If you’ve been following Brief Transitions’ journey, you may have heard the story of my long delivery and subsequent recovery. Twenty-four hours of labor that surprisingly ended in an emergency C-section, made worse by weeks-worth of a really #Meshy healing process.
Thankfully; I had a strong support network from friends and family, but it would be a lot better if moms-to-be can be aware of some of the unexpected twists that could happen during the big day.
We don’t want life to catch you off guard (or worse, in a state of panic), so allow us to break down the differences between natural and C-section delivery in terms of procedure and recovery. As a bonus, we also threw in handy tips to help you get back to your feet faster and easier.
What happens in a Natural and C-section delivery?
You might not have a clear reason to expect a C-section ahead of time (i.e. the baby is not in a breech position). While you may have already spent weeks on yoga or kegel exercises to prepare for vaginal delivery, it wouldn’t hurt to learn about C-section too!
Let’s dive in and explore what happens in the operating room in either birthing process.
Did movies with screaming, miserable mothers ruin natural delivery for you? Don’t worry, painkillers such as epidural are available, if you want them.
Basically, your body itself is the boss during natural delivery. Uterine contractions will act as a neon sign screaming “HERE COMES THE BABY,” but it’s also responsible for moving your baby’s head towards your vaginal opening. These ultra-strong cramps are accompanied by the dilation of your cervix, often measured to check how many more hours you’ve got to wait before popping.
Once the baby is out, the umbilical cord will be cut and the placenta you’ll expel, just a few moments after, will also be removed.
This entire birthing journey can take an average of 12 to 14 hours for first-time mommas, but generally a lot faster for succeeding deliveries.Advantages:
- You’d be discharged from the hospital faster, usually after 24 to 48 hours only
- You’d be able to hold and breastfeed your baby immediately
- Natural delivery can help squeeze out fluids from your baby’s lungs
- Your baby’s journey through your birth canal exposes him/her to good bacteria that helps boost the immune system
- You might experience tearing as the skin around your vagina gets stretched. This will likely be remedied with stitches. Otherwise, your urine and bowel movement might be compromised.
- Expect pain in that tender area between your vagina and anus
- It’s rare, but your baby might get injured with head bruises or collarbone fractures.
Generally, moms are kept awake during a C-section delivery. You’d be prepped with a spinal block or epidural that will help numb your body’s lower half. No pain. All that’s left to feel is a form of pressure during the operation, and a tugging sensation once they pull your baby out.
A screen will be put up blocking your view of the entire operation, but here’s what will happen... your doctor will make several incisions - on your skin just above the bikini line, through your abdominal wall, and into your uterine wall. After they successfully remove the baby, the doctor will cut the umbilical cord and clean out the placenta. Incisions made will then be stitched closed.
While natural delivery can take long hours, a C-section operation generally lasts for 45 minutes with the baby born within the first 10 to 15 minutes.Advantages:
- Your delivery can be scheduled, so you won’t be in a constant state of worry wondering when the baby will come out
- Longer hospital stay, usually up to four days
- Prolonged and more uncomfortable recovery time that can last for months
- Constant risk of rupturing your stitches
- You’re more vulnerable to blood loss, infection, and bowel or bladder injuries.
- Your first skin to skin contact and breastfeeding session could take longer
- Increased risk for your baby to acquire breathing problems (e.g. asthma)
What’s the difference between recovery from natural and C-section delivery?
How long will it take to recover?
Take note that each pregnancy and birth is unique, so your exact recovery time is impossible to predict.
But generally, mommas who undergo natural delivery will find healing faster and easier. After a 24-48 hour stay at the hospital, you’d be advised to lay low from your usual hectic routine for at least two weeks.
With a C-section, you’ll have to take it easy for a bit longer. You’ll stay at the hospital for your doctors to closely monitor your stitches. For about six weeks, try to focus on nothing but resting and caring for your wound. Pain medication will also be given to help make healing less of a torture.
What are the possible complications I should expect?
You’ve read about all the pregnancy issues, and it’s smart to learn about the possible complications you’d have to deal with during your postpartum recovery. Here’s a quick list of healing issues you might want to prepare for:For Natural Delivery:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Bladder control issues
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Infections in your incision and uterine lining
- Uterine rupture
- Excessive bleeding
- Bladder or bowel injuries
- Blood clots (e.g. deep vein thrombosis)
What can I do to speed up my postpartum recovery?
The length and intensity of your postpartum struggles will greatly depend on how you spend the first succeeding weeks after birth. We know you’re excited to be the best mom ever, but you can’t be one if you’re still in pain or if you’ve acquired preventable complications.
Take it easy and consider this checklist of tips for speeding up your healing process:
Rest. A LOT.
We understand the pressure of entertaining visitors or keeping up with new chores, but don’t give in to the guilt. You just conquered a GREAT life milestone! You deserve all the sleep and rest you can get.
It can be stressful to understand what your baby wants and needs in those first days and weeks and caring for them just after a major operation can be exhausting. Some days you’ll feel lucky to be able to take a shower. So don’t feel guilty to ask for help from your partner or other loved ones - you don’t have to go through it all alone!
Beyond all the physical complications we’ve discussed, women can also be at risk of postpartum depression. Your birthing process might have been a very emotional experience - perhaps even traumatic.
It’s important to process all of your feelings and thoughts. After all, this is just the beginning of another phase of life that is parenthood.
Talking to your partner, a therapist, or even just a trusted friend can go a long way. There are even online meetings you can consider joining. What matters is for you to get the mental health support that you need to get by.
Find Ways To Manage Pain
You will be given pain medications, but there are times that they can only do so much. From your daily routine to even your wardrobe, they must be strategically planned to help ease discomforts.
Actually, I was surprised that there wasn’t much attention given to ladies’ need for postpartum underwear. After all, they’re among the first line of defenses for our sore, bleeding genitals or tender incisions! Your regular panties won’t fit, and its elastics could amplify the pain even more.
Consider investing in mesh underwear that are especially developed to be your postpartum recovery companion. Take Brief Transitions™ for example. It’s light and breathable fabric that’s free of any elastic waistband will be gentle on your sore midsection. Even better, it’s large enough to secure large pads or even ice packs in place.
Your pregnancy and even birthing process could’ve been #meshy enough - your healing process doesn’t have to be!
Go On Light Walks
It’d be too much to ask you to lift weights or do intense calisthenics. A great alternative for your exercise needs would be walking. As a light cardio workout, this can help protect you from blood clots and other heart complications.
A breath of fresh air can do wonders for your mental health too! It can be a great bonding moment for you and your partner, or you can grab it as a chance to meet fellow momma neighbors as you push your baby strollers around the block.
Stay Alert for Recovery Red Flags
Try to monitor yourself as closely as they did in the hospital. Most likely, you’ll be asked to check your temperature everyday to check for possible infection. Other warning signs include intense pain, chills, red streaks from your stitches (in case of C-section), and swelling. Reach out to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms!
Apart from infections, your recovery can be made worse by constipation. This can be unbearable especially for those who underwent C-section. Hours of lying down can take its toll, and your weakened stomach muscles plus hormonal changes will back your bowel issues up. Fight back by drinking plenty of water and eating fiber-rich meals.
Stay In-Touch With Friends and Family
It’s important to have a support network around you while you recover. Be open with friends and family about what you need and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Receiving pre-made meals or having someone help with cleaning around the house can be very helpful, but remember it’s ok to say no to visitors that want to be entertained by you. You’re the one that had the baby so you get the final say!
Are you feeling ready for delivery? Let us know in the comments!