Natural Approaches to Healing from Cesarean Birth

Written by contributor Megan Tietz of SortaCrunchy

An emergency Cesarean birth was certainly not my plan for my first child. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could have done differently before she was born, and I had high hopes that my second birth would take a different path. Unfortunately, some specific life circumstances kept me from being able to pursue my dream of a VBAC birth with my second daughter.

Healing from a Cesarean birth is not a topic that receives much coverage in the online world devoted to natural living. When I was recovering from the births of my daughters, I wasn’t even aware that there are natural approaches to healing that could have made my recovery time a little easier. Recently, a friend of mine gave birth via C-section and the midwives who had provided her prenatal care shared some natural healing tips that I wish I had known about when my girls were born.

Please remember that I am not a medical professional nor should this article be consider medical advice. Homeopathic and natural approaches to healing should be used with the same care that one would give to pharmaceutical approaches to healing.

Natural Options for Post Cesarean Birth Healing:

  • Staphysagria: This homeopathic remedy is known to promote healing of surgical wounds. Staphysagria is also sometimes recommended for emotional health, particularly in recovery from a trauma. If you are struggling with a sense of grief or loss because of a Cesarean birth, Staphysagria may be helpful not only for physical healing but also for emotional recovery.
  • Hypericum perforatum, also known as St. John’s Wort: Most people are familiar with St. John’s Wort as a natural treatment for depression, but this herbal remedy is also recommended for aid in healing nerve damage. Lingering nerve damage in the c-section incision area is one of the most annoying long-term effects for many women who have given birth via Cesarean section, and this may help alleviate those issues for some.
  • Arnica Montana: You might know this homeopathic remedy as leopard’s bane, wolf’s bane, or mountain tobacco. It can be extremely effective in treating bruising and muscle soreness, both of which are common following a Cesarean birth.
  • Rutin: This bioflavonoid not only helps with bruising, it is also known to promote tissue repair. With a Cesarean birth, there is obviously internal and external tissue damage, so any supplement that stimulates the body to heal the damage is helpful.
  • Therapeutic grade lavender oil: Incision care is a pivotal aspect of healing from a c-section. Rubbing therapeutic grade lavender oil with a carrier oil such as jojoba will help to alleviate the itching and pain that may occur as the incision heals. Frankincense essential oil is also recommend for scar care.

Photo by geezaweeza

For many women, the medical model of care provides the basic directions for healing from a Cesarean birth, and those instructions are important (limitations on lifting, driving, etc.). However, beyond pain management, there is often little advice for how to encourage the body’s healing process. I’m thankful for the care I received following the birth of each of my daughters, but I also wish I had known about how these natural approaches could have supported my body as it healed.

And for some women, particularly those who had planned for a natural birth, the emotional healing is far more lengthy than the physical healing. It’s important to find ways to support your mental health during this time as well. Processing your feelings about your Cesarean birth with your spouse or trusted friends, a natural health care provider, or a mental health professional is just as important as caring for your incision in the weeks and months that follow.

A surgical birth may not be considered the ideal in natural living circles, but we can work toward a collective mindset that honors each birth for the miracle that it is and offer support for mothers who would appreciate physical and emotional support no matter the circumstances of the birth experience.

Were any of your children Cesarean births? What advice were you given to promote healing? What would you add to the list of remedies to promote post-surgical healing?

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37 Comments

  1. Rebekah

    After spending hours researching natural birth pain management techniques, I was ready to go. However, I ended up having an emergency cesarean in the middle of the night due to a sudden life threatening condition. It still is hard to deal with even though it happened a few months ago. I think people usually focus on the physical aspect of healing and don’t often consider the emotional healing that can take even longer. I really enjoyed your post.

    • Megan

      Thank you for sharing your story, Rebecca. The emotional healing takes far, far longer than the physical healing for many women. My last c-section was over four years, and I still have some pretty big feelings about it. I hope you are able to find the support and resources you need on your journey toward healing.

    • Megan

      I had not heard of that. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

  2. Sami

    Thank you for this. I am facing my 3rd c-section due to stubborn transverse babies. 🙂 I often am made to feel guilty reading natural blogs that make even necessary c-sections seem evil. Recoveries have been rough for me, and I hate taking anything. I will definately be referencing this a lot as we get closer. Thank you for giving me helpful info and not making me feel like I failed!!

    • Megan

      As a more-than-one c-section mama, I can so relate to your experience in how c-sections are perceived. I am a big advocate of natural childbirth experiences and I would LOVE to see our nation’s c-section rate come down, but the fact is, there are times they are necessary and we can still have gentle, inclusive attitudes towards those who are healing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sami!

  3. Megan

    Thank you for this post, and I relate completely to the women who have commented to far. My son was born 2 years ago, and I had prepared extensively for a natural birth. He was extracted from me 68 hours after my labor started due to poor positioning, and was in the NICU for 4 days.

    The physical recovery was fairly easy, but I went through the wringer in terms of recovering emotionally. Felt like a complete failure. Got jealous and sad when friends had babies vaginally. It was really, really hard for more than a year. I was overjoyed about my son, but sad and depressed about my “failure” at the same time. Thankfully my prayers were answered and I have accepted this birth.

    I also feel that C-sections are taboo on natural giving sites and have stopped visiting several since giving birth. I feel like I don’t belong.

    • Megan

      The emotional healing takes time and is such an individual process. I know my spiritual faith helped me in the process of healing so much, too. I definitely avoid certain sites and blogs because the tone on some of them just re-open the emotional scar.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Megan.

  4. Megan

    Thanks for writing this. My son was born via c-section due to his positioning and low amniotic fluid; even worse, he was born with a small and unexpected birth defect that sent him straight to special care, then NICU. Because I’d had a c-section, I couldn’t even leave my bed to see him until 12 hours later (worst 12 hours EVER). Even though it all ended well and he’s a robust 15-month-old now, I still feel traumatized by the whole experience. What I try to remember is that the miracle of modern medicine is just as impressive as the miracle of natural birth -neither is better because both result in awesome, life-changing little people arriving in the world.

    • Megan

      You are so right! It is pretty miraculous either way! Your story sounds very traumatic. I am so glad you have been able to heal from your experience.

  5. Amy

    I feel so sad reading some of these comments, not because of the c-sections but because of the guilt and feelings of loss associated with them! I had 2 vaginal births, so I cannot relate to what these women are feeling. However, thank the Lord that when a life-threatening situation arises, there are medical doctors and procedures that can save lives! It saddens me to know that there are women out there that would make another mother feel guilty about something that was out of her control. I hope you ladies are able to read articles like this and be encouraged that NOT everyone thinks c-sections are evil. Sometimes they are life-savers!

    • Megan

      Thank you so much for your kind, empathetic, supportive response, Amy. That means so much.

    • Nicole

      I agree, Amy! Sometimes I feel like I take my natural births for granted subconsciously. I’m so glad Megan was able to share a bit of her story and these natural remedies.
      I’m so thankful for the C-sections that friends of mine were able to have in order to have healthy babies, even though they weren’t planning to go that route. Life-savers they can be indeed!

  6. erin

    thank you so much for this post. it’s nice to read that other moms who also prepared for a natural birth felt the same way i did after having to have an emergency c-section. i also feel like sometimes people in the “natural” community don’t believe me when i say my baby was too big for my pelvis and face up (after trying everything to get him to flip). i labored for 25 hours, most of it naturally, and my son was born with a mark on his head from where he was stuck on my pelvis for so long. i’m grateful for being able to labor naturally, but also for the necessary interventions to save our lives. he was the healthiest 9 lb. 2 oz baby boy! (and i’m 5’1″ : ) i’m so hoping for a VBAC next time, but if not, i’ll definitely use these natural solutions to heal!
    p.s. question…it’s been 9 months since then, but my incision still has that nerve tingling sometimes. would st.john’s wort help now even though it’s been so long? and is it safe to take while nursing?

    • Jackie

      Erin, my scar still felt tingly, annoying, uncomfortable to the touch for 9-10 months after the surgery. I have no advice regarding natural healing as I didn’t have that kind of support after my two. I just wanted to say I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who had discomfort 9 months after. Thanks.

  7. Teresa

    I’m crying as I read this post. I have 3 beautiful children via cesarean (6, 5 and 5months.) My oldest was an emergency…he too, had bruises on his face and bumps on his head from being in the wrong position and a little over 9lbs and me not being able to get him out and his heartrate dropping and everyone yelling at me to push. Once he was delievered, they didn’t tell me he was a boy. I didn’t get to see him, and I was having such a bad reaction to something on the operating table that they knocked me out. I woke up to no baby, no husband and a strange room with a nurse. I felt such shame and despair and like I was less than and as I dive more and more into the natural community, it only reminds me of those negative feelings. With my second, I was so scared because labor and recovery was horrendous with my first that I scheduled a cesarean for my second. I just had my third baby 5 months ago…my doctor gave me the go to have a VBAC. I was elated, ecstatic and researched EVERYTHING. I was ready…I labored forever at home. Got to the hospital…same EXACT problems with my first….to the OR I went. I was so, so, so sad! Except this time, I knew the right decision had been made. I did everything I knew to do and it just wasn’t meant to be. God had other plans for me to deliver my babies. I do agree with Megan and I have stopped reading certain blogs that I LOVED because they have no sensitivity to others whom have had cesareans and that just doesn’t help. I also agree that doctors are only too happy to perform a cesarean, unnecessarily! Thank you for broaching this subject.

  8. Ange @ Hol : Fit

    It is so great to read a post like this! You’re right that there is not enough emphasis or information out there on alternative approaches when facing a CSection. I did a post on my recent CSection and how I used the power of healthy nutrition to heal. I’m happy to say that at 6 weeks post-op I’m feeling great and recovered really well!
    http://www.hol-fit.com/2011/10/meeting-life-inside-me-tomorrow.html

  9. Andrea

    I am a mama of four children and all of them were born c-section. Thank you for sharing a positive post about c-sections (and even better that it’s a natural post about them). We need more of them! When birth plans are discussed, I am always frustrated that mentally preparing for the possibility of c-section (or anything else that may go wrong or differently than planned) is never on their checklists of things to prepare for. A c-section was never in my birth plan with my first until I watched her heart rate drop with each contraction. It quickly got added when we realized it was the best way for her to be born. She was born healthy, but covered in Meconium and her umbilical cord was wrapped around her leg, twice.

  10. Jenifer

    Another thank you from someone who had 2 children via c-section. The first was completely unplanned and scary since it all happened so quickly. The second was planned but still medically needed a vbac was not an option. I still feel like I missed something never getting the chance and every time people talk about how important vaginal births are to a child’s health I feel a little guilt. Thank you for the post it is important for us all to remember that no matter how a child is born recovery can still be done naturally.

  11. Kendra @ orangerie

    An emergency c-section with my firstborn meant that I ended up having cesareans with all of my four children. I tried each successive time for a VBAC, but never went into labor, much to my dismay. I wish I had had this information when healing! I have been told that my scar tissue is so great and my healing was so poor from each surgery that I have almost zero uterus left after stitching it up this last time. If I had known of these remedies, maybe that could be different! Thank you for sharing this information. Even though it’s been seventeen months since my last baby was born, maybe I can still use some of these to promote more healing?

  12. Lindsey@ Piecefully Home

    all three of my children were born via c-section, would i have loved to have had a vaginal birth? yes, but it simply wasn’t an option for me. but i don’t feel guilty about it, i mourn knowing what the experience would be like but i know it was the only choice.

    my heart hurts for those of us who had to give birth with a c-section and now feel guilty and failure. remember, ultimately, the most important part is having a healthy baby. my first son wouldn’t have lived if it wasn’t for a c-section. i have no guilt with the c-section b/c the alternative is unimaginable. there is nothing to feel guilty about. there is nothing to feel ashamed about. sometimes these things happen. sometimes our bodies fail us. sometimes our baby goes into distress. the goal is to have a healthy mama and healthy baby, that’s what is most important.

    the shame and guilt belongs to any woman out there who tells moms who have had emergency c-sections that they were wrong or didn’t do something correctly. and i have had women try and tell me that it was my fault, so i’ve been there.

    the best remedy for recovery of c-sections is walking as soon as your doctor lets you. it speeds up recovery time. also make sure that you are drinking lots of water and eating foods that will aid in digestion.

  13. Jackie

    Thanks so much, Megan, for this post!

    And thanks to everyone in the comments for sharing your stories. More than 7 yrs after my first, I still mourn. Natural remedies may have helped me regain my strength sooner. It would be nice if doctors were more diversified in their knowledge and advice, rather than being narrowly focused on the impersonal, ‘medical’ side of things.

    Now, can anyone recommend a website/book that talks about sharing the birth story with your child? So far, all I’ve been able to muster is telling her the doctors had to help her come out.

    Thanks!

  14. clothespin

    My mother labored for 72 hours to give back to me. My grandmother once wrote me a letter telling the tale of my birth, how it was touch and go, how they feared that they would loose us both. That was 40 years ago and I am here today ONLY because the doctor finally did a c-section to deliver me. Without this LIFE SAVING procedure, I would not be here today and neither would my mother.

    I had planned to have a natural delivery for my daughter but… never went into labor and was at the end of my 2 weeks post due time… failed induction and … my daughter is healthy and happy and we are both alive.

    I am totally sure that natural deliveries are a life altering experience. I am thrilled for those who are capable of doing this. I am equally thrilled that we live in a time when doctors can save lives and deliver babies surgically. My life was still altered forever with the birth of my daughter, even if it is in a way that the natural folks don’t like.

    It is all well and good to try for natural deliveries, to have home births and all of the other warm fuzzy things… but what people often forget is that back in the old days, there were MANY women and babies who did not survive. Go to old cemetaries, you will see the grave stones… We are so fortunate to have the option to LIVE – even if our manner of entrance to this life is different than most. If I am fortunate enough to have another child, it will most likely be a planned section… and I’ll endure the recovery with gratitude.

    • Sami

      Thank you! You are so right! People do forget how dangerous it used to be. I’ll remember to be grateful come April when we welcome our new little girl via planned c-section. 🙂

  15. Anne Marie

    Thank you so much for this article. As a momma that faced a c-section for secondary health issues (a cancerous cyst found during my pregnancy) I shy away from the fact I had a c-section, because my baby didn’t necessitate it and I am worried about how it would be perceived.

    I have always been scared to asked for natural healing options from the c-section, so I really appreciate this. As most of us have learned at one point in our life, God has a sense of humor and laughs at our best laid plans, but it all happens for a reason. 🙂

  16. Benson Rivera

    Thanks for sharing some ideas on how to over come after c section.. I’m not suppose to comment on this, because I know I will not be experiencing such problems. But I just want to share and ask something– My sister in law gave birth last July in c section too and she didn’t felt any trauma or anything, only if the weather is cold, she felt her wound after the operation was bit of achy. Is it normal to felt that way?

  17. Julie W

    I don’t usually comment on blogs, but wanted to say thank you for this post. Like several who’ve shared their stories, I also have had multiple c-sections — not by choice, but by necessity. I, too, am thankful for modern medicine and technology that make childbirth safer (and possible!) even though I would have preferred natural childbirth with minimal medical intervention. I’ve also experienced sadness and disappointment when I’ve had to listen to (unknowingly insensitive) friends tell about their “amazing” birth stories. It’s helpful to know that I’m not alone in experiencing these feelings. I wish I had known about some of the natural options for post-c section healing after each of my surgeries. I’m glad to know there are some natural approaches available.

  18. Sue

    Thank you for posting this. I had my daughter via c-section 6 years ago due to her getting twisted in the birth cannal. I had a lot of guilt feelings about being “less of a woman” and not “doing it the right way”. So much so that I was having anxiety and panic attacks that I couldn’t even take care of her at times. It was so messed up! Anyway, I wish someone would have talked with me about the emotional aspect of having a c-section, and the feeling of loss. I will share my story and this post with others. Thank you, again.

  19. melissa

    Thank you for this post. I unhappily had a c-section and complications with my first, after planning for and struggling to accomplish a natural birth, and am very likely going to have another in a few weeks with my second. I love homeopathic treatments, which I discovered about six months after my first was born, but I have struggled to find any guidance on healing from a c-section via natural means, as you noted. Thank you for confirming and adding to some of the research I was extrapolating from the guidance on healing from surgeries!

  20. Elizabeth E.

    Thank you for this post. I too had both of my children via c-section and feel totally out of “the loop” when it comes to the world of natural living on this issue and that can be painful.

    With my first child my water broke but I never really began contracting nor did I dilate and the baby never descended. After 24 hours my doctor encouraged me to have a c-section because she was starting to worry about intrauterine infections. It was certainly not what I had planned but I agreed to the c-section. Afterwards my doctor told me that once she began the surgery she discovered that I have a misshapen sacrum and the reason my daughter didn’t descend is because the misshaping was so severe she couldn’t angle out. Translation, I would never have been able to give birth vaginally no matter how long we might have tried. Thank goodness for the c-section! My poor baby girl’s head looked like a drill bit it was so pointed from trying so hard to get out for 24 hours!

    What was worse was that my milk never came in. After 3 weeks of pumping 6 times a day I was getting (at best) a TOTAL of 2 oz of milk for every 24-36 hours of pumping. When I finally stopped trying I never got engorged or anything. There was nothing to “dry up” because there wasn’t really anything there to begin with. I’ve felt ostracized and looked down upon in nearly every natural living circle I’ve ever participated in because I didn’t breastfeed. Some people hear my story and still say I didn’t try hard enough. To my mind, if I’d kept trying my daughter wouldn’t have gotten enough food and my post-partum depression would have been even worse! I’d love to see a blog post the normalizes and accepts those of us who had to bottle feed.

    Thanks for this post. It means a lot.

  21. Angel Collins

    My sister is due next week and her doctor said that she might undergo a Cesarean operation. I am really lucky to found your post and I’m thinking of sharing this to my sister. Thanks for this post! I really appreciate it. =)

  22. karen

    Like others I rarely comment on blogs like this. However, I must say THANK YOU for your post. I read it with tears in my eyes. I tried hypnobirthing with my first. Long story short, I ended up with a c-section. With my second I planned to try a VBAC. However, I get awful varicose veins in my “tender parts” (my midwife said I was one of her three worst), and a decision was made to do another c-section due to the extreme discomfort I was in. My children are now 6 and 4 and I have heard all sorts of stories and read all sorts of things about the “way we should have children”. The most hurtful from a sister-in-law who has had 4 of her children vaginally and her 5th had to be taken by c-section. She said (and she did not mean to be offensive) “I still feel like a real woman has her child vaginally”. Um, what about the real women who have their children by c-section? Or the real women who cannot bear children of their own?

    My children are now 6 and 4 and I still think about it. I am so grateful for the two beautiful children that I have. I want to have another child and am happy to know that although I won’t be able to have it in my ideal way, there are natural things that I can do to help my healing – emotionally and physically.

    Thank you again for letting me know that there are people in the “natural” world who have c-sections.

  23. Crystal

    Another Thank you.

    I am 3 weeks pp on csection #2 after a failed VBAC. It may have been possible this time but the cord was wrapped around her body so we scheduled the csection.

    The first time was extremely traumatic but it was an emergency. I had already been through so much and things wer happening so fast that I didn’t really have time to notice everything going on.
    With this one being scheduled, my anxiety slowly built up around me. I was so mere wrecked by pre-op that I was vomiting, urinating on myself and shaking uncontrollably. The surgery room was terrifying and the suspense was awful. Waiting for my body to go numb while they moved me around. I could see all the “tools” around me. I had great doctors and nurses. Every was so sweet and so caring but there is nothing easy about the experience.
    I have heard so many women talk down to me and others about a csection and it breaks my heart. Many people act as if we had the choice to have a csection or vaginal birth and we chose a csection out of ease.
    I am so happy to see someone offer some helpful advice to those of us in this situation hoping for anything to ease the suffering; both emotionally and physically. This is no cake walk. I have a long road ahead of me and still plan for more children.

  24. Crystal

    I forgot to ask. Are all of these healing remedies safe for exclusively breastfeeding momma’s?
    Sorry about the above typo’s. My iPhone dislikes me!

  25. Morgan

    I don’t know if you are still following your responses, but I hope so. My Friend sent me this link and I never looked at it until today. I had an unscheduled emergency c-section 2 weeks ago. While, I am beyond ecstatic to have a daughter, it pains me beyond anything knowing I worked so hard for my home water birth. My little girl was breech, and then transverse. We tried EVERYTHING to turn her, without success. I was sacred, because I knew nothing about c-sections and even less about recovery. Your post brings warmth into my heart as I hit my 2 week hormonal drop today and it’s been hard to mourn my birth. I know it will take time, and I try to find the positive. I hope my story will bring some light to someone one day

  26. Jess

    I am very late coming to this post. I had an emergency cesarean 3 and a half weeks ago due to pre eclampsia (which became severe post birth). It all escalated so quickly (I was perfectly healthy up to 36 weeks) and there was no other option but I still felt a huge sense of guilt and sadness at not having a ‘natural’ birth as I had planned to do and totally unprepared for the operation. I must remember that without such intervention neither I or my beautiful baby would be alive today. Thanks for your very useful post about natural healing and thanks for all those who have posted comments. It has been very helpful and therapeutic to read other stories.

  27. Erin

    I am a midwife. I am tired of hierarchical birth. All births are beautiful. C-section mamas. Get naked with those babies as soon as you can. Enjoy the skin to skin. It’s good for you and that little one and it’s never too late! Hold your baby. Tell him/her of the beauty of birth and living in earth. If you have mixed emotions tell your baby about it. And tell him/her. You have no mixed emotions about them!! Go slow with yourself. Honor sadness and joy. Both can coexist.
    Life is long and magical enjoy

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