After experiencing both a c-section and a vaginal delivery in the span of a few years, I wanted to feel “covered” coming home for my third delivery regardless of how my baby was delivered. As I was compiling my own “kit” for this third birth, it dawned on me that this might be good information to pass along!
For either recovery, I’d recommend designating one bathroom as your “zone” for these items. It will be more private for you as you’re hosting family, friends, neighbors, etc who want to meet the new baby, and it will be easier to access what you need quickly if it’s all in one localized place (and it’s less stressful than absentmindedly going to the bathroom only to realize that you need 1-10 accessories to safely exit the bathroom). I employed one of these handy-dandy over-door organizers (pictured above) and hung it from our shower door within easy reach of the toilet (or you could hang it from the wall with these heavy duty sticky hooks). It worked perfectly to make my necessities easily accessible, organized, and relatively private.
For a Vaginal Delivery:
Quick note: Everyone’s recovery is different, so everyone’s post-partum needs may be different. Below, I’ve compiled what I found most useful following a VBAC (my first vaginal birth) with a stage 2+ tear, an improper adhesion, and various abrasions. I’ll check back in after (hopefully) vaginal birth 2 and update this list if anything else comes up.
One of the staples of post-partum recovery: menstrual pads. Keep in mind that the first week or so after delivery, you will experience something akin to a period at its peak (or worse). This heavy flow will taper off over the course of the next 6+ weeks, so you will want to stock up on your favorite types of pads and, if you don’t have one in the heaviest category, I’d highly recommend the ones pictured above.
I also thoroughly appreciated these homemade medicated pads and virtually lived in them for the first couple of weeks. You may want to add a small freezer bag to your hanging bag as these are best if used still cold. I would take a set of 4 out in the morning and use them throughout the day when I really needed an extra relief.
It seems that everyone has opinions about the mesh hospital underwear. Some people hate them and infinitely prefer being in their own underwear or some cheaper version of “real” underwear. I am, however, of the opinion that these mesh undies are some of the best post-partum inventions. They are unapologetically disposable, virtually unrecognizable under looser fitting yoga pants and stretch unnoticeably over your still-recovering post-pregnancy body. Certainly try and acquire as many as possible from the hospital, but if you can’t, these are a decent alternative.
If you really can’t stand the idea of the mesh underwear, that is totally fine, but you will definitely be wanting some cheap underwear in a size (or several sizes) larger than you were before you were pregnant.
Urinating may be painful after a vaginal birth. If you don’t happen to have a bidet in your toilet, this squirt bottle (usually provided by the hospital) is a very welcome friend (and I’d highly recommend taking the time to use lukewarm water for the first few days because cold water makes you clench, which, well, complicates already complicated matters beyond bearing). It also helps for a first pass at cleaning your nether region before trying to wipe/dab/whatever you have to do to feel human again.
Something else that is unavoidable whether you have a c-section or vaginal delivery are the dreaded hard and oftentimes painful poops. Especially when you consider how your abdominal muscles and internal organs have been compromised, it makes sense that you would want to make this process as easy as possible and, after pushing a baby out, you will be generally swollen all over *that* area of your body. Also helpful in this area is prune juice (warmed is SO much better than cold), pears, walking, etc.
A&D OINTMENT/SUPPOSITORIES & TUCKS WIPES
Alongside the above section, A&D ointment and suppositories can be your best friends if your suffering from hemorrhoids or any other swelling “down there.” Tucks pads are also going to come in extra handy to sooth your skin (these are best cold). These flushable wipes are also a helpful idea, but I haven’t found the need to have them around.
If you’re having difficulty sitting flat on chairs, couches, wherever, you may want to consider acquiring one of these. It will raise your aggrieved area from the hard surface and save it from having to stretch to accommodate the act of sitting. I found a blow-up one at CVS in a pinch that has worked very well for the same purpose. Consider purchasing one of the larger ones if you’re issues extend beyond the perineum as the smaller ones tend not to accommodate the entire post-partum area (especially after a stage 2 or 3 tear). I have it on stand-by for this delivery as well and feel much better knowing that it’s there if I need it.
Another brilliant device to relieve discomfort and downright pain. I had the best luck with ice baths (just enough water so that you’re not trying to sit direction on solid ice) with a little bit of lavender or other essential oil dropped in for a “spa-like” feel. It’s wildly uncomfortable for the first minute or so, and then you will go completely numb, which, trust me, is one of the most blissful feelings for as long as it lasts.
PAIN RELIEVING SPRAY
I had no idea that these even existed until I was in the hospital after my vaginal birth with my son. Then, to my sheer joy, it turns out that these sprays are available at drug stores!!! Basically, you spray them on your afflicted area, and the spray pseudo-numbs the area! It’s amazing. A word of caution: stores will sell these cans with a not insignificant amount of alcohol in the ingredients. At the risk of grossly understating it, these alcohol-laced sprays will HURT! After the hurt, however, you will experience a euphoric numbing unlike anything else. That being said, please check the ingredients before purchasing and make sure you know what you’re spraying down there.
Something I was definitely not prepared for (even the second time around) was the sheer agony of post-delivery cramping. As your uterus is trying to get back to its old form, it can sometimes feel like you’re back in labor (for some reason, I didn’t experience this sensation with my c-section, but even if I did, these wouldn’t be an option given the incision). These pads (and other similar heating pads) worked wonders for PMS and they do the same thing for post-delivery cramping.
For a C-Section:
Quick note: Everyone’s recovery is different, even from the exact same surgical procedure. Meaning that, just because your neighbor’s friend’s cousin had a smooth (or hellish) experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you will. Also, by all accounts, a second c-section is significantly better than a first, so bear that in mind as well if you’re sweating bullets anticipating a repeat cesarean. I’ve compiled this list after my first delivery (a c-section), which was decided after many hours of early stage labor (never reached active labor or transition) and was accompanied by bronchitis and, in quick succession, the stomach flu.
When in the hospital following my first delivery, the hospital provided these small, flattish pillows to newly delivered c-section moms. I thought they looked completely useless until my first post-partum sneeze. OW! These pillows (and it helps to get a small, flattish one) are meant to be firmly pressed against your recovering abdominal muscles to provide some counter-pressure in the event of sneezing, coughing, laughing (and all bodily functions that engage the abdomen). Think about all the times where you engage those muscles, and that’s when you’ll be glad of this pillow!
Here‘s a pillow form that’s very similar to the size I used. Or, you could probably get away with a rectangular travel pillow (like the type the airlines hand out for free) or simply fold four layers of batting to a roughly 8″x12″ shape and sew a quick cover (if you have a sewing machine and some craft fabric, it should take roughly an hour or so).
My sister-in-law recommended this cream to me, and it was wonderful. While it doesn’t have any soothing sensation to it, it did help with diminishing the appearance of my c-section scar much quicker than I anticipated.
Surprisingly, one of the most painful parts of c-section recovery was getting in and out of bed. By purchasing one of these extremely inexpensive stepping stools from IKEA (that has now been re-purposed for the kids’ bathroom), I was saved some excruciating twisting and lifting to get into our raised bed.
A quick test as to whether this would be helpful for you is to try to get in/out of your bed without using your core. Do you need to lift a leg? Swivel with both feet off the floor? Can you put your feet flatly on the floor while sitting on the bed? All of these things will be painful post-op, so bear them in mind when considering what you may need for those first few weeks post-op.
BED SUPPORT & NURSING STOOL
Nursing can pose some interesting challenges as well, and I found that in addition to a nursing pillow, my compromised abdominal muscles + heavy/fussy baby made it difficult to nurse. When in bed, my lifesaver was a support pillow like this one. It gave me the back support to prop me up without engaging my core, and it provided some support for my tired arms.
Even when nursing in my nursing chair, it was difficult to get the right positioning to not feel the after effects of surgery. Nursing stools (whether incorporated into a rocking ottoman like this one or on its own like here) were a huge help in giving me a base to use for my nursing pillow and baby.
If you live in a house with stairs, be mindful that these stairs may be the bane of your existence for a bit after surgery. As such, consider prepping a basic nursing/diaper/sleep station for your baby on the first floor. These caddies (pictured above) are perfect for the first two tasks, and a simple bassinet, Moses basket, pack ‘n play, swing, etc can be a great replacement for a crib for those days where you truly cannot manage stairs.
Yes, even if you go through the abdominal surgery, you will not be spared the annoyance of expelling the remaining contents of your uterus through the “usual channel.” This realization was NOT fun after dealing with everything else, so don’t be surprised if you need a 6+ week supply of menstrual pads (because the use of tampons is strongly discouraged for everyone post-partum).
You may also want to consider making yourself some of these homemade medicated pads. While you didn’t push a baby out of anything down there, you did house a sizeable body that put consistent pressure on that area of your anatomy, and you may be surprisingly sore. Also, if you had the agony of labor + c-section, these pads will be a welcome relief!
Urinating may be painful after a c-section. Whether it’s “just” the months of pressure, the hours of labor, or a botched catheter removal (that sucked), the simple act of peeing may be painful as may wiping. If you don’t happen to have a bidet in your toilet, this squirt bottle (usually provided by the hospital) is a very welcome friend (and I’d highly recommend taking the time to use lukewarm water for the first few days because cold water makes you clench, which, well, complicates already complicated matters beyond bearing).
Something else that is unavoidable whether you have a c-section or vaginal delivery are the dreaded hard and oftentimes painful poops. Especially when you consider how your abdominal muscles and internal organs have been compromised, it makes sense that you would want to make this process as easy as possible. Also helpful in this area is prune juice (warmed is SO much better than cold), pears, walking, etc.
A&D OINTMENT/SUPPOSITORIES & TUCKS WIPES
Alongside the above section, A&D ointment and suppositories can be your best friends if your suffering from hemorrhoids or any other swelling “down there.” Tucks wipes are also going to come in extra handy to sooth your skin and be a functional alternative to toilet paper (these are best cold).