How To Sleep After C Section—Helpful Tips For A Quick Recovery

how to sleep after c section

As if sleeping wasn’t tricky enough during the third trimester, getting good quality sleep after a C-section can be even more challenging. 

Getting into a comfortable position so you can fall asleep is only part of the challenge. 

You also risk conditions like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), depending on your sleeping positions.

Cesarean delivery is a major abdominal surgery that takes a long time to recover. An essential part of a successful recovery period is getting good sleep. 

Not only do c-section moms have to deal with the discomfort and pain as they try to fall asleep, but they are also dealing with a new baby and the disturbed sleep quality and sleep schedule that comes with a new baby.

This article will cover how to sleep after c section and some other activities you may be curious about, such as when you can start to bend, drive, and bathe after this invasive procedure.

The best sleeping positions after a c-section

While some women are so tired after delivery that they can literally go to sleep in any position, the incision site can make it difficult for many moms to find a comfortable sleeping position to get any sort of quality sleep.

The old tip is “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” it can be difficult when you can’t find the proper position and everything hurts. 

The following are some of the best positions that women who have undergone a cesarean delivery have found success with.

Elevated upper body position

The first few weeks are the toughest regarding recovery, regardless of your delivery type. 

Propping yourself up in an elevated, almost in a comfortable seated position, with your entire upper body up on some pillows, is not only a comfortable position for many women but one that can help keep your airways open and aid in easy breathing.

This position also helps maintain your sleep architecture early after delivery to get good quality sleep.

Best sleeping position

On your back

This sleeping position can help reduce pain at your incision site in the first few weeks, but you can also end up with breathing issues such as OSA. 

While this position does not put pressure on your incision, you may have difficulty getting out of bed or into a sitting position from this position.

On your side with a body pillow

Use those pillows! It will help if you stay as still as possible while you sleep to help your body recover faster. 

Sleep after a c-section, if you’re a side sleeper, can be miserable unless you prevent yourself from rolling in either direction. 

Using a pregnancy pillow or body pillow to keep you from rolling one way or another will help to cushion your abdominal muscles and help you stay asleep longer.

Sleeping on your left side aids in giving you optimum blood flow, which is excellent for recovery after c-section without impairing sleep quality. 

It is easier for many women to get up from a bed when in a side sleeping position, and optimal blood flow is also essential in digestion. This is good because any c-section mom knows that constipation during the healing process is terribly uncomfortable.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

OSA is a sleep condition relatively common in pregnancy and after delivery. 

Pregnancy-related OSA is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed, but an estimated 20% of all pregnant and post-delivery women suffer from it.

The airway can become blocked because of hormone changes in the body during and after pregnancy and body changes such as weight and pressure on the lungs and airway. Such a condition causes a woman to struggle to breathe and get adequate sleep throughout the night.

If left unchecked, OSA can be very dangerous and lead to severe complications. 

If you wake up after a night’s sleep and feel more tired than when you went to bed, or have a sore throat, or your partner tells you that at any point in the night you snored loudly, struggled for breath, or quit breathing for a few seconds, talk to your doctor.

How to sleep after c section

Aside from finding a comfortable position to sleep in that doesn’t put pressure on your incision, there are other things that you can do to get some much-needed sound sleep after a C-section.

No rigorous exercise

Until you are cleared for regular activities, avoid exercises like weight lifting, extreme or vigorous cardio, and core muscle exercises. 

This can put too much strain on your abdominal muscles and make it harder for moms to recover from c-sections. 

You’ll have plenty of time to work out a couple of months after the baby is born.

Take pain medication as prescribed

No one will give you an award for being in pain intentionally. You’re plenty tough, Mama! 

Pain medications allow your body to be in a neutral position in terms of pain so that the energy your body uses can go towards recovery rather than fighting off the pain you may be experiencing.

how to sleep after c section

Find a comfortable breastfeeding position

Get into a comfortable position that relaxes your abdomen, making breastfeeding work for you. 

Experiment with different breastfeeding positions until you find what works best for you and your baby, but don’t become a human pretzel to feed the baby.

Don’t have sex until cleared by a doctor

C-section delivery is major surgery, and doctors aren’t just trying to spoil your fun by telling you not to have sex until after a certain point. The length of time varies from doctor to doctor, but if you want to recover faster, heed the advice and abstain.

When can I start bending after the C-section?

It is best to wait until you are 4-6 weeks post delivery before you start to intentionally bend or pick anything up that is heavier than your baby. 

Always lift with your knees bent, and lift with your knees rather than using your abs or your back to do so.

If possible, have someone do the heavy lifting for you, even after you feel as though the incision site has healed. You still need rest, even though you may feel a bit stronger.

When can you drive after the c section?

Most doctors recommend waiting around two weeks before new moms with a c-section get behind the wheel. This is to allow yourself time to heal properly. 

As a seat belt can irritate your incision site, it is best not to ride in a car for two weeks. Ask a family member or friend to run out for you if you need something.

When can I take a bath after the C-section?

Showering is fine, but soaking in the bathtub should be avoided until postpartum bleeding has stopped and you have been seen by your doctor for a follow-up appointment. 

You should also avoid hot tubs and swimming pools during this period.

How To Sleep After C Section

Other tips for new moms who had a c-section

The following are some more tips for women who have had or are going to have a cesarean. 

While some may sound extreme because this delivery method is a standard procedure, it is still a major surgery that takes time to recover and heal before you resume normal activities.

  • Use your upper body to get out of bed, lifting yourself with your arms instead of dragging yourself out.
  • Recovery takes longer if you are suffering mentally or emotionally. If you are struggling with postpartum depression, talk to your doctor and get the help you need.
  • Take short walks to improve blood circulation and promote better breathing after giving birth to help your recovery along
  • Take a stool softener for more ease with complicated bowel movements after a c-section delivery
  • Log roll out of bed rather than sitting straight up and trying to stand. To do this, roll onto your side, use your arms for sitting up while you put your feet on the floor, and then stand from the bed.
  • Use a white noise device, app, or machine to get the rest you need when you go to bed and sleep.
  • Maintain a healthy diet full of nutrients like calcium, Vitamin C, and Omega-3 fats.
  • Let your partner, friend, or family member take the night shift with the baby so that you can rest. Sleeping at night will give you more energy during the day, and your partner can get a break then. Try not to get out of bed at night unless you have to.

C-sections and sleep

Sleeping after a c-section isn’t easy. Some women skip the bed altogether in favor of a recliner or comfy chair that will allow them to sleep elevated and get up more quickly.

Regardless of how you choose to sleep, just ensure you’re safe and not putting pressure on your abdomen if you can help it—getting proper rest and sleeping as much as you can go a long way towards getting you back to your pre-pregnancy self and lifestyle.

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