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A Doula’s Guide to Healing from a Cesarean Birth

healing from cesarean birth

*Disclaimer – I am not a doctor. Nor do I have medical training. I am simply providing ideas for you to consider if you’ve had a cesarean birth. Please, always, consult with your doctor or care provider before doing anything.

**Second disclaimer – I talk about grieving the loss of a vaginal birth throughout this post. The intended audience is those who were envisioning delivering vaginally and were caught off guard by a cesarean birth. This is in no way meant to shame those who have electively chosen a cesarean, or to those who were totally fine with having to have one. You go, mommas!

So, you’ve given birth via cesarean. First off, congratulations! How sweet is that baby of yours?! I’m so happy that you’re both happy and healthy. But I also understand how traumatic it can be for those who were fully expecting to deliver vaginally. Please know that your feelings are valid, and you are not alone. I’m not going to sit here and say, “but you’ve got a healthy baby, isn’t that all that’s important?” Because obviously that’s important. For those who wanted to deliver vaginally so desperately that’s the LAST thing they want to hear. It’s similar to telling someone in the middle of grieving (for whatever reason), “everything happens for a reason.” **insert eye roll here**

But I digress. Cesarean births are wonderful and they have no doubt saved many lives. I’m thankful we’re fortunate to have them as an option in our country. However, they are also major abdominal surgeries. They involve incisions that cut into your skin, muscles, and organs (the uterus). There is lots of tugging and pulling to get baby safely out. So, yeah. Recovery is hard. I’ve had clients who have had cesareans and are surprised at how hard it is once all that numbing medicine wears off, and you have to take care of a newborn on top of yourself.

With clients who’ve had a cesarean, our postpartum visits are often filled with lots of grimaces, tired eyes, and questions on just how long they’re going to feel like this. The answer varies. Sometimes it takes the full 6 weeks to start to feel normal. And sometimes it’s sooner or longer than that. While I always ALWAYS encourage you to speak with your care provider first and foremost, I have come across birthing people who have taken steps to ensure they heal faster. Here are some ideas to consider to speed up your recovery and help your body heal properly. Just like birth, results may vary so find what works best for you and stick with it!

1) rest. Rest as much as possible. Please don’t try and go out too much in the weeks following your surgery. Walking is hard. Holding your baby is hard. Take it as easy as much as possible. Hopefully your partner or family can be there to help with all the little things. But if not, consider hiring a postpartum doula.
2) make sure you’re drinking tons of water. You should already be drinking more than usual to help support your breastfeeding journey (if you’re breastfeeding, that is) but drink even more than you think you’ll need. Water can do amazing things for the healing body
3) drink bone broth. Homemade is best, but there are lots of store bought options that have good ingredients in them. Or, your local farmer’s market probably has a stand that sells really good quality broth (send out your partner, family, or friend to pick it up of course). Bone broth has amazing healing properties. It can help your digestive system during this crucial period, among other things. And trust me, there are certain digestive issues that can occur after cesarean births. I won’t go into them in detail here…don’t worry 😉
4) use turmeric, ginger, and other anti-inflammatory spices and foots whenever you can. Your body is going to have a lot of inflammation. The more you can support it with anti-inflammatory foods, the better. Also remember to eat lots of warm foods. In Chinese Medicine, it’s said that cold foods can cause digestive distress and that’s the last thing you need right now…trust me
5) consider encapsulating your placenta – there are a lot of anecdotal articles out there discussing the benefits of it and helping people heal after birth. Make sure you do all your research on it first so you know if it’s the right option for you personally
6) consider meditation – the GentleBirth app has wonderful, guided meditations for fear release, grieving, and even to prep for a cesarean birth. You can get a free 7-day trial here
7) have a breastfeeding pillow to rest baby on so that they’re not resting up on your incision during feedings
8) get really comfy, high-waisted underwear that won’t touch your incision (sexy, I know)

The good news is, we already know you’re a warrior and can handle this season in your life. But don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make sure you’re grieving whatever you need to grieve in a healthy way. Processing cesarean births can take some time, but the more you talk about it, the better it feels – I promise.

If you have any questions or would like some more ideas of practical items to get if you’re recovering after a cesarean, reach out! I’m more than happy to help.

Cheers to being strong, and processing in the way you need to. Your birth matters. Your feelings matter. I hope you know that.

xo,
Katelyn

About Katelyn Gonzalez

Hi, I’m Katelyn - a seasoned birth doula, childbirth educator, placenta specialist, Ayurvedic postpartum care practitioner, and certified women’s health coach. My #1 priority is to empower women to see what they can do when they believe in themselves and their beautiful bodies. I live in Oakland, CA with my husband and fur babies.

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