Preparing for a caesarean abdominal birth
If this is your birth preference, there are a few helpful things you can do to prepare your mind and body ahead of time:
- Massage calendula & lavender oil (small amounts diluted with carrier oil) onto the skin where the incision will be made daily from around 35 weeks to soften and nourish the area for more effective healing and less scaring. Calendula oil has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
- Invest in your mind health in the lead up to the day. Hypnobirthing, mindfulness, whatever it means for you. But don’t push the event to the back of your mind as it is a huge process to go through. Knowledge is power and any fear should be faced into before hand so you can enjoy your big day of meeting your baby for the very first time. The Mindful Birth Group® have birth preparation courses specifically for abdominal birthers, the online audio course is just £10! Or you can opt for a more personalised 1:1 or group course. See your options here: Preparing for Abdominal Birth.
- Learn how to breathe and use visualisation for relaxation– it will be invaluable for the spinal block and during postnatal discomfort too.
- Keep hydrated as always, but especially in the lead up to major surgery.
- Do things you love to do- this will enable your body to create endorphins which are your natural pain reliever. Endorphins are many more times powerful than morphine, so it’s well worth investing time in doing all of the good stuff. You can’t produce endorphins if you are producing adrenaline which is likely if you are feeling anxious or worried.
- Eat nourishing foods that will not make you feel sluggish. Stock up the freezer for the lead up to the birth when you might not feel like shopping/prepping much.
Post caesarean abdominal birth healing
Whether your abdominal birth was planned or unplanned, here are a number of ways you can support your recovery:
- Rest, rest REST! Good old-fashioned rest is vital, crucial and non-negotiable for a smooth recovery. Our cells need time to recuperate and heal and slowing right down is the only way they can do this.
- But also keep moving intermittently. On the flip side to the first point, it’s recommended to not stay laying down for hours on end to allow your blood to flow properly. Do a little walk up and down the corridor, to the kitchen, around the block when you’re feeling ready. But keeping mobile, even if very slowly to start with as soon as the spinal block has worn off.
- Bearing in mind you may not have eaten for a while (for a planned abdominal birth you are asked to fast in the morning, and for an unplanned abdominal birth you may have been in labour for quite a while without feeling like eating), it’s a really good idea to have a high energy snack before you attempt to get up and walk around to avoid feeling faint.
- If you can, invest in special caesarean birth knickers- they are quite pricey but they are breathable round the incision and much more supportive than regular knickers. You’ll need to wear them for up to 4 weeks after the birth even if your incision is healing well. John Lewis sell them here. You could opt for less expensive regular high waisted knickers, just be aware of the breathability of the fabric- 100% cotton is best.
- Air the incision whenever possible and follow the advice of your midwife on how to keep it clean to avoid infection.
- Loose and soft clothing like oversized nightshirts are best for not rubbing against your incision. Button down shirts are great for allowing easy access for skin to skin or breastfeeding.
- High waisted, soft bamboo trousers are also recommended by many.
- Slider sandals rather than flip flops post-birth in the hospital too, as you may have to wear long over-the-knee compression socks to prevent blood clotting.
- Vaginal bleeding will still happen for around 2-6 weeks after a caesarean birth as your body will be getting rid of lochia (caused by the placenta coming away from the womb). When it comes to maternity pads, the bigger the better for comfort! The bleeding should ease off sooner if you take things slowly.
- Think about how you move- When lying in bed, and moving from your back to your side, bend your knees so your feet are flat on the bed, raise your hips up off the bed and rotate your hips to the side. Then move your shoulders and lower yourself down. When you want to sit up from a lying down position, push yourself up with your hands rather than your hips. These simple techniques will help to protect the incision from any strain.
- Take a look at our video on how to get out of bed safely here.
- Drink lots of peppermint tea to help with the trapped wind that unfortunately can come with any type of surgery.
- Avoid gas-inducing food and drinks such as beans, lentils and carbonated drinks for a few days.
- Eat nourishing and fibrous foods to keep your energy up and bowels moving. If having a planned abdominal birth, you won’t have eaten for a while so make sure you have something delicious ready to devour as soon as you feel able to!
- Take lactulose if you need to. Medication can clog you up a bit so will help with the first poos, but always check with the pharmacist/your midwife before taking.
- Arnica tablets or cream can help with bruising. Arnica is a natural remedy, more info can be found here.
- If you are not against taking them for any reasons, it’s a good idea to take the painkillers and keep on top of the recommended doses/timings. This will always be a very personal choice, and an informed decision is key, but they may help you to feel more comfortable and have a more positive postnatal experience.
- Probiotics can really help to replenish your gut bacteria if you have needed to take antibiotics at any point during the birth. They can be ordered on Amazon Prime for same or next day delivery.
- Know that the nights can be harder than the days because you can get stiff from not moving around as much, so go slow in the mornings and be kind to yourself. Ask for help when you need to.
- Again, endorphins are your best pain-relieving friend so make your bedroom calm, cosy and comforting. Feeling safe and loved can go a very long way for postnatal comfort and emotional recovery!
- Bathing with epsom salts can really help with aches and pains, but you won’t be able to do this until the incision has fully healed a few weeks after the birth. But when you can, add tea tree oil and a little milk (to help the oil mix into the water) to the salt bath for the ultimate healing experience. Add candles of course!
- Invest in a good pregnancy pillow- it’ll really help to support you in bed instead of having lots of little cushions to organise into a comfy position. The BBHUGME is expensive but well worth it if you can stretch to it.
- After a few weeks once the skin is fully healed, seeing a specialist for a treatment called scar tissue release is recommended,. It is a very light touch massage on the scar to release tension caused by the hardened tissue.
- Or you can do this yourself at home- check out this video to see how.
- Simple Bio Oil is usually the most recommended oil to massage onto the scar to soften and fade it. Add frankincense and lavender oil for an even more nourishing treatment.
- Last but not least, make sure your partner or whoever is going to be with you postnatally knows all of the above too. You will have just given birth AND gone through major surgery, so having a reliable helping hand to get all of these things ready and accessible is very very important mama! Postnatal Doulas are worth their weight in gold for post abdominal birth support.
Prepare for birth with The Mindful Birth® Group and our supportive team of course teachers.
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