Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section - C-Section Birth Plan

Things I Wish I’d Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips

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Here are 27 C-Section tips (that no one seems to talk about!) to help you prepare for the easiest cesarean birth possible. Get your home, mind & body ready to make surgery & your recovery as smooth as it can be. 

Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki

I always said that my birth plan was to go with the flow, and to have “a healthy mom and a healthy baby.”

I didn’t want to get my heart set on certain things happening, because knowing my personality, it would be harder for me to accept when things didn’t go as planned that way. I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been in labor before. So I planned to just play things by ear and see how they went.

As labor progressed and then didn’t anymore, it became clear that we needed to have a c-section in order to deliver Raleigh safely. There was no hesitation from us; we were ok with the decision.

Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki

I knew c-sections happen often, and I know lots of people who have had them. I have a nursing degree and I did my internship on the same labor and delivery floor of the same hospital that I delivered at. I was in the operating room for several c-sections during my internship.

But what I didn’t know, was what it was like to actually have a c-section.

I didn’t know what to expect afterwards.

No one had ever told me what it was really like to have one, and what to expect after mine.

I wasn’t prepared for the recovery process.

Here are a list of the things I wish I had known before having my c-section. Had I known these things, I think my recovery would have been less anxiety-filled, because I would have known what to expect.

Things I wish I’d known before my C-Section | C-Section Tips

  1. It is major surgery. Yes, c-sections are pretty common these days. I heard a statistic that said as many as 1/3 of babies are born this way. But still, it is major surgery.
  2. Getting up to walk is ROUGH at first. It’s going to hurt like heck when you get out of bed and walk for the first time, which they make you do relatively soon after surgery. You will feel like you are 100 years old and you can’t stand up straight. You will likely shuffle around as you remain hunched over. This is NORMAL.
  3. Each day gets a little bit better. You will feel a little bit better with every day that passes. I was told this by one of my nurses who had 4 c-sections herself and was pregnant again. I consider her an expert.
  4. Take medication for the pain. You will be offered narcotics in the early days after surgery. I didn’t take the narcotics because I’m prone to nausea as a side effect, but I got some IV medication that was like strong ibuprofen, and when I went home, I rotated ibuprofen and Tylenol for the first week or two. If you can stay on top of the pain, you will be able to move better and care for yourself and your baby better.
  5. It hurts like crazy to cough, laugh or sneeze. Holding a pillow against your incision, or pressing on it with your hands might help a little bit. But in those early days, it’s going to hurt, period. I tried my hardest not to do any of these three at first. Some places might make you practice coughing to clear your lungs. [I read that in my baby book.] No one made me do that at our hospital.
  6. The water retention in your body will likely get worse before it gets better. You receive a lot of IV fluids in the hospital during labor and during the c-section. These made my already swollen face, legs and feet even bigger before my body started to get rid of the excess fluid. Really, my whole body was swollen. It will go away over the next week or two.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki
  7. Accept help when you go home. Cooking help, cleaning help, child care help. Accept it all because you will need it. Remember, you just had major surgery.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki
  8. You need to take care of yourself. Expect to be taking care of yourself in the early days as you recover enough to take care of your baby. I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to try to care for a baby while I was recovering too. I mainly focused on feeding Raleigh in the early days and Matt did the rest of everything. Once I started to feel and move better, I took on more of the responsibilities.
  9. Be careful with how you move. Don’t do anything resembling a sit up or anything that strains the ab muscles. Don’t try to use your abs to sit up from laying down on your back. [Especially if you’re holding your baby. I accidentally did that.] Roll to your side and use your arms to push yourself up instead. Sleep in a recliner if laying flat hurts too much at first. If you overdo it, you might injure yourself and possibly cause problems with your incision. I tweaked things at least once, although thankfully not to the point of needing to go in for treatment. But I sure did get sore from it.
  10. Use an abdominal binder. This might help you feel more stabilized as your incision and muscles heal. I didn’t use mine until after a week or so, but I wish I would have used it right away. It would have offered me some support when I needed it badly.
  11. Expect soreness. Especially in the scar tissue beneath the incision; this is where I have had the most tenderness since my surgery. Expect the soreness to move, too. One day, the right side might be sore and the next, the left.
  12. Ice might help. Buy a couple ice packs or take a few home from the hospital and use them when you’re resting. It will help decrease inflammation, swelling and pain.
  13. Expect numbness. You will likely feel numbness and tingling in your lower abdomen around the incision area. This is a normal result of the surgery because of the affected nerves. It will get better with time.
  14. Don’t overdo it. You’ll hear this advice offered a lot. I was also told that everyone does overdo it at some point. Once you start to feel a little better, resist the urge to do all the things. If you do too much, you’ll take a few steps backwards and likely have a lot more pain and tenderness for a couple of days.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki
  15. No heavy lifting. My mother-in-law had 3 c-sections and she said she remembers being told not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Really, your baby is the heaviest thing you should be lifting. This is tricky with a car seat, though. If I went anywhere, I needed to lift the car seat in and out. Add a 9 lb baby to that, and it was really hard not to lift too much. Initially, I got help as much as I could when I needed to go to appointments or on errands. Once I was feeling a little better, I used my stroller to go places instead of carrying the car seat very far.
  16. No driving for a while. I was told not to drive until you can slam on the brakes without pain. And sit comfortably in the car too.
  17. Watch for signs of infection. Increased pain, swelling, redness, heat or drainage from the incision, fever or chills… Report any signs of infection to your doctor asap.
  18. Some swelling around the incision is normal. Don’t worry yet; let time pass and see how it goes. Things are trying to heal beneath the surface, and through all the layers that were cut. It will get better.
  19. Start walking as soon as you can. But again, don’t overdo it. Take it easy. The more mobile you are though, the better you will feel. Physically AND mentally.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki
  20. Hormones will likely make everything seem and feel worse. This is normal. However, if you feel like you’re passing the baby blues phase and heading into postpartum depression, talk to your doctor. 
  21. It’s ok to grieve. You may feel some regret about having a c-section, or grieve the “loss” of a vaginal birth. These are normal feelings too. Give yourself grace. You sacrificed yourself to bring your baby into this world in a way that is truly selfless. You are a warrior.
  22. C-sections ARE births. This might seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t realize that they consider c-sections to be a lesser form of birth. That they are somehow inferior to those who have had vaginal deliveries. You are not a lesser mom because you had to have a c-section. Remember, you sacrificed yourself completely, you were CUT OPEN, so that your baby could have life.  Be kind to yourself.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki
  23. The c-section recovery is a long process. You will need patience. The weight will start to come off right away as the fluid is flushed out of your system. That last bit will stick around for a while, though. Plus, because of being cut open and healing, it’s going to be harder to work your core and get your abs back in shape. This is beyond your control. If you push it or do things you aren’t supposed to, you will permanently injure yourself. Instead, go slow. Do approved core exercises. Know that it took 9 months to gain the pregnancy weight, so it should take a while to lose it. Again, you had major surgery. Your body went through A LOT. Be patient and be kind to yourself.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki


Extra C-Section Recovery Tips:

  1. Prepare ahead of time. Make freezer meals and buy easy to eat snacks and beverages to make staying fueled and hydrated quick and easy. If you are having a scheduled c-section or if at all possible before delivery, stock up on groceries too. Make things as easy as possible for your return home. My go-to’s are granola bars for snacks, and crock pot meals for supper. I use crock pot liners to make cleanup even quicker.
  2. Remember: a healthy mom and a healthy baby is the most important goal, ABOVE ALL ELSE. Keep that in mind to ensure the proper perspective through it all.
  3. Journal throughout the process so you are able to remember the early moments. The hospital stay was such a blur to me. I was really introspective and focused on the aftermath of surgery. I’m very thankful for my journal entries, as well as the photos Matt took, to help me relive that time.
  4. Even if you are more swollen than you’ve ever been in your life, you need to be in some of the photos. I didn’t want to be in any photos in the early days because I looked terrible and felt even worse. But it’s so important to have at least a few of you from that time. You and your baby especially. Those pictures will be cherished by them someday, because they show the sacrifice you made to give your baby life.Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki



My hope is that knowing these things will help make any future c-sections I have a lot easier to plan for, deal with and recover from.

I hope the same for you too.

P.S. Don’t miss part two with 20 more C-section Recovery Tips to add to this post!

Things I Wish I'd Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips, C-Section Birth Plan, C-Section Recovery | C-Section Recovery Tips by Laura Radniecki

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Here are 27 C-Section tips (that no one seems to talk about!) to help you prepare for the easiest cesarean birth possible. Get your home, mind & body ready to make surgery & your recovery as smooth as it can be.
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29 thoughts on “Things I Wish I’d Known Before My C-Section | C-Section Tips

  1. Good article. I ended up having 2 c-sections and 1 vbac and I have to say, honestly, the pain from the natural birth was worse and took me longer to recover from (mainly because I tore). 1 thing I didn’t know to expect with my first was that they strap your arms down! Talk about feeling out of control! I threw up several times while strapped down and that was nasty! Second time around was so much better because I knew what to expect.

    • Hi Karen!

      Thanks for reading the post and for commenting about your experiences!

      Yeah, that’s true about your arms being strapped down. It’s a pretty helpless feeling.

      I’m glad to hear that your second time around with the c-section was better. You’re right about just knowing what to expect making a big difference. I’m hoping I can say the same if I have a repeat c-section with our next baby!

      Laura

  2. This is a great list of things. Me and a friend gave birth to our son’s 4 weeks apart, and both had unexpected C-sections. My friend’s recovery was a piece of cake. She took Ibuprofen only while in the hospital. My recovery was horrendous. I had prior abdominal surgery and a lot of scar tissue was removed during my C-section, which caused a lot of additional pain. The entire process took a tremendous toll on my emotions for months. Heck, it’s nearly been a year and I still don’t feel 100%. Had I been prepared in the slightest bit, I believe things would have been a little better. Thanks for putting this out there. 🙂

    • Hi Jacqueline!

      I’m sorry to hear that your c-section and recovery has been so tough. It’s amazing how much of a toll it can take on both your physical and emotional health.

      I hope that the post might help prepare those who will have c-sections in the future so like you said, their experiences might be a little bit better than yours and mine.

      Prayers for continued recovery for you, and that you will return to feeling 100% soon.

      xo,
      Laura

  3. This article is everything ! I had an emergency c section and I didn’t know what to expect afterwards , I had days that were better than others and then I started to feel guilt as if I had made the wrong decision to agree to the c section … Your article really helped thank you for sharing

    • Hi Cathy!

      I’m sorry to hear about your emergency c-section and the rough time afterwards, but I’m glad you found this post helpful and true.

      On top of trying to heal physically, the guilt just makes it so much worse. I hope time has helped soothe some of those guilty feelings. You are a warrior for doing what was needed to bring your baby here!

      Laura

  4. You missed one major thing.

    It is near impossible to go #2. It’s awful. I’ve had 2 csections and the first (emergency) was the absolute worst on my stomach. The second I prepared for by taking miralax every day and accepted any and all stool softeners in the hospital.

    Sorry if TMI, but for me this was the absolute worst part for me lol

    • Yes, you are so right! I did miss that one, and it is so important! I am drafting up a Part 2 post because I’ve had some great additions from people!

      Thank you for your input!

      I’m sorry your first was so terrible. Your tips sound like they helped make the second time around easier?

  5. After delivery when they closed me up I had extreme pain in my shoulders. I was told this was normal from all your organs and some air being pushed back into place in your abdomen. It was gone by the time I was in recovery.

    I’m not sure if this is just with a c-section but I had the uncontrollable shakes when I was in the recovery room. I think it may have been from the spinal block wearing off. Either way, it was an unexpected experience. The most amazing thing about it was that when they placed baby on my chest the shaking stopped immediately. When she was taken away they started right back up. Still, this didn’t last for long and had stopped by the time they moved me into a hospital room.

    • Hi Catherine!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Yes, the pain from the air is something I forgot to mention! I didn’t have it with my c-section but I did after I had my appendix out, but it’s the same concept.

      I am drafting up a Part 2 post to add some of these suggestions so I’ll be sure to include your two!

      I had the shakes too; they told me it was a side effect of the epidural in my case. Thanks for the reminder; I’ll add that one in too!

      Laura

  6. Thank you! It is almost like I wrote this post myself- you describe my thoughts and feelings exactly! I am an NP and even with my background, I grossly underestimated the challenges of recovering from a c-section. I had an “urgent” c-section 2 weeks ago because my little one decided to flip breech and we didn’t find out until 6cm. While the most important thing was to get the baby out safely, it is an unreal physical and emotional recovery! To not be able to get up and pick up my baby for several days is emotionally taxing, but having s good support system is key. Every day does get better!!

    • Hi Katie!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I’m sorry to hear about your urgent c-section and rough recovery. I think the fact you found it hard even with your background really shows just how tough it is. I think it’s shocking to realize just how helpless we feel in those early days!

      I’m glad to hear that each day is getting better and better. It will just continue to do that until one day, you realize you’re nearly back to normal! Just with a battle scar to show what you went through. 🙂

      Blessings to you and your new little one!

      Laura

  7. I just had my first baby last year and he was an emergency c-section. I can definitely relate to some of these things and some of them I will tuck away for the next baby as I have to have c-sections from here on out. But it was point 22 that hit me the most and left me in tears. I didn’t realize how much I felt that way until you reassured me that it’s not how you give birth, but the miracle that we did! Thank you.

    • Hi Sarah!

      You are so welcome. I’m so glad you came across my post and read to #22. It gives me a lump in my throat to hear you react that way to it.

      I’m so sorry to hear that your delivery required an emergency c-section, but thankful that you and your son were ok in the end.

      You are a warrior and a hero. I hope you feel the truth in that.

      Blessings to you!

      Laura

  8. Really great read! I had a very necessary c-section with my first, and an unmedicated, accidentally unassisted (midwife came about 10 mins after baby was born) VBAC home birth with my second!

    I was lucky in that I had them drop the drape for my cesarean birth, so I got to watch baby girl be born, delayed cord clamping, I got immediate skin to skin contact, and delayed all infant tests etc for 2 hours.

    Second baby was a BREEZE–hour and a half of labor from start to finish! I chalk it up to mostly being way more informed (took a Birth Boot Camp class, read a ton, hired a licensed and certified midwife, refused interventions like induction or water breaking etc) and also I was way more prepared and determined to set myself up for absolute success in my plan, so that IF something happened resulting in a second cesarean birth I knew I could not have done anything differently or had any regrets or doubts. But also every baby is different etc etc.

    If you’re interested at all there is a homebirth group on facebook (assisted and unassisted) and a lot of those women have gone from one or multiple cesarean births to successful, rewarding homebirths!

    I would just hope that you aren’t shuttled into a second cesarean for convenience’s sake, is all! Glad that your baby arrived so wonderfully, so thankful for modern medicine!

    • Hi Sarah!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I’m happy to hear that your c-section experience was as good as it could possibly be, and also that your second birth was a much different, even better experience. You are blessed to have both of those happen that way!

      Thank you for the information about the homebirth support groups. I think some people reading this post will find that information helpful!

      Blessings to you and your family!

      Laura

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this! This is exactly what I needed. I am having a planned C in a few weeks and have been so riddled with anxiety that I haven’t allowed myself time to learn what to expect. I needed to hear this, you have no idea. Thank you for the reassurance.
    I had an all natural vaginal delivery with my first child 2 years ago and have begged myself repeated to forgive myself. I was refused pain management and went through a very traumatic birth, both mentally and physically. The scar tissue from that still hurts. Fourth degree tearing takes a very long time to heal, especially if the student doctor that sewed you up didn’t do a very good job and you have to go for a second surgery to have the first mess up redone 7 months later because you’re still in excruitiating pain as if it just happened that morning. The physical trauma from that birth was very intense and painful, but nothing compared to the extreme anxiety and fear that I now have to live with, that completely overshadowed the birth of my first child… I need to have a c-section this time around. To save my sanity. To save what’s left of my lady parts. To save me from any further possible emotional damage.
    Thank you again for sharing. I took notes and feel so much more relaxed and prepared.
    Xo

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave me this comment.

      I am so thankful that you crossed paths with my post and were able to read it when you needed it most. That is exactly what I hoped for when I wrote it, that it would reach someone like you who needed to hear the message.

      I am so sorry for what you endured during your first birth. It sounds awful and I am guessing the reality was a thousand times worse. I believe that you are in for a much different experience this time around because you are taking control and choosing the best outcome for you and your baby. Good for you for making that decision.

      I will be praying for you in the weeks ahead leading up to your c-section and as you welcome your new baby. While a c-section is not easy by any means, I do think that you are in for a very different experience and one that I hope will allow you to experience the early newborn weeks like you hope for.

      You will no doubt have your hands full after your baby is here! But if, at some point in the future, you think of it, I would love to hear how things went for you.

      Praying for you,

      Laura

  10. I also had two c-sections first one almost 42 years ago alot different than the second one 30 years ago but lots different than today my daughter also had two c-sections 11&13 years ago all because we grow big babies…….it is getting to be the norm But by no means Easy yes it is major surgery your little guy sure is a cutie.Take care awesome blog

    • How interesting to be able to compare your experiences to your daughter’s two c-section births! Thank you – we sure adore him. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my site, Annemarie!

  11. Thanks for sharing these tips!! I’m due in about 6 weeks and I want to be prepared as possible in case I end up having a c-section. So good to know that despite the pain and all that things eventually do go back to normal!

    • Hi Julie, I’m glad you landed here! Yes, the recovery from a c-section is definitely full of pain and discomfort (it’s major surgery after all), but with time, things do heal and go back to normal. Well, as close to normal as possible minus a scar and a handful of extra pounds in my case, but I blame donuts and my dislike of exercise for that haha! Congratulations on your upcoming delivery; I will be praying for you!

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