In 2019, 30.7% of women in Australia had a caesarian birth for their first child. Of those women, 29.2% were mothers between the ages of 20-34 years old, pregnant with one baby who was between 37-41 weeks, and had to give birth via c-section due to the predicted reduced labour complications, and better birth outcomes for the baby.
This year I was among that statistic.
I gave birth to my son on March 2nd via c-section due to gestational hypertension. You can read more about my c-section experience here.
I’m now 2 weeks into my postpartum recovery with a long way to go, and still in a lot of pain.
What is a c-section?
A c-section is the shortened term for the operation known as a cesarean section. This 1 hour operation is where a roughly 10cm incision is made at the bikini line through the mother’s abdomen, and uterus to remove the baby instead of through a vaginal birth delivery.
The patient is given spinal anaesthesia so you have numbness from the chest down, are fully conscious throughout the surgery, and have the ability to move your arms (not that you should). There are two types of c-sections: elective, and emergency.
An elective c-section is where you, and your medical practitioner choose for you to have a c-section. There are numerous reasons for an elected c-section such as:
your baby is in breech position (incorrect positioning of the baby where their feet or bottom are facing downwards)
your placenta is blocked the cervix (the opening of your uterus)
you’ve already had other c-section births
you have a preexisting condition (including gestational) which would increase the risk of complications during a vaginal birth
Meanwhile, an emergency c-section is where a vaginal birth has been attempted but for numerous reasons it cannot progress so a c-section is deemed the best course of action. Some reasons for an emergency c-section include:
The baby is in distress
The mother has had complications such as severe bleeding
Your labour isn’t progressing
What are the risks of a c-section?
There are multiple risks for a c-section just like there are risks for a vaginal birth. C-sections can result in:
Deep vein thrombosis
Nearby organ damage during the operation
Slow/longer postpartum recovery
As well as risks from the spinal anaesthesia which include:
Low blood pressure
Pressure on your chest
It’s also important to note that after having a c-section, your future pregnancies are considered high risk, and your risk for complications increases with each c-section you undergo. However, just because you’ve had a c-section doesn’t mean c-sections are your only option for future pregnancies. Vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC) is still possible, and 70% of women who had a c-section, and attempted a vaginal birth were successful.
What was my immediate recovery of a c-section?
I gave birth in Sydney Adventist Hospital, and I stayed for the standard 5 nights after my surgery.
Directly after my surgery I was taken to the recovery ward until I had stopped the postpartum shivering which had me uncontrollably shaking in my hands, legs, and jaw. I was layered in 7 blankets as my temperature was low, put on oxygen for 48 hours, and given Endone for my pain which would also help lower my gestational high blood pressure which increased again almost immediately after the anaesthesia wore off.
For my remaining days during my hospital stay I was given my different medications, including more Endone. The anaesthesia wore off after 24 hours, and I tried to walk around as much as I could each day. I was unable to stand up straight, my whole abdomen was tender, and bruised, and any movement that involved my mid section muscles (eg moving to a sitting, standing, or laying down position, or going to the bathroom, laughing, coughing, and sneezing) hurt like crazy.
What is the recovery timeline of a c-section?
Complete recovery from a c-section takes weeks to months. The wound itself will take about 6-10 weeks on average to heal. Not only did you go through childbirth which has multiple side effects on your body, you’ve also gone through a major surgery where your abdominal muscles, layers of tissue, layers of fat, and your uterus were cut open. Understandably, it’s gonna take a while to heal.
What products are required for c-section recovery?
Stool softener, and a towel (but not for that reason). Seriously, going to the bathroom after a c-section is terrifying. You feel like you’re going to open your incision wound, and your abdominal muscles all ache. The nurse staff will give you Movicol daily to help you pass bowel movements, and will prescribe it to you when you’re discharged. As one nurse said to me “we want you to be able to sit on the toilet, and not push. Don’t push at all. If you feel like you need to push, go walk around for a few minutes then try again”. The towel is for you to get up, and also for relief when doing any kind of pushing. You just roll up the towel, and press it against your stomach so it helps relieve some of the pressure.
You’ll expect to see bloody discharge for about 6 weeks which is completely normal, and is a result of your uterus removing the extra tissue, and blood. You may also experience menstrual cramps similar to those experienced during your menstrual cycle. The incision site will be extremely tender for several weeks. While at the hospital you’ll be given mesh underwear, and pads to absorb the blood without it constricting the incision site. I recommend finding specific postpartum underwear that sits on your stomach instead of at the bikini line so it doesn’t rub against the incision wound.
Your breasts will feel tender, and sore for about 3-5 days as your body produces more colostrum. After that time, your “milk will come in” which will also cause your breasts to feel tender, and sore for the entirety of your milk production period (which can be weeks, months or even years) if you don’t expel the milk either through hand expressing, pumping, or breastfeeding your baby. You can ease these pains by massaging your breasts (such as using a breast massager), using heat packs, and having a high quality breast pump if you’re an over-supplier of breastmilk like I am so you need to expel more milk than your baby needs to consume.
Lastly, a belly band which is also known as an abdominal belt to help put you back together, and as pain free as possible. Not to be confused with a waist trainer, a belly band provides light pressure which in turn supports your abdomen, supports your spine especially your lower back, helps your organs slowly move back into place as during pregnancy they all rearranged to fit your baby, and alleviates pain.
Do belly bands really help c-section recovery?
A 2019 medical study found that usage of a belly band in postpartum recovery increased the mobility, and decreased the pain for c-section patients compared to those who hadn’t used one. Another 2017 study found that usage of a belly band helped reduce bleeding, and decreased pain after a c-section. And this 2010 study found that adjustable belly bands even helped patients of a major abdominal surgery, which includes c-sections, to walk further, controlled their pain, and provided an improved experience in their recovery.
What makes a belly band different to a waist trainer?
A waist trainer’s purpose is to give you an hourglass figure, and supposedly helps reduce the unwanted appearance of fat through dispersing it; both of which is not medically backed.
On the other hand, a belly band is a medically backed product that supports your body’s natural process of moving your organs to their rightful place, and recovery.
A belly band doesn’t:
Help you lose weight
Give you an hourglass figure
Prevent diastasis recti which is when your muscles don’t naturally close back up after the standard 2 month timeline postpartum https://www.healthline.com/health/postpartum-belly-binding#what-it-doesnt-do
Is the Kin Fertility Belly Band good?
Since coming home from hospital after giving birth via c-section, I’ve been using the Kin Fertility Belly Band. It is an adjustable, abdominal support belt which costs $80 AUD, and is purchasable directly from the Kin Fertility website. You can also purchase it as part of their C-Section Recovery kit which sells for $115 AUD, and also includes high waisted mesh underwear that won’t irritate your incision wound, and belly butter to reduce the appearance of scarring, and stretch marks.
I feel very supported in my mid section, have noticed a subsiding of my lower back pain as well as the increased mobility in my pelvis, and spine. It’s recommended that you use a belly band for 12 hours daily to assist with your c-section recovery so I’ve been wearing my Kin Fertility Belly Band during the day for 12 consecutive hours after my son’s initial morning feed.
I keep wearing it throughout any activities I perform throughout the day but remove it for the evening as I’m mainly laying down at night. As it’s made of a comfortable, soft material, it can be hidden underneath your clothes, and the 4 adjustable straps allows me to properly fit the belly band to my body, and it’s compression as my recovery progresses.
How do you use the Kin Fertility Belly Band?
The Belly Band is an adjustable abdominal belt which is comprised of the 4 straps that provides a balanced pressure across your abdomen, supports your spine, and helps support the gradual movement of your organs back to their rightful places pre-pregnancy.
There are 2 main, thick straps that hold the belly band in place across your abdomen, and the 2 medium, thinner straps are used to adjust the tightness of the belly band.
Can you make a belly band really tight?
Just like other belly bands or belly wraps, try avoid making the belly band too tight. The purpose of a belly band for c-section recovery is to support your recovery. Making it too tight will cause excessive pressure to your healing abdomen, and may result in hernias or a prolapsed uterus.
The belly band when worn correctly will provide adequate compression to your abdomen, and you should be able to breathe normally. If you are having difficulty breathing, it’s likely you have make the belly band too tight. If that’s the case, undo the straps, and readjust the straps.
When can you start wearing a belly band?
It’s important to consult your obstetrician before wearing a belly band so they can check your incision wound is properly healing. In the initial days after your c-section, you will be in too much pain for any pressure on the wound, and your wound will be too fresh.
During my 5 nights at the hospital postpartum, medical staff checked my wound daily, and my obstetrician gave me the ok to start wearing it on the day I was discharged. If you aren’t staying in a private hospital, or another reason caused you to not stay for a long period of time in the hospital, I recommend asking your obstetrician at your 2 week postpartum appointment.
This article contains sponsored content. All opinions, and experiences stated are my own.
All information provided has been written based on my research, and on my experiences. Like all medical decisions, please consult with your doctor before using any medical products.