prepared for that (the first time around, I was so highly medicated from the complications that I recall very little). But otherwise, recovery was much easier the second time. I walked a lot while in the hospital, and as soon as I was cleared for exercise at 6 weeks, I jumped back into that–it made me feel like myself.

    Honestly, I don’t feel bad at all that I didn’t have natural deliveries. I feel so lucky to have two healthy kids and a body that brought me through the whole process (and super props to the nurses and other medical pros!)

    Many congratulation on your lovely new arrival!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.