When it comes to sleeping concerns related to the postpartum period, most parents' questions are related to two aspects: (1) how to get a baby to sleep through the night and (2) whether or not they will ever sleep again. But, for some women whose birth involved a cesarean delivery, they also wonder, what's the best sleeping position after having a C-section? Experts say it's all about comfort.
"When recovering from a C-section, women must be careful to not further injure a sensitive surgical area," Hilary Thompson, a health and wellness consultant with SleepTrain, tells Romper in an email interview. "Your comfort level should dictate how you sleep, [but] lying prone (on your back) is the best position to keep the suture area flat."
Thompson says that if you do choose to lie on your back, then having a pillow under your knees would provide more comfort to your lower back. Wearing loose clothing while sleeping is also encouraged to keep from feeling restricted, she says.
"But if side-lying is preferred and not too painful, a pillow should be placed between the knees," Thompson says. "A body pillow is even better — the bottom should go between your knees, the middle should lay loosely in front of your stomach, and the other end can go under your face." Thompson explains that some women prefer a pillow in front of their abdomen for comfort and protection. "Side-lying however can be uncomfortable for some women, because their surgical area can get compressed," she says, adding that, again, your comfort level should dictate your best position.
Dr. Amy Peters, a doctor of osteopathic medicine at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center, in Laguna Hills, California, agrees, adding that, "simply put, the best sleeping position status post cesarean is the one that is most comfortable."
Peters does point out, however, that lying on your stomach should be avoided if possible, seeing as how it is the position that would apply the most pressure to the incision site. On the other hand, a side-lying position might be the most comfortable, especially if you have become accustomed to it during pregnancy, she says. "Side-lying may also facilitate breastfeeding without needing to reposition if her partner is able to hand the baby to her," Peters tells Romper in an email interview.
For many women, it's not necessarily the sleeping position that causes pain and discomfort, but more so the switching of positions, Morgan Statt, a safety investigator at ConsumerSafety.org, tells Romper. "It can be especially painful for women who have had C-sections to get from a vertical position to an upright position because of the post-op stitches in the abdomen," she says.
Statt says women might also want to try lying at a 45-degree angle. "If you've had a C-section, you may be at a greater risk of experiencing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) due to fluctuations in hormones before and after pregnancy," she says. "These changes in hormone levels can put undue stress on the airway. To get a better night's sleep and to breathe easier, prop yourself up at a 45-degree angle with pillows."
No matter how you choose to sleep, Peters says it's important to use caution when exiting the bed by avoiding the engagement of your core or abdominal muscles. "While in the hospital, you should use the electric controls to raise the head of the bed," she says. "When you are at home, you may want to place a chair next to your bed for assistance." To safely get out of bed, Peters says you should roll to your side, then swing your legs out of bed while using the chair to help lift your upper body to sitting. "Moving slowly at first is normal," she says. " [But] within two weeks, walking, and sleeping comfortably is usually mastered."
As for your baby and their sleeping habits? Well, that takes a bit more time.
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