The C-Section Survival Kit

Quite a few people have asked me about the things I’ve found most useful during my c-section recovery, so here they are – I’ve divided the products into two groups, one for immediately after surgery and the other for later on down the line. Please do add your own suggestions for the “c-section survival kit” in the comments box – for new readers, I must say that the comments section is quite often an amazing place to go if you’re looking for a bit of support or extra information. Lots of great ideas from other people, lovely consideration shown for one another and beautifully written mini-posts. Always worth checking out.

C-Section Essentials: Immediate

c-section recovery essentials

Not particularly glamorous, this survival kit selection, but my God do I wish I’d had these things to hand when I’d come out of hospital! My worst experience, perhaps of the whole c-section procedure, was the pain from the air trapped inside my body after the operation. I thought I was having a heart attack! Then I thought I’d been paralysed from the chest upwards! So, anything and everything to relieve trapped wind: peppermint capsules, peppermint water (hard to get hold of round by me, but by the time I’d located some my wind was gone!), Tums, peppermint tea bags (though the tea isn’t half as effective as the water) and a laxative to get things moving in the bowel department. My midwives recommended Lactulose and it worked pretty well for me…

Other essentials? Painkillers, as prescribed (I was told to take paracetamol and ibuprofen, which was more than adequate so long as I took them at the maximum dose and as regularly as was safe), lots of water (I used a flask so that I could have it next to me in the bed) and a Kindle for keeping me awake for night feeds when I could barely remember my name I was so tired…

There are no “scar maintenance” products here, because the wound dressing will probably still be on when you get home (especially if your hospital, like mine, has a 24 hour kick-out policy – aka “enhanced recovery programme”!) and then the midwives will check your stitches in the first week. I think, personally, that it’s a bit too soon to start clarting about with creams and potions and scar-reducing sheets and so on – maybe because I’m so squeamish, but also because the wound is still so…raw.

c-section recovery essentials

One thing I did find to be brilliant, though, in terms of protecting the scar region, was my firm little cushion from BabyMoov. I used this all the way through pregnancy to support my back in bed, my legs on the sofa and my neck when I’ve been working on my laptop with my head against the headboard. But it was absolutely invaluable when I came out of hospital – small enough to easily manoeuvre about my person, I could easily swap it from behind my back to put it on my lap or next to my hip to support the baby’s head during breastfeeding. And it’s great for holding against a scar when you have a toddler about and worried they might kick you, or for when you know you’re about to sneeze or cough and you hate that feeling that your scar might pop open! It’s called the Mum & B cushion and you can find it online here – it’s £35.

C-Section Essentials: Ongoing

c-section recovery essentials

My ongoing essentials for c-section recovery are sort of dependent on what suits the individual. I’ve been testing out various support belts and underwear items and have mixed feelings about them – I really do think it depends on your size, your lifestyle and what you’re hoping to achieve.

For those who want support in the tummy region then the belts from Belly Bandit are tight and reassuring, though I think if you’re sitting up for long periods (eg breastfeeding in bed all day after a c-section!) then it’s a bit uncomfortable to have a big wide belt on. I’d say it’s better saved for a little later on when you’re more mobile and upright. It’s quite a nice feeling to have the support around your middle, actually, as it sort of props your lower back up as well as your tummy! It’s sold as a “shaping” aid, to help you get your middle section into shape, but for me it’s the support element that’s useful. I’m too busy trying to survive and stay sane without worrying about my waistline! You can find the Belly Bandit Original online here – it’s £49.95. They also do “undies”, a long pair of extremely tight knickers that pull you in – I prefer these to the belt, because they feel more pliable and allow for more movement in your middle. They do, however, have a long row of hooks, so you need to have nimble fingers and be able to pull the fabric together tightly at the same time as doing them up! It’s a two-handed job for sure, there’s no putting these on in a hurry! They are specifically aimed at c-section recovery, with targeted compression in the scar area and a special antibacterial fabric, though – again – I’d want to wait a few weeks before starting with these, if only because I’m not sure they’d accommodate the enormous maternity mattress pads one needs to wear postpartum… Find the c-section undies here.

c-section recovery essentials

Also tested: the Theraline c-section belt. This is a sort of soft “bum bag” (or “fanny pack” if you’re in the US!) with a pocket to contain the c-section-recovery weapon of your choosing, whether it be a rigid protective “shield”, a cold compress you store in the fridge or a hot pad that you heat up in the microwave. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of bum bags. It’s also bulky and very obvious, so it’s one to wear around the house and not underneath your Roland Mouret dress. (Joke, obviously. Who’s out in a Roland Mouret dress after a c-section?!) Too bulky for me, really, but the shield is a great idea (and it’s not so bulky with just the slimline shield slipped into the pouch) and I bet the heated pad is great for period pain, once you get your periods back, which makes this the gift that keeps on giving. Personally I didn’t want my c-section wound to be heated up or cooled down, I just wanted it to stop freaking me out, so only the shield part of this appealed. You can find the Theraline belt online here. It’s £20.

c-section recovery essentials

The best postpartum scar purchase? Tea Tree Oil. Once my stitches were out (had dissolvable the first time, but not the second time for some reason, I forgot to ask why) I had a little tear that opened up along the scar. I stressed all day and night for about a week, thinking it would get infected, and even went to the GP to get it examined and dressed. Dressing it didn’t help; I still had a little open split that was raw on the inside after another week. Then I started diluting tea tree oil in the lid of a shampoo bottle when I was in the shower, and after I’d turned the water off, as a last rinse, I splashed the solution along my scar before getting out. Then I let it air dry. I swear the split healed within days! Maybe it would have done anyway, I don’t know, but it seemed to keep the whole area a lot fresher. I used the Tisserand oil here.

c-section recovery essentials

And the one I’m currently testing? The silicone scar sheets from Scar Away. I bought them on Amazon here – they seem quite pricey (£23) for what amounts to a box with four sticking plasters inside, but they do seem to be making my scar less angry-looking and flatter. Apparently it’s what plastic surgeons use on burns and serious scars (can anyone verify this?!) but for me one of the best things is that they feel as though they cushion the scar slightly, and they stop fabric from rubbing up against it, which is the most annoying feeling ever invented. I’ll let you know how I get on in the longterm with these – you take them off at the end of the day and wash them and then they go really really sticky, so much so that when lie them flat to dry off it’s like a comedy trying to get them unstuck from your fingertips. It took me three whole minutes this morning, in the end I had to prod it off with the handle end of a makeup brush, and then that stuck to it, so I just left it stuck to the brush!

And finally, the most important c-section recovery thing of all: lots of help. Pull in all the help you can possibly get, and think about this before you go in for the section so that people have a place to stay or know which dates you need them for. I know this might sound obvious, even slightly silly, but I do think that it makes all the difference between a good recovery and a hellish one.  If you are forced to get out of bed all of the time to let the dog out/see to your toddler/make tea and toast/answer the door to the postman then there’s no way you’re going to regain your strength as fast as if you can sleep all day long and be spoon-fed caviar from the finest silverware. I think that when you come out of hospital you have a false sense of how well you are – you’ve managed to walk to the car, to do a journey, to get back out of the car and climb the stairs, all after major surgery so you must be ok, right? You’re a rare superwoman – what the hell were these other people talking about? Recovery? Pah!

Then it hits you. Hours, maybe days later. You’ve had major surgery! What on earth were you thinking trying to go to the supermarket on day 2? You really need to rest. Only get up, if you can help it, to go to the loo. Get someone else, if at all possible, to do anything and everything that isn’t a toilet trip – change the baby’s nappy, fetch you water, pass you the remote control. Pretend you’re the laziest person that ever lived and then get even lazier. For me, having a lot of help was the singular most important thing and I still struggled with my recovery! So plan in advance, pull in favours – family, friends, paid help if you can possibly afford it and there’s no alternative option. Because I can guarantee you that chasing your dog about a paddock when you’re two weeks postpartum, trying to get him to drop a dead pigeon and come back inside, is not a lot of fun. (Happened the first time. In a heatwave. When we had no house and were living in a holiday let and there wasn’t really enough room to have anyone to stay and my husband had gone out to work and I’d promised that “everything would be absolutely fine”. Goodness, I don’t think on that time fondly!)

I’m making it all sound rather dreadful, and it’s not – I’ve felt worse with a bout of the flu – but I think it could be if you’re not adequately prepared. Have everything you need within easy reach, stock up on the painkillers and drink plenty of water.

*© 2017 The Uphill®: *Outbound links are affiliate links, which means that I receive a very small percentage of any sale made. This does not affect my content in any way and does not cost you anything, but you are most welcome to Google the products on a new page if you prefer. All opinions are my own and any sponsored or paid posts will always be clearly marked as an AD in the title. I accept press samples and receive product and services to review as part of my job. "The Uphill" and "Ruth Crilly" are registered trademarks.

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30 Comments

  1. March 24, 2017 / 8:09 am

    I’ve had two planned c-sections & this is all great advice! Can I add one thing, it’s pretty basic but set an alarm on your phone or watch or buy an alarm clock & draw up a schedule for pain relief. The paracetamol & ibuprofen work great, but only if you keep on top of it – with everything else going on in those first couple of weeks it’s so easy to miss a dose and before you know it your in a lot of pain & discomfort waiting for the pain relief to kick in & catch up. Second time around I wrote a schedule, set an alarm and put my husband in charge of it! I know it sounds obvious but it’s really essential in the first couple of eeeks that you stay on top of it as you’ll feel so much better xx

    • March 24, 2017 / 8:11 am

      Sorry – terrible typos & I meant you’re not your!! Aaagh!

    • Kerrie
      April 1, 2017 / 4:05 am

      Hi Ruth, I love your blog and this post has come at the perfect time for me- I had to have an emergency C section and have now got a 3 and a half week premature baby who is gorgeous but won’t breastfeed and your blog is keeping me sane while trough sleep deprivation and pumping every 3 hours
      I have a question- what have you found is the easiest position to sleep in/the easiest way to get out of bed after a section? I seem to manage to find myself “beached” whereby I can’t get up because it feels like my stitches are going to rip open!

      Xx

  2. Mo
    March 24, 2017 / 8:33 am

    Hi Ruth, I love both your blogs. It’s amazing that you continue to produce quality material and be a great mum even though you must be shattered. I love how your personality always shines through your work. It feels like we’re having a chat.
    You’re such an inspiration for me (also a working mum).
    You’re my hero!

  3. Meg
    March 24, 2017 / 11:32 am

    I have no advice or anything to add just a little FYI. In the US, lactulose requires a prescription so be sure to ask you midwife or physician for a prescription or recommendation for over the counter options.

  4. March 24, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    Hi Ruth,
    I think essential oils are fab and have used them myself as a gentle way to heal. A good tip to save yourself the faff of diluting the neat oil is to try the hydrolats (when you make essential oils the water-soluble components are removed in the hydrolat as a by-product and the oil-soluble components end up in the essential oil). Hydrolats are a bit gentler than the essential oils but have many of the same properties. You don’t have to dilute them and you can buy them in convenient spritzing bottles to spray directly onto wounds, burns, rashes, etc. I have a toddler and am ALL about the time savers… I use suppliers like Quinessence and Materia Aromatica as they produce therapist-grade products.
    Have loved reading The Uphill after being a long-time AMR reader. We had our first babies about three months apart.
    Faye

  5. March 24, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    I had no c-section, but setting up an alarm if you need to take painkillers is amazing advice. That way you wont forget them. On e you are in pain you need more to get it under control again than than if you stay on a schedule.

  6. Katharina
    March 24, 2017 / 6:59 pm

    Great post 🙂 I wish I had known the anti-bubbles tricks before my section. The air was horrible!

    I can recommend contractubex cream on the scar. As a low budget alternative I found that water-free cream (the least ingredients the better) works as well.
    In the hospital I got a small “sand bag” to put on the scar – that was the best thing ever. I left the hospital after almost two weeks and all was fine, no more “guts are falling out”-feelings 😉

    Best wishes 🙂

  7. Laura
    March 24, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    Hi Ruth, I love your blog. Can I just say it’s pretty amazing that you have just had a baby, are obviously completely sleep deprived with a toddler in tow and yet you still find time to write, edit and publish posts on TWO blogs! I love your honesty and can completely identify with you, your posts are a breath of fresh air! To add my tuppence to the c section recovery tips..stay in hospital for as long as you can ..midwives told me at the time not to be rushing off home and I thought they were bonkers (‘ I feel fine, I’m totally ready to be up and about’ I told them, then 5 minutes later I was back in bed after almost fainting !). Rest is so important, forget the housework and like you say, avail of all offers of help! For me, on the clock pain relief was essential..I also had the fridge and freezer stocked with my fave foods , like soups, fresh fruit, a couple of M&S microwaveable dinners to keep me going if I couldn’t cook etc. Clothing I would highly recommend..M&S knickers that extend pretty much up to your neck, I had black ones to accommodate the awful maternity pads but I must say, they stayed up and never irritated my scar. Also, (think you may have mentioned in one of your previous maternity wear posts), black over the bump seraphine leggings. I literally lived in them through my entire pregnancy and they were a life saver post section..they come right over your belly without causing any irritancy to your scar and are just so soft and comfy. I probably worse these every day for two months post section. Highly recommend!

  8. Emma
    March 25, 2017 / 5:11 am

    I used silicon strips along my c section wound / scar from 3 weeks. A similar process to the ones you have, and I remember my obstetrician being amazed at my scar – ie flat and very little redness – by my 6 week check. I also think they reduced the irritation faster probably because they stop anything rubbing on the wound. Definitely worth the faffing around.

  9. Jo
    March 25, 2017 / 9:20 am

    Hi Ruth

    My mum brought me the cantaloop ceasaran knickers from John Lewis (https://m.johnlewis.com/cantaloop-caesarean-section-briefs-pack-of-2-white-black/p/587769) and they have been a godsend for the first week. Super soft, no seams and have a tighter panel above the scar to help support you.
    Ive been lucky with my recovery but thought your suggestion of the tea tree oil was a great suggestion to help heal the scar along.
    Hope your recovery keeps improving!
    Xx

    • Kat
      April 10, 2017 / 10:39 am

      Just have to say thank you for this recommendation. Those knickers are great after my emcs!

  10. Sara
    March 25, 2017 / 5:48 pm

    The best trick for scars is honey. Its antibacterial and it helps you heal really fast. It’s not sticky at all as you might think, because it gets abaorbed right away. My mom had 3 abdominal surgeries and she has barely a white line. Amazing.

    • Vicky
      March 27, 2017 / 7:47 pm

      What a great Idea

  11. Anja
    March 25, 2017 / 7:10 pm

    Really great advice as usual, yours Ruth as well as the readers’. I second what one of the others wrote, I love how your personality shines through!
    I have one tip which worked great for me (C-section), but would also work on Mum’s after a vaginal birth: Whenever you feel ready, lie on your belly for a few minutes on a firm Little cushion below your belly button. It really compresses the Uterus and helps with it sizing down. At first it was akward, but I could really feel the difference!

  12. Rosie
    March 27, 2017 / 1:53 pm

    Best thing for your scar is something called Kelocote gel. My little boy (born a couple of weeks after Angelica) was a cleft baby and after his first lip and palate replace obviously had a huge wound and scar on his face. You place a layer of this gel on (not rubbing it in though) and within weeks his thick scar had become flat and white. I was amazed. So I used it on my c section scar by this point it was 6 months post op and it helped so much! Xx

    • March 27, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      Wow, thanks Rosie I’m looking that up now! Hope your little boy is doing well. xx

  13. Catherine
    March 27, 2017 / 2:55 pm

    Hi Ruth! The scar plasters are used by medical professionals – my mom was an occupational therapist that rehabilitated really nasty hand injuries and she used it to help heal surgical scars. She used to have me use it anytime I had a scar as a kid and would warn me that it’s expensive, so I’d expect the retail version to be the same!

  14. Al Girl
    March 27, 2017 / 3:35 pm

    Spot on as always Ruth. That air trapped thing was THE most painful experience with my c-section, thought I’d been shot in the shoulder every time I reclined. Midwives ended up giving me morphine. And brilliant advice on the lactulose. Sorry to be graphic, but I really struggled to get breastfeeding started post c-section, but my milk literally came in after I had my first post-surgery bowel movement (four days later!) Now, 5 years later, I’m almost certainly facing another c-section for Baby No.2 in September and your blog and the comments are very helpful.

    • March 27, 2017 / 4:39 pm

      Good to know, and there’s nothing wrong with graphic! HA! x

  15. Vicky
    March 27, 2017 / 8:04 pm

    Love reading your posts. I’m due with #2 in 4 weeks and still undesisive vbac or csec, I have a whopping bump AGAIN and off for growth scan Friday to make my mind up. Can I ask non.c sec question please. What was the teddy you had on Angelica cot which was sensored to come on and make womb noises?

    • EB
      March 28, 2017 / 12:32 pm

      It might be the WhisBear?

  16. Harriet
    April 2, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    I love this post I wish I came across it 4 months ago when I had my son, the peppermint water certainly helps. I think a small cushion is a good item to add to the kit. I had to be put under general during my emergency c section and the tubes left me with a sore throat when I came around, the coughing hurt my scar but having a small cushion to apply and hold onto the area of the womb really helped a lot

  17. Chiara
    July 2, 2017 / 6:15 pm

    Hi Ruth. This list is great thank you. I am having a planned section soon. Where did you source peppermint water? I am struggling to locate and hoping to find online. Thank you!

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