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Nutrition Tips for Mothers After an Episiotomy or C-Section

The birth of your baby is unforgettable process, but it’s not always an easy one.

Some women will require an assisted delivery to make sure both mother and child are healthy. This process may include a surgical procedure such as an episiotomy or Cesarean section. These surgeries are safe, but they do involve incisions into your body and you’ll need additional time to recover after childbirth.

Part of that healing process will involve a healthy diet. Your body needs carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, water, and other nutrients to support the healing process. Protein is especially important due to its role in the growth and repair of the body’s cells and tissues.

Let’s review these two procedures and discuss some nutrition tips to help with the recovery process.

Episiotomy

Episiotomies were once a routine procedure during childbirth, but today the surgical cut to widen the opening of the vagina is no longer recommended. Still, an episiotomy may be warranted in some scenarios—for instance, if your baby is very large, the delivery requires the use of forceps, or the baby needs to be born as quickly as possible due to health concerns.

Recovering from an episiotomy can be a painful ordeal. The surgical incision is stitched up after birth, and the perineal area (between your vagina and anus) will be very tender. In the first week after the procedure, your best bet is to stay in bed as much as possible, as you’ll likely experience pain while sitting, walking, urinating, or having bowel movements. The pain will dissipate after the first week for some women, but others will continue to experience discomfort for a month or more—especially if the incision or tear is extensive.

Cesarean section

As the number of episiotomies has decreased from its postwar-era high, the number of Cesarean section (C-sections) has skyrocketed to nearly one out of three births. C-sections may be scheduled in advance due to a number of conditions, including a breech baby, multiple births that can’t be safely delivered vaginally, and previous invasive uterine surgery (such as the removal of fibroids). A C-section may also be performed in response to an unforeseen complication that makes continuing or inducing labor dangerous to you or your baby.

A C-section is relatively safe for mother and baby, but it’s still a major operation and your body will need time to recover. According to WebMD, most women go home three to five days after a C-section, but it may take four weeks or longer to fully recover. By contrast, women who deliver vaginally usually go home in a day or two and are back to their normal activities in one to two weeks.

Nutrition

Proper nutrition is critical after a surgery because the body needs additional fuel to support recovery. The best foods to help with healing are full of carbohydrates (which restore energy levels), healthy fats (which improve immune response and aid the body’s absorption of vitamins), vitamins and minerals (which decrease the risk of infection and accelerate healing), and protein.

Protein is an especially important nutrient for recovery, as amino acids from protein support wound healing and tissue regeneration. Protein is not stored in the body, so it’s important to have a daily intake from protein-rich foods, including including beans, salmon, egg whites, peanut butter, low-fat yogurt, and tofu.

Unfortunately, even women who feel they are eating properly may still be protein-deficient. In a recent clinical study, 85% of women in their third trimester had protein levels at or below the minimal protein range.

“Women recovering from the surgical process of delivery require additional protein in their diet,” says Dr. Marc Winter, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Orange Coast Women’s Medical Group. “The first few months following delivery are important to the healing process. Mothers still need the nutritional balance to breastfeed and care for a newborn.”

The only clinically proven product to improve and maintain protein levels while recovering from childbirth is Protiva New Mom. We encourage you to have a discussion with your doctor about your protein levels and whether Protiva is right for you and your baby.

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