Here’s How to Sleep Like a Baby After a C-Section

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after a C-section
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Tuesday January 24, 2023

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Whether you planned to have a cesarean section or not, it’s crucial to understand how to take care of your body as it heals. Learning how to sleep after a C-section is a significant part of that. Your doctor may give you specific instructions to follow in the weeks after you leave the hospital, but you can also research the healing process to better understand what your body needs.

Check out these tips to learn everything you know about how to sleep after a C-section. You’ll feel more prepared for recovery and get back on your feet faster.

Why Do C-Sections Make Sleeping Difficult?

When surgeons make the first cut in a C-section procedure, they open layers of abdominal muscle and tissue before opening the uterus. It results in a multilayered incision that includes many frayed nerve endings.

You’ll feel your abdominal muscles aching from the surgery and post-op pain in your uterus. Sleeping requires using those abdominal muscles to lie down and shift in bed. Gravity also puts more strain on your midsection, affecting your uterus incision.

Why Sleep After a C-Section Promotes Healing

The sleep cycle is essential to your bodily functions and is especially important when recovering from a physical injury or medical procedure. During the various stages, the brain receives 4%-25% more blood flow than when you’re awake.

Increased blood flow during minimal consciousness allows your brain to focus on your body’s primary needs. The cellular activity and energy that would typically help you think, digest and stay awake during the day can divert to healing your C-section wound while you sleep.

What Is the Best Position to Sleep in After a C-Section?

Sleeping on your back is the best position for C-section recovery patients. It diverts any pressure from your incisions and relieves muscle tension elsewhere in the body.

Discuss the following sleep positions with your doctor to rest more comfortably if your doctor approves.

Recovery Sleeping Positions After a C-Section

These are the most common pain-relieving sleeping positions after a C-section. See if they make your nights more enjoyable and help you stay asleep.

1. Sleeping on Your Back

Doctors often recommend that C-section patients sleep on their back when they get home. It eliminates tension from common pressure points and puts your body in a neutral position.

Sitting straight up when rising in the morning could cause some discomfort. It’s best to roll onto your side and push yourself into a sitting position if you sleep on your back throughout the night.

2. Sleeping on an Incline

You can also sleep on your back while using pillows to keep yourself on an incline. It makes getting up and lying down more pain-free, so this is one of the more common sleeping positions after a C-section.

Using an extra pillow or two could help you sleep better, along with filling your bedroom with indoor plants that aid sleep cycles.

3. Sleeping on Your Side

If you get home and discover that sleeping on your side isn’t too uncomfortable, you can remain in that position as you fall asleep. Lying on your side after a C-section diverts pressure from your incision, but you may need a body pillow to support your abdomen.

4. Sleeping in a Recliner

Many new parents fall asleep in recliners or rocking chairs while soothing their baby to sleep or breastfeeding. Don’t worry about moving to your bed when that happens. Sleeping at a gentle angle in a recliner stabilizes you as you rest and creates a safe incline for your abdomen.

If your recliner becomes your typical place to sleep each night, stock your nursery with food to help you stay asleep longer. When your baby drifts off, you could snack on peanut butter or drink chamomile tea to soothe your body and prepare for a night of rest.

When Can You Lay on Your Stomach After a C-Section?

Laying on an open or healing wound could delay your recovery, so most doctors advise waiting the entire six-week recovery period before sleeping on your stomach again. You’ll have minimal discomfort and little to no risk of opening your incision due to the pressure.

Is It OK to Sleep on Your Side After a C-Section?

Lying on your side after a C-section is almost always OK. It doesn’t strain your abdominal muscles, but you may need a body pillow or u-shaped cushion to support your incision if gravity affects it.

Sleeping Positions to Avoid After a C-Section

You shouldn’t sleep on your stomach while recovering from a C-section because it could tear the incision open. Most other sleeping positions after a C-section are safe during recovery.

It’s also good to discuss sleeping positions with your doctor. hey may recommend specific methods that best support your needs if there were unique circumstances surrounding your C-section or during your procedure.

How Can You Get a C-Section to Heal Faster?

Your C-section incision will heal faster if you get nightly rest, eat a healthy diet, rest during the day as much as possible and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Adding more anti-inflammatory foods may also support cellular healing by reducing inflammation around your incision.

What Helps With Healing After a C-Section?

Figuring out how to sleep after a C-section is one of the best ways to heal quickly. You can lay on your side or your back.

You can also support your recovery with nutritious foods, hydration and taking it easy. Straining your body with daily activities like household chores, errands or work puts additional tension on your abdominal muscles. Ask for help from family or friends to make your six-week recovery easy without getting behind on your daily responsibilities.

How Long Does It Take for a C-Section to Heal Inside?

A C-section takes four to six weeks to fully heal inside your body. The last two weeks are also when the wound closes externally.

What Causes a C-Section Not to Heal?

Putting too much strain or pressure on your C-section incision will prevent your full recovery. The abdominal and uterine muscles beneath your incision need to mend in addition to the open wound.

Gentle movements and proper sleeping positions are the best ways to ensure the healing continues in a timely manner.

How Long Is Bed Rest After Your C-Section?

Doctors often recommend two weeks of bed rest after a C-section procedure. Loved ones or a partner should take over your household responsibilities and help with your infant so you can minimize how often you move around or strain your abdominal muscles.

When Can You Start Walking After a C-Section?

Although bed rest is crucial in the first two weeks of your C-section recovery, you shouldn’t remain in bed constantly. Walking immediately improves your blood flow by making your heart beat slightly faster. This increases the white blood cells flowing to your incision to repair it and fight potential infections.

Slow, gentle steps around your home can benefit your body without straining your abdominal muscles. Once you reach the four- to six-week mark, your doctor may allow other exercises like swimming, yoga or low-resistance weight training.

When Can I Start Bending After a C-Section?

Bending over to pick something up may seem more difficult after a C-section. Many patients worry about ripping open their stitches, which can happen by stretching or compressing the incision site.

You may not be able to bend entirely over until you’re four to six weeks out from your C-section. Your doctor will recommend the best date to start trying. Until then, treat your incision gently by refraining from bending too far.

Can You Go Back to Work Two Weeks After a C-Section?

Hospitals typically only keep C-section patients for one to four days after the procedure. You may spend the following few days at home and wonder when you can return to work.

Since C-section incisions take six to eight weeks to fully heal, it’s best not to start working until you can move comfortably and have little to no pain. You might still use daily prescribed painkillers and require help moving around two weeks into your recovery.

If you need to return to your job due to a lack of parental leave or financial necessity, talk with your manager about working remotely. You can complete your professional responsibilities from home and even shift to a hybrid schedule further into your recovery.

C-Section Recovery Week by Week

Although C-section patients can experience different things during recovery, you can expect this general progression during the first two months after your procedure.

Week One 

You’ll spend a day or a few days recovering from your C-section in the hospital. You’ll spend the first week in bed after being discharged.

Getting up and down from a sitting position will likely be uncomfortable, and you’ll have to try various sleeping positions to find what works best for you. Taking the stairs, carrying large objects and performing other abdominal-straining activities may need to wait until further in your recovery.

Week Two

The second week of C-section recovery includes a postpartum checkup appointment with your doctor. They’ll look for abnormal swelling, redness and general signs of infection around the incision. 

You may leave with an extended prescription for painkillers or a recommended list of over-the-counter medications to keep you comfortable. Your doctor may advise limited movement and heating pads to reduce abdominal swelling.

Week Three

Sleeping will likely get more manageable in your third week as the innermost uterine and abdominal layers have had time to heal. Your doctor might advise practicing core breathing and specific abdominal movements to strengthen your muscles while remaining in a bed or chair.

Week Four

Longer walks outside your home will be much easier when you’re one month out from your C-section. Bleeding and discomfort should lessen, but it’s also normal to stick with minimal movement at this point. Everyone’s C-section recovery is unique to their body and what happened during their procedure.

Week Five

Many new mothers return to work after recovering from a C-section for five weeks. Movement and sleep will be much easier, although there might be some discomfort when lifting heavy objects or sitting straight up in bed.

Week Six

The six-week mark of your recovery timeline may feature another checkup. Your uterus may be almost or entirely back to its pre-pregnancy size, but the outer incision wound will remain.

Your doctor may approve a light exercise routine to rebuild your abdominal muscles and help you reach your desired health goals. Jogging, cycling and water aerobics may be easiest to try before venturing back into the world of weightlifting.

Week Seven

Diastasis recti exercises are crucial to continue in your seventh week. You may feel nearly back to your preprocedure self, but there’s still a risk of abdominal muscle separation known as diastasis recti.

You could have this common condition if you experience bloating and notable pain this far into your recovery. Ask your doctor for an exam to receive an accurate diagnosis and assistance.

Week Eight

You’ll likely return to your doctor when you’re 12 weeks out from your procedure for a complete checkup. They’ll examine your incision, test your muscle strength and inquire about your recent symptoms. Depending on your experience and current health, your doctor may approve of you returning to your pre-pregnancy lifestyle.

When to See Your Doctor

It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Knowing what’s a potential problem when your body changes each week is challenging.

Consider making an appointment or phone call if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Debilitating pain
  • Back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive vaginal bleeding or bleeding at your incision
  • Swelling or redness around your incision
  • Long-term constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever lasting more than 12 hours

Your doctor will know whether a symptom is typical or concerning, but only if you reach out. A phone call could change your recovery experience and make it easier.

Enjoy Better Sleep After Your C-Section

Now that you know how to sleep after a C-section, discuss these ideas with your doctor. You’ll have more effective conversations and a positive recovery experience because you researched what you can expect after your procedure.

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