C-Section Essentials for the Hospital & Recovery

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There are times when an obstetrician decides that the safest way for you to deliver your baby is through a cesarean delivery (or c-section). This is particularly true for older moms.  In fact, the rate of c-section deliveries for mothers ages 40 and above is nearly 50% (1).  As such, it’s probably wise for older moms to plan for the possibility of a cesarean delivery.

In my case, both my c-sections have been scheduled.  I have a congenital brain condition called a chiari malformation,  so the force of pushing during labor was considered particularly problematic.  I also have narrowing of the spinal canal from a back injury, so it was also determined that I am not a candidate for spinal anesthesia.  As such, my first son was delivered through a scheduled c-section under general anesthesia at 38 weeks.  Not surprisingly,  this is also the plan for the birth of my second son in a few weeks.  

Planning for a c-section can feel incredibly overwhelming, but take heart!  Although a c-section is major abdominal surgery, there are plenty of tips and strategies to help maximize your comfort while also facilitating a quick recovery.  As I plan for my own upcoming c-section, I wanted to share some items that might help!

C-Section Hospital Bag Essentials

The Bag

Realizing that I’m packing for a few days in the hospital and not a week in Jamaica, I wanted a bag that was big enough for the essentials and easy to throw into the back seat in a hurry (just in case!).  This foldable, waterproof duffel bag is the perfect size for a few days and won’t take up a ton of closet space when you are back at home.  Bonus – the patterns are super cute!

Dry Shampoo

With my first c-section, I was anchored to the bed without a shower for two full days.  A top notch dry shampoo will help make sure you still look and feel fresh while in the very early stages of recovery.  The Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo earns rave reviews because it actually cleans your hair.  I have extremely oily hair and this easily buys me a second day!

Toiletries

This nifty little kit provides the basic toiletries in slightly larger than travel sizes.  An easy space and time saver as you pack your bag!

Gas-X

Post-operative gas pain can be the worst and is a pretty common side effect of a c-section.  While your gastro-intestinal tract gets back to normal, this will help ease your discomfort.

Extra Long Phone Charger

As mentioned before, you are likely to be tethered to your hospital bed for a day or two, so having an extra-long phone charger will be incredibly helpful.  

Robe

You are likely to be in various stages of undress following your surgery.  This comfy robe is great for some quick modesty, when needed.  I also highly recommend that all of your hospital garments be dark-colored.

Non-Skid Socks

Hospitals like you to wear non-skid socks and these are definitely more chic and comfortable than the ones they provide!

Nursing Nightgown (for Day 1-2)

I am normally STRONGLY anti-nightgown…but, waistbands are an uncomfortable no-no in the days immediately after your surgery. This dress-like nightgown is comfortable, modest, and provides easy access for nursing.

Nursing Cami (for Day 3+)

For those of us who don’t love nightgowns, you’ll likely be able to transition to a combination of camis and high-waisted pajama bottoms after a day or two.

High-Waisted Pajama Bottoms (for Day 3+)

These comfy pajama bottoms have a soft, high waist that won’t irritate your still tender incision.  Again, you’ll definitely want a dark color.

Post-Surgical Abdominal Binder

The hospital will likely provide you with a hospital binder upon request, but I personally found that it was way too tall and uncomfortable for someone my height (5’3).  This abdominal binder is significantly shorter, which allows it to be more easily (and more comfortably!) positioned.

Boppy Pillow

A breastfeeding pillow is great to help you hold your newborn baby comfortably, but is also great to have around you to squeeze if you need to sneeze, cough, etc. I had both a Boppy and a My Brest Friend pillow with my first c-section.  I strongly favored the Boppy because it didn’t have the awkward belt and is much, much softer.  (I STILL use my Boppy 2 years later!)

Nursing Bra

Though you’ll likely be okay with your nightgown and nursing camisoles during your hospital stay, on the day you go home, you’ll likely need to transition to a bra.  These Motherhood Maternity nursing bras are extremely comfortable and supportive (even for those of us who are very large chested).

Going Home Dress

A comfy nursing dress makes for a great “going home” outfit because it will make you look and feel put together but also won’t irritate your incision.  This cute little dress also has half sleeves (a plus for those of us who gain weight in our arms and want the coverage).

Don’t Bother Packing…

  • Light-Colored Clothing – Just trust me on this one.  The first few days can be a bit messy and this will keep you from ruining anything or scaring anyone.
  • Underwear – No, I’m not suggesting you go commando….just don’t bring your own underwear.  The hospital will provide you with ultra-stretchy mesh undies that will be everything you need.  You will have a large surgical scar, you’ll be bleeding, and anything tight with elastic will be your enemy.  In fact, I recommend scoring some extra mesh undies before you go home because they’ll be a lifesaver.
  • Sanitary Pads – The hospital will provide you with plenty (and probably send you home with some, too).  I purchased some highly recommended pads and disposable undies with my first son and both went unopened and took up precious space in my bag.

The items above are specific to c-sections, but I also recommend leaving the following at home:

  • Reading Material – Nice thought, but you’ll be too tired/busy.  Use your phone if you get bored (which is highly unlikely!).
  • Diapers & Wipes – The hospital will take care of this.
  • Breast Pump – You may wish to double check, but the hospital will likely provide you with one, if needed.

 

Once You Get Home…

Colace

No embarrassing details needed.  You had major abdominal surgery.  Just trust me on this one.

Silicone Scar Sheets

Once your incision is healed and your doctor approves, these ScarAway Silicone Sheets for C-Sections will help will help the appearance of your scar.  They are also very cool to the touch, so they helped my incision feel better.

Homma High Waist Tummy Compression Leggings

A c-section can leave your stomach feeling squishy and unsupported. It will also leave you with a shelf of extra skin and flesh above your incision that can make for a fairly unattractive pooch. Compression garments like these amazing Homma compression leggings support your core and help provide comforting pressure on your incision while gradually helping to flatten the dreaded c-section shelf.  I seriously LIVED in these pants during my maternity leave.  They also make shorts!

Postpartum Support Undies

These Motherhood Maternity postpartum underwear offer supportive pressure to your healing c-section scar, which I found reduced the pain of my incision. And, again, they also helped flatten the c-section shelf.

Postpartum Recovery Compression Belt

As you probably guessed by now, I am a FIRM believer in postpartum compression.  With my first c-section, I purchased a much more elaborate binder system with three different velcro belts, but found that it was too bulky and uncomfortable.  This breathable sleeve is much easier to wear and I highly recommend it.  (Consider sizing down a bit for extra compression.) I purchased two sizes so that I had a smaller size available when the time came.

No matter what, remember that recovering from a c-section takes time.  Be patient, take it easy on yourself, and ask for help when you need it.  Hopefully these products will help you on your journey!

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Suzy serves as a public school district administrator in Texas. She graduated with a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. She met her husband, Paul, in 2014 and they married in 2016. Their family started with Paul's son, Brent, and their dogs, Bevo and Tallulah. Suzy became an old new mom in 2018 with the birth of their son, Jackson. She'll be an old new mom again in 2021 with the birth of their second son.

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