If you are preparing for a vaginal birth after cesarean, it can sometimes feel as if you are preparing for your first birth experience all over again. The unknowns of what to expect with a vaginal delivery and recovery (on top of caring for another child) can be a little overwhelming.
Depending on how far into your previous labor you got, you may already have experienced a few, or all, of the stages of labor. A supportive care team will be invaluable as you prepare for the unknowns of labor.
But what happens in the hours, days, and weeks that follow? There are a few things that will be different as you recover from your delivery, and a few things to know as you plan for a restful and healing postpartum experience.
The first few hours:
In the first hours after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, you will most likely be able to get up to shower or move around. Something to be aware of is that the first time you stand, you may feel queasy as your organs suddenly start to shift back into place. Some women feel faint, so be sure you have someone standing by to assist you the first time you get up.
The first few days:
Even if you don’t have any tearing, you’ll want to lay low for the first several days postpartum. It may be tempting to get up and move around more than you did after your c-section, since you most likely will be feeling a bit less foggy. Especially with another child (or children) at home, the urge to get up and about can be strong.
However, even though your body isn’t healing from an incision, it is healing from some major stretching and shifting and sudden retracting. If you respect your need for rest by spending at least a few days (preferably a week) in bed with your newborn, your body will thank you.
You might also experience greater blood loss during the first few days, depending on how much tissue was removed during your previous surgery. Make sure to keep in contact with your provider if you have any questions or concerns about the amount of blood loss, or the size of any clots.
One last note on the first few days, especially if this is your first delivery in which you aren’t taking pain medication for the first couple of days: the after-pains. Heat packs can help ease the intensity of these contractions, but make sure to check with your provider about appropriate comfort measures to take for your unique situation. Don’t be caught off guard if some of these contractions feel way to close to the real thing for comfort, especially while nursing. Try using the same coping techniques that helped during labor, and know that they should pass by day two or three.
Another thing that might be different is the first postpartum bowel movement. If you have never experienced the pushing stage of labor before, you might be a little surprised at how scary it is! The intensity of pushing out your baby can still be fresh, and it might feel as if everything is about to fall out. It won’t. Take some deep breaths, don’t strain too hard, and think about taking magnesium or other stool softeners right away after birth so that you won’t have to strain.
The first weeks:
The timeline for healing differs so greatly for each person and labor, so I can’t tell you exactly what to expect in the weeks that follow your vbac. However, a few things are pretty common after vaginal delivery that may not have been part of your post-cesarean experience.
Depending on your labor and the integrity of your pelvic floor, it may take up to several weeks for the tender, stretched-out feelings to subside. There are several things you can do during pregnancy to help strengthen your pelvic floor, but make sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about starting any exercises immediately postpartum. There are a few gentle exercises, such as kegels, that are typically considered safe. However, the weeks following birth are a vulnerable time for your organs and muscles, so it is important to be very gentle to your body and allow it time to heal.
Really, the theme of recovering from a vbac is very similar to that of any birth experience: rest, have support lined up, and make sure to take care of yourself! Caring for a newborn is a big job, and you’ll need to make sure you are giving yourself ample opportunity to recover, no matter how you birth your baby.