Recovery from childbirth can be intimidating, scary, and just downright hard. We get asked all the time from expecting moms, especially those who are expecting multiples, "what is the difference between a c-section and vaginal delivery when it comes to recovery?" or "Can I save my pelvic floor if I opt for a C-section?"
So what is the difference. Well, there is the obvious difference in the way the child enters the world. The recovery for each process is just different. No better/worse, nothing bad/good, just different. You may have your own opinions and each woman will find what is best for her.
With a vaginal delivery, you may or may not have had tearing, or an episiotomy, or an assisted delivery. You may have delivered lying on your back, on your side, standing up, squatting, or some other way. you may have had an epidural or not, you may have been super active prior to delivery, or not. So, each person is different, each pregnancy is different and each recovery is different.
Many women believe that they have no need for pelvic floor muscle assessment following a c-section, because, well, the baby didn't enter the world that way. While a vaginal delivery did not happen, the body goes through so many changes during pregnancy, and the body naturally prepares for a vaginal delivery.
For 9 months, give or take, a baby has been growing inside the woman's uterus. This means that the tissues have been shifted, stretched, and organs may be moving throughout the pregnancy. As a woman gets closer to delivery day, the body produces a myriad of hormones that help prepare the body for labor. This means that relaxin, a hormone that allows the muscles, ligaments, tendons to relax and loosen, and joints to shift to make room for the baby to come through the birth canal, is running through the body. (This hormone is also present while a woman is breastfeeding).
With the shifting of the pelvis, the pelvic floor muscle begin to relax and stretch in preparation for baby's arrival. So, yes, you had a c-section, but you're body prepared for a vaginal birth and will need some recovery time.
Now, how about that c-section itself; it is a major surgery to the body. In order to reach the uterus and get to the baby, there are many, many layers that the doctors go through to reach the baby. Your body needs time to recover from this major surgery and the after effects of childbirth. So, be kind with yourself. It takes tissues a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks to heal completely. You may be feeling good after week 3 or 4 and want to jump back into activities. I encourage you to take things slow and check in with your healthcare provider regularly.
Once you've been cleared, start working on massaging your c-section scar to keep it moving and keep the tissues around it healthy and strong. Be sure to get clearance from your healthcare provider and seek assistance to ensure proper scar tissue mobility and healing.
Other than scar tissue mobilization and the method of delivery, the healing moving forward is similar in all methods of child birth. Take things slow, start with breath work, seek out professional guidance to give you an individualized plan for recovery so that you can get back to the exercises and activities that you want to get back to pain free and without risk of leaking or discomfort.