I am an old pro at abdominal surgery. I know all the aches, pains, and shooting fire sensations that accompany even the smallest of tasks after being cut open. While the four-inch (or so) incision that accompanies a C-section might not seem like that big of a hurdle, it can be more painful than you're prepared for and require some serious strategic maneuvering. Even simple movements can be problematic. Take, for instance, how to get out of bed after a C-section. It's an elementary task that suddenly seems insurmountable given the pain of recovery.
But it’s important to get mobile as soon as you can after surgery. “Studies show us that bed rest actually slows the process of recovery,” board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Sara Twogood, M.D. tells Romper. “Ambulating, which is walking and moving around, having pain controlled adequately, and eating are three key ways to enhance recovery after surgery.”
I'm not going to lie — it's hard to want to get up and move around after having major abdominal surgery. However, there are strategies you can employ that will help. The biggest factor in the first stages of postoperative ambulation is the speed at which you try to move. Take it slow. You don't want to get light-headed, and you don't want to overtax yourself or irritate your stitches. For the first few days, you'll require a lot of support — Twogood says the first couple of times a patient gets out of bed after a C-section will be with a nurse’s assistance. “They should never try it alone,” she urges. It should also be done in stages so you can tackle just a bit at a time.
Getting out of bed after a C-section is a process, and you'll have to treat it that way. Here’s the safest, expert-approved way to do it.
1. Hype Yourself Up
Before you even start to roll out of bed, the first thing you should do is try to psych yourself up. I'm serious. Give yourself a pep-talk. Think Friday Night Lights. Then after you've pumped yourself up and are feeling ready, start to move slowly. You're not Elon Musk trying to launch himself into outer space in a gold-plated Tesla. You're better. You just made human life inside your body from food and sheer force of will. If it takes you a bit of time to pull yourself out of bed and get to the toilet, so what?
And remember the parts of you that are still at full strength. “Keep in mind that your legs and upper body are strong, so use them to help move you in and out of the bed,” board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Kameelah Phillips, M.D. tells Romper. “Your core will be very sore, but know that with time you will feel strong again.”
2. Lay Sideways And Slowly Get Up
While you could technically get up by rising straight out of bed from your back, Dr. Kiarra King, M.D., a board-certified OB/GYN, does not recommend it as this would put an uncomfortable pressure on your abdomen and cause the area to protrude more. “The biggest thing we’re looking at from a postoperative standpoint is that we don’t want to put too much tension on the incision,” she tells Romper. Instead, the gentlest way to get out of bed after a C-section is to lay on your sides.
Phillips explains that the way she advises sitting up after surgery is to lie on your side facing the edge of the bed you're planning on getting up from. “I recommend women use their upper body as much as possible when trying to get out of bed,” she suggests. Then, while you’re laying as close to the edge of the bed as possible, place both of your hands in front of your chest and push yourself up at a pace you’re comfortable with. “While you are using your arm strength to push up (elevate) your upper body, let your legs passively fall to the floor,” Phillips says. If someone is helping you, they can help bring your legs to the floor. “You should aim to make all of this a single movement and focus the work of moving your core on your upper body.” Phillips adds that it's good to take a moment to rest in a seat position before you try to stand.
3. Stand Up Carefully And Compress The Incision
Once you’ve nailed how to get out of bed after your C-section, it’s time to get vertical and mobile. “When you are ready, again use your hand to push off the bed and the strength of your legs to push into the floor,” says Phillips. You're going to want to stand up how you imagine a very fragile person would do it: sort of stooped over, and holding onto the side of the bed.
You might have to hold a hand over the incision for support or wear some type of compression garment, too. Phillips tells Romper that a belly band can help keep you upright and provide additional support. “Your sutures do not ‘pop’ open, but it can be uncomfortable if moving too fast with coughing or laughing, hence the recommendation to use a belly band,” Phillips says.
Several of the moms I spoke to about C-sections and how they got out of bed afterward mentioned the power of control-top panties or other compression garments like yoga pants, camisoles with Spanx-like fabric involved, or just really tight-fitting shirts. The pressure feels good on the incision site, and makes it feel less like your organs are going to bounce right out of you again. That kind of confidence might have you feeling even more prepared for ambulation.
4. Get Mobile But Don’t Overdo It
As you begin to move about back at home, King advises against lifting anything too heavy. “We will give moms lifting instructions,” she tells Romper. “I generally recommend moms not lift anything heavier than the baby, especially in the first couple of weeks post-op.” And if that means no laundry, so be it.
Again, do all of this very slowly, and move very slowly. It sounds counterproductive, but it's really important to move. “We typically get people out of bed the next day,” Phillips says. “It may sound daunting; however, it is important to move your body for several reasons. Movement helps return bowel function, helps you expand your lungs to reduce the risk of pneumonia, and can decrease the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in the legs.” Plus, that Netflix remote isn't going to fly into your hand.
While getting off the bed may seem like the last thing you want to do, you’ll be gliding throughout the house in no time. But before then, it’s totally OK to keep your trips limited to your baby, the bathroom, and of course, the couch. And enjoy letting other people do the (literal) heavy lifting for the time being.
Dr. Kiarra King, M.D., board-certified OB/GYN and Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Dr. Kameelah Phillips, M.D., board-certified OB/GYN and founder of Calla Women’s Health
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