C-Section and Natural Birth Recovery

When I found out I would have to have a c-section I was devastated. After finding out my baby was breech, I tried everything to get him to turn: swimming, standing on my head, other inversions, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic adjustments….I even tried lying in a warm bath with frozen green beans on my ribcage! I was desperate to have the natural birth I’d envisioned and for my baby to go through the birthing process.

After accepting that this wasn’t going to happen, my c-section was scheduled for Thursday, December 17th, but I went into labor that Tuesday, December 15th. I was well into the labor process when I had my c-section and my beautiful, healthy baby boy was born. While the c-section had it’s drawbacks (e.g. the shakes) the recovery wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The first few days were hard (and I’m so glad that I was as strong as I was to be able to use my upper body to pull myself up- please do Pilates!) and it was certainly scary to hardly be able to walk down the hospital corridor the next day but I would say after about ten days I felt pretty good physically and started taking walks (I did some stretches but I wasn’t able to do Pilates until six weeks later).

After accepting that I would have a c-section (a few LA docs will do breech birth but I decided that this experience wouldn’t be what I’d envisioned either and I wanted my son to come into the world safely), I found that making a plan for how I would recover gave me a feeling of control. I recommend thinking about these things even if you are planning a natural birth since you never know what’s going to happen and it is best to be prepared.

I think it is also worth mentioning that it’s important to still have a birth plan, even for a c-section. For example, do you want to delay cord clamping? Is immediate skin-to-skin possible? Do you want to do a vaginal swab (see bellow)? Do you want to delay the vitamin K shot, eye drops and hep B vaccine? Lots to think about and all good things to decide before hand!

Here are some things that helped me with my own c-section recovery and a lot of them apply to natural birth too. Please ask your doctor first before trying any of my suggestions. My information was gathered from the internet, books and friends and therefore you should consult your doctor to get their medical opinion on whether these ideas are good for you.

– Have plenty of bone broth at home to drink for healing (you can make up a bunch and freeze it)

– Also have lesser-known potassium broth on hand (recipe originally found in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions). It is supposed to be excellent for healing postpartum. All you need to make potassium broth is carrots, celery, potato peels, parsley and water (and optional whey). Learn more and get the recipe here.

– I didn’t make congee, but I wish I had. This is supposed to be excellent for healing too. Here is a recipe on Eat Naked Now.

– Take a high-quality probiotic such as Prescript-Assist, available at radientlife.com, since you’ll be given antibiotics after a c-section (also eat lots of probiotic rich foods like kefir, raw sauerkraut, etc). If you can, start the probiotic at least a month before. This is good to do regardless as it will help your baby’s growing microbiome.

-Zinc and magnesium are also good for healing. I use this magnesium oil spray, which you just rub in. Make sure to wash your hands really well afterwards as it has a bitter taste that you don’t want to rub onto your baby or taste yourself if you eat afterwards. Magnesium is also good for stress.

-Drink lots of water; apparently lemon juice in water helps flush anesthesia and medications from your body. Having hydrating raw coconut water on hand is a good idea too.

-Ask your doctor if it’s okay to take Bach flower essences. I took Rescue Remedy.

– Think about ingesting your placenta. Kinda crazy sounding, I know, but I chose to try it because I was worried about the increased chance of postpartum depression, which is sadly somewhat more common after a c-section. It’s impossible to know how I would have felt otherwise, but taking the capsules certainly didn’t have any adverse effects and I didn’t have any depression. Mama Natural talks about the benefits here and why it didn’t’ work for her here. I asked Emily Benner, a LA based doula, about the anxiety Mama Natural experienced and she said none of her clients had that experience and suggested it might be because some practitioners combine the placenta with herbs, whereas her capsules are placenta only.

– I put doTerra essential oils of myhrr, frankincense, lavender and ylang yang in a cool air diffuser  to boost mood and help purify the air. Interested in aromatherapy? Contact Christina at pilateswithchristina@gmail.com

-I used Royal Sense rose water spray to help relax post surgery. Read about it here.

-I drank plenty of chamomile tea to help me relax

-Think about the option of doing a vaginal swab to get beneficial bacteria that the baby would normally get when passing through the birth canal. This post by Wellness Mama talks about this option. Unfortunately I don’t think this would be a good idea if the mom has group B Strep, which is very common. On the bright side, the doctors won’t recommend antibiotics for the baby if he doesn’t come through vaginally as that is where the Group B Strep bacteria is found.

– Consider about using vitamin E and doTerra Frankincense oil on your scar, after your two week check-up, as well as arnica gel (ask your doctor first).

– Trace around the incision area using a burning moxa stick. I used the moxa stick from the acupuncturist who had seen me when my baby was breech. The moxa stick is used to increase fetal movement for breech position but Susan Minich said that is would increase healing after the trauma of surgery.

– Check out this Mama Natural blog post for info on natural pain relievers

– Massaging the area (don’t do this until you get your doctor’s okay, probably about two weeks after surgery) can boost healing and I think this really helped my scar tissue healing. Check out this You Tube video to learn more about massaging your c-section scar.

And the very best way to get over the trauma: baby snuggles.


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