C-Section Recovery (and unexpected concerns)

I’ve had two c-sections.  I’ve also had one vaginal birth.  I will go on record as saying that, in my opinion, c-section recovery is at least 10X more difficult.  And, yes, that even takes into account the severe tearing and gazillions of stitches I required after the vaginal birth.  Experiences vary, of course, and– above all– it’s not a competition for “who had it worse.”  But I will say that, for me, I would never, ever, ever have CHOSEN a c-section.

 

That said, when the amazing medical team at a top-notch hospital all agreed that my tiny, barely-over-a-pound baby would probably not survive the trauma of a vaginal birth, I was more than happy to sign the paperwork for the c-section.  I’ve been judged for that choice before, but I remain firm in my conviction that it was the best decision given the circumstances.  Since that baby is now a healthy 5 1/2 year old, I’d say it’s a moot point, either way.

 

Having had two c-sections (one classical and one transverse), there were some things about the recoveries that I just was not expecting.  Should you need to have a c-section and you encounter something scary or mysterious during your own recovery, please call your doctor.  But, in the meantime, perhaps it will bring you comfort to know that– at least in my case– these were all harmless, though odd, parts of the recovery process:

 

Itching– Not only did I itch at the incision site, where the glue and tape had been placed, but I also itched all over my face for the first day.  This was an obnoxious– though common– side effect of the anesthesia used.  If it happens to you, do let the anesthesiologist or nurse know.  In my case, I was given a small dose of medication through my IV that completed alleviated my need to scratch my skin off.

 

Numbness– I had numb patches of skin around my incision site for, I kid you not, close to a year.  And you know what?  They promised me that was totally normal and that it would go away and they were absolutely right.  I have total feeling now with no residual tingling or numbness.  It just took time.

 

Blackness around the incision– Okay, this one was the scariest to me.  Shortly after the birth of my first daughter, I noticed dark, blackish flesh right around where I’d been cut.  I seriously thought it was some kind of necrosis and I was terrified.  It was not.  It was severe bruising caused by the pulling and yanking that happens during the surgery.  It went away within a week or two and without any treatment.

 

Change in hair growth– I certainly don’t want to be graphic here, but let me just say that hair does not grow in through scar tissue.  Not a big deal, but just something to be aware of.

 

And I think that’s it for me!  The pain was expected.  The difficulty lifting and going up and down stairs was not a surprise.  But there were definitely a few things following my c-section that I hadn’t anticipated.

 

How about you?  Have you ever had a c-section?  Were there any parts of recovery you hadn’t expected?

 

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20 comments to C-Section Recovery (and unexpected concerns)

  • I have not had a c-section technically but I have had a myomectomy which is basically the same procedure. Only I didn’t get the the amazing gift at the end. I had a 17 cm tumor on my utures. I was cut up and down instead of a bikini cut bc the tumor was too big to take out that way. I also experienced the same things you did. Before having the surgery I was ok to have a c-section. Not anymore. I dread it, if the time ever comes. I will have to have one now that I have been cut but I am NOT looking forward to it.

    • Oh, Amber, I am so sorry you had to endure that! You are very right in that it makes a difference to have a baby in the end. My first c-section was classical (vertical, like yours) so they could remove the baby and amniotic sac all intact. As a result, I was not a viable candidate for a VBAC with my 3rd baby (and I imagine for the same reason they wouldn’t want you to attempt a vaginal birth– risk of rupture is too high). The only comfort I can offer is that that sweet baby is a fabulous distraction from any of the pain and issues that go along with healing! (Oh, and also, I WAS able to have a transverse “bikini” cut the second time and the healing was far less painful… so perhaps that would be an option for you?)

  • Ellen

    I have had 2 c/s, and if had the choice I would do it all over again. Yes I proably missed out on the total birth experance. But all that matters is the final outcome!
    I didn’t think the recovery was that bad.
    (first s/c due to my son being breach, second time, my dr didn’t recomend trying a reguaral birth) I am ok with it…
    Like you said everyone one takes pain differently, and heals differently…

    • I’m so glad that your experiences were good ones and, most importantly, resulted in safe, healthy births. That’s definitely what matters most! I would never say you “missed out” because you still brought precious lives into the world and, really, that’s the ultimate goal no matter how it happens. :)

  • earleyml

    Thanks for some heads up, just in case I have a c-section with this baby. I had a natural first birth with lots of tearing but I think I’d take that to the c-section any day. I had my appendix out 5 years ago and I thought the recovery for that was awful…3 half inch incisions. HA! I’m just praying this baby doesn’t decide to turn breech or I have a health issue that requires it but like you said, I’d do what needs to be done to get my baby out safely!!

  • I’ve had 3 c-sections – one horrific, the other two “routine”. The horrific one was, well, awful! And the recovery was intense. That was my first and needless to say, I was very leery of having another. But, I did (and mostly because I wasn’t proactive enough for myself) but the next two were a piece of cake compared to the first – but still something I would never recommend. So I now caution all of my expectant friends to be proactive in their pregnancies so that they can hopefully achieve the type of birth they envision – barring medical complications, of course.

    Here’s what I’ve experienced:

    Itching – I actually didn’t have the itching with my first b/c I had an epidural instead of a spinal. But OH MY with the other two. The itching started during the surgery and was so intense they had to give me several doses of meds. to counteract it.

    Numbness – my youngest will be 3 next month and I still have numbness. I have a full one+ inch of numbness above the entire length of my scar. I’m told since the feeling hasn’t come back, it probably won’t. :(

    I didn’t have any trouble with the other two items you listed.

    I did, however, have a spinal headache with my second. A small leak in spinal fluid (from where the needle was inserted for the spinal) rendered me completely useless for day 3 of my son’s life. Spinal headaches are no joke and unless you are lying completely flat, any amount of gravity effects the spinal fluid leak and it somehow effects the pressure on the brain.

    I’ve also found one other thing I recommend for just in case there’s a c-section – granny panties!!! Practical b/c they come nowhere near touching that sensitive incision site!!!

    Sorry for writing you a book in this comment!

    • Oh no! I’ve never actually heard of numbness lingering like that and not going away. Are they assuming there was nerve damage then? That’s a bummer– though still worth for those precious babes, of course. I have heard of spinal headaches before and my understanding is that they are completely debillitating like you described. So sorry you had to go through that. And- yes!- granny panties are the way to go! My incision is (blessedly) VERY low, so there’s no way I’m wearing undies that come under it. ;)

  • Jennie

    I had 2 C-sections, both due to preterm babies. The first one was a breeze…everything on schedule healing wise. My second…oh dear. My incision opened about 6 days after the surgery. Thankfully not *all* of it, but about an inch or so. I had the vertical incision both times. It had to be packed for weeks because once they open, they heal from the inside out. BUT, I wouldn’t change any of it…My girls are now 13 and 8 (starting at 24 weeks, 1 lb 13 oz and 25 weeks, 1 lb 12 oz).

  • I don’t know the “real” reason for the numbness, the dr never seem concerned and it’s not causing any problems with sensation anywhere else… I guess I just chalked it up to having 3 c-sections using the exact same incision every time. It probably really is nerve damage, possibly leftover from the very first c-section that was SO traumatic. And, you’re right, all of it was totally worth it!!

  • I am sorry! That sounds painful! If you ever witness a c-section, it is a wonder there is not much more bruising!

  • bridgette

    i have had a classical c section two months ago. i want to start preparing my body because i lost the baby which i had the section with. but with the vertical cut ive started becoming afraid.. of coursr i am going to wait at least 18 months before trying again, but do you girls know if a transverse c section would be a problem after a classical? i was fortunate enough to have a great healing experience… i see that jessica said she had a classical then a transverse—–is there any reason i would NOT be able to have a transverse next time??

  • bridgette

    preparing my body for pregnancy that is…

  • sarah

    I had my 2nd c/s about a year and a half ago. Since about 2 months postpartum I have been having pain,bloating,pressure in my lower abdomen a few days a week. From what Ive researched, it sounds like scar tissue has anyone else had this issue?

  • I had two c-sections with ALL the issues you mentioned above. I think what scared me the most was the bruising. The surgeon said mine was the worst bruising he’d ever seen and well, it hurt. Also, my youngest is 7 years old and I’m still completely numb 2 inches above and below the incision. Also, I wish I could show you a pic of my NOSE after both. I CLAWED myself and CRIED because I itched so bad and the counter meds didn’t work. I looked like Rudolph! ;) It’s funny now, but not at the time! ;)

  • Susie G

    I had a c-section the first time (breech) and then 4 vbacs. It was bikini cut.
    Call me crazy :-)
    I guess I was lucky, because I don’t remember any bad things about recovering from the C-section. I hated in the hospital when they told me to hold a pillow against my stomach and cough, like if I wasn’t holding the pillow my guts would spill out – ha ha.
    I also was worried I wouldn’t be able to get in and out of my bed, because it was so hard in the hospital, but my bed’s a lot lower, I just sat down and stood up – easy :-)

    • I never thought about that with the pillow, Susie, but you’re so right! I loved reading your comment and it made me smile that you had four successful VBACs– that’s fantastic. Had I been able to find any supporting evidence at ALL that a VBAC was a viable choice after a classical c-s, I surely would have tried my darnedest to make it happen. :)

  • Susie G

    Yes, I was ignorant and lucky! I just didn’t worry about it very much :-)
    Plus it was the 80′s – not as likely now for sure!
    This is how long ago it was: My doctor justified doing an ultrasound with his fancy new machine because my kids were only 14 months apart and the c-section – ha ha – one ultrasound! Times have changed!

  • Laraba

    I know this is an old post but I’ve having fun reading about C’s.

    We had 3 kids vaginally, no problem. 4th baby was a breech and my OB refused to attempt a vaginal birth, but she told me I could try a VBAC if we had another baby. We did conceive again and by the time baby #5 was ready to be born, the hospital wasn’t permitting VBAC’s. Maybe we should have fought, or gone somewhere else, but we prayed and felt we should just go along with the situation as it was. I’m pregnant with our 8th child now and he will be my 5th C-section. So I’ve done both — yes, vaginal delivery is easier, but I didn’t have huge problems with my C’s. The biggest trouble was I usually had a toddler when the new baby was born, and I couldn’t lift the toddler. This time around I’ll have my big girls (ages 12 and 10) able to change the diapers of our curent toddler so life will be moderately easy! I do pray often that I will recover well and that I won’t get infections or anything bananas. But I’ve done very well with my C’s. Truthfully, I hated the tearing of the vaginal deliveries so much I almost prefer the C-sections.

    • Oh, what a blessing now to have your older children to be able to help out– I’m sure that will make an amazing difference! :) I was the weirdo who, right after my vaginal delivery, declared, “I can’t WAIT to do it again!!!” I did not say the same after either c-s, but, then again, I’m crazy sensitive to anesthesia and get very sick, so…

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