Some women say recovering from the birthing process is an even bigger battle than pregnancy itself, and they've got the battle scar to prove it: the Caesarean-section (CS) incision. For an average of six weeks, moms take great pains caring for this wound, as if it were another child. Indeed, a great perspective to take when caring for your wound is to liken it to caring for your baby. Use the following basic mantras of childcare to remind yourself how to properly care for your C-section
1. Keep “it” clean.
Be sure to wash your wound gently everyday. Wet a washcloth or bath sponge with soapy water from a mild, unscented soap brand, and squeeze it, letting the soapy water run over the wound. Never rub over the incision area, as this can disrupt the scab formation, a normal part of the healing process, not to mention that rubbing it may be painful. Make sure to rinse the area well, and pat the area dry. Once dried, leave the area uncovered for a few minutes before replacing the bandage/dressing.
Change the bandage/dressing every time it gets wet or dirty. If medical tape was used over the incision site, it's safe to bathe with it, but don't peel it off -- it will naturally come off after about 2 weeks. Don't scratch it, no matter how itchy it may get- this can cause further inflammation of the tissue and may cause infection if your fingers and hands are dirty.
Typically, the site of incision is right where the top of your underwear rests on your body. To protect your wound from being rubbed over, wear loose-fitting cotton underwear like boxer shorts or those oversized, “Granny underwear” knickers. It's also a good idea to put a sanitary napkin over the dressing. Put the adhesive side on the inside of your shirt, and replace it every few hours. This not only protects your clothing from blood (a little spotting is normal), but also helps provide a protective cushion to a sensitive area. Do not apply any creams to the area other than the prescribed antibiotics, if any.
2. Keep “it” well-fed.
To keep the scar looking as healthy and minimal as possible, it's important to respect your body's healing process. First, realize that it takes time -- don't try to rush it. To ensure a speedy recovery without compromising the health of the scar, take care of your skin from the inside out. Emptying your bowels may be painful because of the stress it places on the tissue when you “push”, so eat vegetables and fibrous foods to prevent constipation and maintain smooth bowel movements. Drinking plenty of water will help further in this.
Eat natural, wholesome foods that contain essential nutrients that promote tissue and collagen repair, like Vitamins C, D, A, and the equally important minerals like copper and zinc. Eat foods that boost immunity like ginger, garlic, and juiced vegetables, so that you can further prevent infections on top of the antibiotics you may have been given. Take probiotics to replace the good (read: immune-enhancing) bacteria that is often killed by the antibiotics. It's normal to experience numbness in the immediate CS area in the beginning, but with proper diet and exercise, this should return after one year.
3. Make sure “it” gets enough rest.
As much as “Super Mom” may be dying to get out, take it easy during those first few weeks of recovery. Sudden twisting and turning will be painful, so activities like driving, cooking, sweeping, and similar chores must be avoided. Try not to move in a way that causes the tissue to be stretched, such as reaching upwards to get something. Support your abdomen when laughing, sneezing, coughing, or pushing down to empty your bowels. When walking, maintain good posture so that your core muscles can be stabilized by your back muscles.
Sexual activity is usually restricted for the first 6 weeks post CS, but be sure to check with your doctor, in case you may need to hold out a bit longer. Avoid lifting anything heavier than your newborn, including any toddlers you may have in the house. Dispel any jealousy and negative reactions from your other young children by spending quality, relaxing time with them like watching movies in bed, reading them a bedtime story, or just napping with them.
4. Play with “it”.
By “playing,” we mean making sure that you eventually begin to restore proper motion and movement in the area. The increased circulation can promote the recovery process, as the blood can bring nutrients into the tissues. Additionally, muscle movement can help pump cellular waste and debris out of the tissues. Postnatal exercises are recommended for every mom, but there are exercise restrictions and recommended modifications for women who have undergone CS.
According the Clinical Guidelines set forth by the U.K.'s National Collaborating Centre for Women and Children's health, normal exercise is restricted until at least about 10 weeks after CS surgery. Nonetheless, doctors agree that restoring mobility as early as safely possible is essential to proper tissue healing, so be sure to ask your doctor when it's safe to exercise again, and which exercises are safe to do. Even if you can't wait to get back to the gym to lose the baby weight, be sure to ease back slowly into exercise rather than diving in headfirst and getting carried away with strenuous activity. Remember, in the world of healing, the way to recover quickly is by treading slowly.
5. Make sure “it” doesn't get sick.
Monitor your wound every few hours just as you would monitor your baby's health. Take note of any changes in appearance, and see your doctor for concerns. Again, keep in mind that numbness, initial redness and swelling, itchiness, and occasional spotting are all normal. If you experience any or a combination of the following, see your doctor:
• High fever
• Random swelling, redness, or discharge from the wound.
• Red streaks, pain, swelling, and warmth in one or both of your lower legs
• Foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any or a combination of the following:
• Blood soaks through the bandage of your incision
• Your vaginal pad is soaked within an hour for two hours in a row.
• Your incision comes apart
• Severe abdominal pelvic pain
• Sudden shortness of breath
With a little patience, vigilance, and help from your body's natural healing abilities, your wound will soon be a thing of the past. Proper “TLC” – tender loving care -- will ensure that the incision serves as a humbling symbol of the sacrifices you make for love, rather than a painful reminder of the pain of pregnancy.
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