By Jennifer Jensen
In 2016, the cesarean (C-section) delivery rate for births in the U.S. was 31.9 percent, meaning approximately one in three women gave birth via C-section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many women prepare for side effects of labor and delivery, but women who give birth via C-section can expect different side effects than those associated with a vaginal birth.
Dr. Joseph Iobst from All About Women Obstetrics and Gynecology said women who deliver their babies via C-section will have a longer hospital stay, intense abdominal pain for the first week, a longer recovery time and a higher risk for infection. While many women have prepared for these better-known side effects of a C-section, there is a side effect that is not as known and is therefore often less prepared for.
Numbness near the incision site is a side effect that many women do not expect after a C-section and is a common side effect for many women, according to Dr. Iobst. Numbness occurs because, “small nerves get transected during surgery for the C-section,” he said. Due to the nerves being transected (completely severed), women will experience numbness near the incision site because the nerves are no longer functional, and some women may also experience itching near the site. To calm itchy skin, you can hold an ice pack (or ice) wrapped in a towel to the area for about five to 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the numbness women will experience following a C-section birth, Dr. Iobst said. Fortunately, the feeling will return as the nerves regrow, usually within several months, but recovery time varies and is dependent on each individual patient.
Justine Pearson, Gainesville mother of two, had both of her children via C-section and experienced numbness after each delivery, but said feeling did eventually return each time. For her, feeling near the incision site after the birth of her first child did not return until shortly before the birth of her second child, a little more than two and a half years later.
Gainesville mother of four, Joni Hubbard also experienced numbness at the incision site following her C-sections with all four of her sons, but said feeling never returned. The whole area was numb for six weeks after surgery and then it was just the incision site. “There is just no sensation there … it doesn’t bother me” she said.
Many women may be concerned about lifting their infant and the pain it could potentially cause after a C-section, but there are ways to do it safely. The Harvard School of Medicine recommends what they call a “football hold” where the baby’s body is under your arm and the head near your chest, which helps keep the baby’s weight off of your C-section incision. Once you are able, try walking to help ease some of the post-cesarean pains and discomfort. According to Nemours Hospital, walking helps blood circulation and promotes cell regeneration and growth to help the incision site to heal faster as well as prevent blood clots and constipation.
As with any type of surgery, remember your body needs time to heal completely. Before you know it, you will be running around and life will return to normal — well, as normal as life can be with a newborn!