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For Dads: Tips for a faster emotional and physical recovery after C-section

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Having an unplanned C-section can trigger a whole host of conflicting emotions in your partner. She, like you, may feel greatly relieved that the pain is over and the baby is safe. At the same time, it’s very natural for her to second-guess herself and the decision she made, to start wondering whether there was anything she could have done to avoid the operation, or to believe she’s failed because she didn’t deliver vaginally. These feelings are especially common when the C-section was performed because labor “failed to progress” (meaning that the cervix wasn’t dilating as quickly as the doctors may have thought it should).

If you sense that your partner is experiencing any of these negative emotions, you need to counter them immediately. She really needs to know that no one could have done more, or been stronger or braver than she was; that she didn’t give in to the pain too soon; that she tried everything she could have to jump-start a stalled labor; that another few hours of labor wouldn’t have done anyone any good; and that the decision she made (or at least agreed to) was the best one—both for the baby and for herself.

Some of these thoughts might seem obvious—so obvious that you might think they don’t need to be said at all. But they do—especially by you. You were there with her, and you know better than anyone else exactly what she went through. So being comforted and praised by you will mean a lot more to her than hearing the same words from a well-meaning relative.
As far as her physical recovery goes, keep the following in mind while you’re at the hospital:

  • Your partner’s incision will be tender or downright painful for at least several days. Fortunately, she’ll undoubtedly be receiving some intravenous pain medication.

  • The nursing staff will visit quite frequently to make sure that your partner’s uterus is getting firm and returning to its proper place, to see whether she’s producing enough urine, and to check her bandages.

  • Your partner will have an IV until her bowels start functioning again (usually one to three days after delivery). After the IV is removed, she’ll start on a liquid diet, then add a few soft foods, and finally return to her normal diet.

  • Your partner will need to get up and move around. Although a C-section is major abdominal surgery, less than twenty-four hours after the delivery the nurses will probably encourage—and help—your partner to get out of bed and take a couple of rather painful-looking steps.

  • Before your partner leaves the hospital, the sutures or staples will be removed. Yes, staples. Until I heard the clink as the doctor dropped them into a jar, I’d just assumed that my wife had been sewn up after her C-section.

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