Natural healing after a c-section is possible. Whether your c-section was elective or a necessary result of an emergency, recovery can be difficult. Most c-sections take two full weeks to heal, and sometimes longer depending on several factors related to the mother’s health and any complications. Thankfully, there is natural support for healing after a cesarean that can speed recovery and help promote comfort so that mom can best care for herself and her baby.
It Begins in the Operating Room
The first way that a mother can be supported in recovery actually takes place in the operating room. While many cesareans occur in emergency situations, many doctors and midwives are also able to foresee problems and help families make delivery decisions ahead of time. When this occurs and a cesarean is deemed necessary before an emergency takes place, a gentle cesarean is an option for mom.
Gentle cesareans accommodate the family’s birth plan as much as possible, including parental choices such as delayed cord clamping, skin to skin contact after the baby is born, and helping to initiate breastfeeding in the operating room while the doctor finishes the surgery. These actions can help facilitate bonding between mom and baby, as well as release hormones that promote lactation and healing.
Natural Healing for Post Cesarean Pain Treatment
A cesarean is an intense operation despite its quickness. In fact, most are only about 15 minutes. Because of this, pain medication is given to the mother during the procedure. Many mothers, especially those who desired a natural birth, might initially wish to opt out of additional pain medications after surgery. While each mother knows her body and is capable of making that decision, it is often recommended that they do not deprive themselves of medication at this point. Pain can make recovery more difficult for the mother because stress impacts the body’s ability to mend. Pain can also prevent natural bonding between mother and baby. Mothers should discuss all options for medications with their providers and express any worries or fears.
That being said, there are some natural remedies that might help to reduce pain and, in turn, lower prescription use. Arnica gel or salve are great examples of natural optiona for relief of muscle pain, swelling, and bruising. Mothers can also reduce inflammation by choosing to eat anti-inflammatory foods.
Natural Support for Cesarean Scar Healing
While a holistic, whole-body approach to recovery is recommended, the most focused area of healing after a cesarean is often the incision area. Much like any wound, this area will need consistent care. Mamas can prevent infection as well as promote healing without difficulties.
Herbal Salve for Cesarean Wound Healing
Body butter or belly salve during pregnancy can help avoid stretch marks and promote skin health. Using healing salve after delivery can also speed scar healing! These salves are often made with skin soothers like calendula and plantain. Other additions include antibacterial and anti-inflammatory herbs like echinacea, rosemary, and yarrow.
Many mothers also opt for preserving their placenta in healing remedies such as capsules and tinctures. One of the preservation options is a placenta salve. Depending on the base ingredients, this salve can be used for stretch marks, nipple cream, and healing scar salve. (Learn more about the benefits of your placenta here.)
Cesarean Wound Care with Honey
Another natural aid for wound healing is topical honey that has been cultured before use. Honey is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It can also boost the immune system. Many naturopaths, herbalists, and bee enthusiasts swear by honey and other bee products for healing wounds and incisions.
A 2014 study focused on using honey as a basis for treatment amongst 75 women healing from cesarean. The study found that applying a honey gel to the wound twice daily for the two weeks resulted in significant improvement in wound healing. The women who used the honey had less redness, discharge, and edema around the c-section wound. These mothers also expressed that they were highly satisfied with their treatment. Be sure to speak to your clinician to see if this might be an option for you.
Scar Massage for Cesarean Healing
Anytime there is a major incision, there is a potential for adhesion. This is where the healing tissue fuses to other areas around it. To help avoid this, many midwives, doulas, and postpartum health providers provide gentle scar massage once the wound fully closes and the scab is gone. I did this for several months postpartum to help soften the scar. The massage also had the added benefit of helping bring back feeling in areas that were numb.
Nourishing Nutrition for Natural Healing
Pregnant mamas know they must take care of themselves and their babies during pregnancy with healthy eating and beneficial supplements. Mothers should continue this care postpartum. Continuing proper nutrition can speed cesarean recovery and keep mothers in good health during what is considered the most difficult part of their postpartum journey.
Most healthcare providers agree that mothers should continue taking a prenatal vitamin after having their baby. Supplements boost mama’s nutrition and stabilize mood swings. Supplements should be continued until the mother is six months postpartum or until she stops breastfeeding — whichever comes first!
While not a well known nutrient, glutamine is one that mothers familiarize themselves with. It is the most abundant amino acid (building block of protein) in the body. Glutamine has powerful effects on the immune system, muscles, digestive tract, liver, and brain. It acts to fuel the immune system, heals soft tissues, and maintains the body’s antioxidant supply.
Glutamine is naturally made by the body and obtained through regular diet. However, certain medical conditions, — including injuries, surgery, infections, and prolonged stress — can lower glutamine levels. In these cases, taking a glutamine supplement may be helpful.
Adding a daily glutamine supplement can shorten recovery time and prevent infection during the healing process. Glutamine is a key nutrient for cell growth, including white blood cells. It also stimulates the body’s creation of fibroblasts, helping wound closure. It is possible to supplement with L-Glutamine in a powder or capsule form. Natural sources of Glutamine include eggs, pork and chicken, whole dairy products, spinach, cabbage, and parsley.
Natural Aromatherapy for Relaxation and Healing Sleep
Nutrition and natural remedies have a huge role to play in healing, but most health experts agree that rest is extremely important to a healthy recovery. That being said, most mothers find that getting adequate sleep is nearly impossible. Thankfully, the relaxing benefits of aromatherapy not only help mothers relax when they are awake, but also can gently soothe both mother and baby into more restful sleep.
Lavender aromatherapy has been successfully used to manage pain in c-section recovery. Lavender essential oil has antibacterial and soothing effects because it can interact with nerve cell receptors. Babies also benefit from these soothing effects — lavender essential oil is one of the few oils that is gentle enough to use on and around children.
Aromatherapy massage for mother and baby is another effective tool in reducing post-labor stress and post-operative pain. This can be as simple as a hand and foot massage for mothers. Babies also benefit from the gentle touch from massage and the soothing scent of lavender in a base of sweet almond or coconut oil. While even five minutes of massage can produce significant results, studies show that 20 minutes results in even better pain reduction. The great news is, results can be felt almost immediately.
Other ways to benefit from aromatherapy is through an ultrasonic essential oil diffuser or by adding essential oil to natural candles. Depending on hospital policy, these portable soothers can be used in the room during the few days of in-hospital recovery to help mother and baby rest.
Did you have a c-section? What helped you to recover?