POSTPARTUM SURVIVAL KIT – Many women WANT to have a c-section. They have their reasons, and that’s okay. But, I think that the fact that c-sections have become an “option” instead of a necessity may lead many women to think that having one is a piece of cake. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not.
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What to put in your Postpartum Survival Kit – and WHY
Even though I was pregnant with twins, I was certain I was going to have a natural delivery. I eliminated most of my fears by doing tons on research on birthing twins the natural way. I thought I was ready to go.
What I didn’t do was enough research on what happens to you when you have a c-section. I ignorantly thought it was the easy way out and it couldn’t possibly be as difficult as pushing a baby out of you after hours of excruciating labor. The only negative things I saw in having one was that the incision was probably going to hurt for a while and that I couldn’t walk around or take care of my babies for the first day or so. Ha! How naive!
Now I’m certainly not saying c-section is harder than natural delivery – how would I know? I don’t have a comparison. But I do know that having a c-section is a lot worse than you might think. That’s why I’m here to tell you a little bit about what to expect and what post-c-section recovery products you should have in your postpartum survival kit.
The worst things you may experience with a c-section are:
- getting the spinal block – I will always have a place in my heart for that lovely nurse who held my hand during that horrendously painful and scary moment. BTW – I still have pain in that area in my back – 2.5 years later – yay 🙁
- when the nurse makes you get out of your bed and stand up for the first time – torture!
- having the catheter taken out – obviously.
- having to walk to the bathroom (or anywhere else for that matter.) Walking hurt so badly that I begged them to keep the catheter in for another day because I was afraid of walking. The pain was mostly in the area of the incision but also in my back. No, they did not give me any decent pain meds – just ibuprofen and something to help me sleep.
- when the nurse shows you how to pee with a water bottle. My whole body was shaking…it was so painful.
- the gas pains after a c section. They’re no joke – had them for over 3 weeks.
- caring for newborn babies while you’re in mind-boggling pain in the middle of the night and have no idea what you’re doing. This may vary depending on which hospital you’re at, but my hospital did not have a baby ward.
- not being able to take a shower for the first 3-5 days. Sponge baths do not replace showers – at all.
- the long walk to the car when you finally get to leave – yes, more pain.
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Post-C-Section Products you need while in the hospital
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that will help you feel better post-op. But there are a few things you can put in your hospital bag to take the edge off.
1. back- and abdominal pain after a c-section
What helped me the most for relieving the abdominal pain after a c-section was to wear a cesarean corset. It helps support your body’s core, which means back- and abdominal pain relief! It makes all the difference when coughing or sneezing too.
I was so glad I packed it in my hospital bag because I was wearing it already on day three. It was absolutely essential in helping me get back on my feet again, walk longer distances and stand up longer. It held everything together and reduced the pain.
The one I bought had hooks in the crotch area so it could be worn like a panty. The hooks were a bit difficult getting used to in the beginning, but I got the hang of it quickly. The hooks in the front had two settings for tightening around the belly when the bloating and swelling finally subsided. It is one of the more expensive ones, but worth every cent.
Once in a while I would try and go without it, just to see how my body was recuperating. But my back was hurting so badly that I could only go half a day without it. I wore it for two months after having the babies – and it made me look slimmer as well! It was money well spent. My nurse told me not to wear it for more than 3 months, but I found out later, that it’s best to wear it for up to a year postpartum.
The less expensive ones are worn like a belt and tend to ride up after a while, putting pressure on the incision.
2. Gas Pain after a c-section – a must have in your postpartum survival kit
Like I said above, the gas pains you experience after a c-section are no joke. My fella even described the “glug-glug-glug” sounds coming from my midsection as a “hot water boiler gone berserk.”
There are several things you can do for relieving gas pains after a c-section:
- Eat liquid- or easy to digest foods during the 48 hours before your operation.
- Take simethicone or Gas-X.
- Mix 1/2 ginger ale and 1/2 of hot tea (Lipton or any kind of black tea) together and sip.
- Walk your laps around the hospital floor. It’s painful but really helps the most.
Don’t worry if you’re still dealing with it for the next 2 to 3 weeks. That’s why I recommend having these things already on hand in your postpartum survival kit at home.
3. Looking Good after a c-section
As I said before, you won’t be able to shower for a few days, and you probably won’t be too excited about doing it every day for the first weeks. Nonetheless, there are going to be tons of photos made of you and your new baby. With a few simple items, you can make yourself look good even when you feel your worst.
(And if you’re like me, you automatically feel better on the inside if look good on the outside.)
- Dry shampoo will help your hair look like it has been recently washed even if it hasn’t.
- Leave foundation, powder and fancy brushes at home and just use a good neutral powder/foundation. It’s enough to remove splotchiness and dark eye rings and not too much that you’ll have it accidentally smeared on your bed, clothes, and baby!
- forget eye shadow and eyeliner for the same reason. Waterproof mascara will help your tired eyes stand out better in photos. You’ll surely shed a few tears within the first few days as well – just sayin’.
- a color-tinted lip balm will give your corpselike-lips some color and protect them from getting chapped.
- Get some cute and comfy nursing pajamas and pair them with a robe for pictures or walking the floor.
4. What to wear after a c-section
The key to post-c-section clothing is that it needs to be loose fitting so that it doesn’t rub on your incision. Plus points for easy accessibility to breasts and incision. Your incision will be checked quite often, so it’s nice if you can whip it out quickly. Same thing with breasts if you’re nursing and/or pumping.
The perfect solution (other than the items mentioned above) is a pair of men’s flannel pajamas. They’re loose fitting and it’s easy enough to pull down the pants to show the scar (without showing everything else – if you know what I mean.) The button-down shirt comes in really handy for nursing too. However, they may be a bit warm depending on what time of year it is (or what your hormones are doing to you!)
You’re going to want comfy nursing bras from day one- so pack them in your hospital bag!
5. Your going home outfit after a c-section
Again, the key here is loose-fitting. Fact is, you won’t be able to wear your pre-pregnancy clothes the day you leave the hospital. But it is a day where there will be even more photos taken of you. You wanna look cute while still being comfortable and with little to no hassle.
My winter going home outfit consisted of a pair of black maternity leggings, black maternity turtleneck shirt, and a light knit poncho that pretty much covered my swollen body up while still looking elegant. Black knee-high (flat-heeled) boots finished it off. It was perfect.
For me, an ideal Summer going home outfit would be a maxi dress with a bolero and flip-flops.
Post c-section Products you’ll need in your postpartum survival kit at home
Since you’re not going to want to be frantically running out to the store with your newborn when you can barely walk, I highly recommend having these things on hand before you get home from the hospital.
1. c-section undies
For one thing, having c-section and postpartum recovery undies that do not rub on your incision are absolutely crucial. You may opt for the mesh panties they give you at the hospital, but I found wearing normal c-section panties with the high waist helped me start feeling more like a human being after what had just happened to me.
Now, I won’t get into detail here, but believe me…for the first few weeks, those pads need to be huge. I found these did the job even better than I expected (my fella even said he didn’t mind buying these at the store because the packaging was “manlier” than the others. ugh!)
3. pain relief after a c-section – a must-have in your postpartum survival kit
If you’re nursing, it’s best to talk to your doctor about what meds you can take and which not. Hopefully, you won’t be needing any after the second week, but that’s still considered normal if you do. My doctor prescribed paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen = Tylenol,) and it took the edge off way better than the ibuprofen they gave me at the hospital.
If you’re avoiding all pharmaceuticals, use arnica gel or tablets to relieve muscle pain, swelling, and bruising associated with c-section recovery. I also highly recommend a heating pad for c section pain relief.
4. stool softener after a c-section – a must-have in your postpartum survival kit
Will you need a stool softener after a c-section? Oh yes, especially if you have hemorrhoids. Colace is one of the best stool softeners to take after a c-section because it’s safe to take when pregnant or nursing.
5. hemorrhoids after a c-section
It’s not uncommon to have hemorrhoids after a c-section. If witch hazel pads and Preparation H aren’t doing the trick, you may want to try a sitz bath. You can use a pre-made sitz bath soak or make your own.
You don’t need to invest in an over-the-toilet sitz bath unless you don’t have a bathtub. Just take a shallow bath in the tub with Epsom salt and lavender oil – it’s cheaper.
6. UTI and/or kidney infections after a c-section
Just beware, that it is common to get a UTI or kidney infection after having a catheter. What’s really mean is that the symptoms are normally back and abdominal pain (things you’re already experiencing from your operation.) So it may take longer than usual to even realize what’s going on.
The typical treatment for a kidney infection is a round of antibiotics. Even though my doctor said the type of antibiotics I would take was okay for nursing newborn babies, I didn’t want to take a chance.
I decided to take arnica and black cherry concentrate for a week to see if it helped before I resorted to antibiotics. Black cherry concentrate boosts immunity, reduces inflammation and swelling (and it’s tasty.) I took a shot 3 times daily and felt better after the first week, and the infection was gone on the beginning of the third week. But hey, please don’t do what I did. It took way too long to start feeling better. With antibiotics, I would have been better within days instead of weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I still highly recommend arnica and black cherry concentrate, but only in combination with antibiotics. And always always always talk with your doctor or midwife before taking anything.
7. c-section incision care & scar treatment
During the first 1-2 weeks, you just want to keep your incision clean and dry. Your common sense will tell you not to rub or scrub it; just let soapy water run over it then pat it dry.
If you’re concerned about scar treatment, you can begin applying vitamin E oil once the wound is closed up (also helps with stretch marks.)
Baby Care Post-C-Section
Here are some tips to combat the most common problems c-section mamas have when it comes to caring for their newborns after a c-section.
1. Be informed about what to do about little to no milk supply.
Blood loss and pain interfere with the release of hormones needed to help milk flow. So it’s not uncommon for c-section mamas to have supply problems. I found this post to be quite helpful.
2. positioning your baby and nursing after a c-section
With the back pain, abdominal pain, and the fact that you’ll be holding your baby a lot in a position your body isn’t used to, you need all the help you can get. Get yourself a boppy pillow. I’d seriously say it’s a c-section must-have! You’re going to need all the help you can get.
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3. changing station in your living room
While it’s good to walk as much as you can, you still need to take it easy and rest up. You’re going to want to have everything within reach. Diapers, wipes, oils and creams, burp clothes, pumping gear, and even snacks! That’s why having a diaper changing station right in your living room (the room where you’ll probably hang out the most for the first weeks) is a beautiful thing. I used this one.
4. baby wearing is next to impossible after a c-section
It’s important to be mentally prepared that with your core being so weak, baby wearing might be next to impossible (at least it was for me.) It doesn’t matter what you use – ergo, moby, or boba.
5. Bonus tip: hire a midwife post-c-section – one who makes house calls
Especially if you’re a first-time mom and have NO idea what you’re doing, hire a midwife who does house calls. Twice a week in the beginning, then once a week for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
My midwife did all of these things:
- taught me how to take care of my c-section incision and even took out the staples so I didn’t have to leave the house or wait to see a doctor
- helped me naturally heal my kidney infection which resulted from the catheter
- taught me how to nurse my twins (latching, nursing positions, etc.)
- cleaned up the umbilical cord area once it fell off – worse than clipping baby fingernails! (which she showed me how to do as well)
- monitored if my babies were gaining enough weight
- taped my back and knees because the infection had settled in there and it was so painful I could hardly walk (much less carry my babies upstairs)
- taught me yoga poses for specifically painful areas in my body (abs, back, and knees)
- listened to me about the typical concerns new mothers have
I love her to the moon and back for making that time in my life so worry-free! She was truly worth her weight in gold.
Things to buy for your c-section postpartum survival kit
Luckily, you won’t need all the products I’m talking about in this article – you will have to pick and choose what’s right for you. If you want to see the list in all its glory, you can do that here.
Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Luckily, you’ll have your sweet baby (or babies) to help take your mind off all the discomfort.
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