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Diet Tips for Mothers After Cesarean Delivery

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Diet Tips for Mothers After Cesarean Delivery
A smiling mother holding her baby. Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Almost 33 percent of mothers who gave birth in 2013 had a Cesarean section, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you're one of these women, how you treat your body in the days, weeks and months following the birth affects your rate of recovery, energy and body shape. A C-section is major abdominal surgery, and it involves cutting through the abdominal wall and uterus to birth a baby. Recovery requires optimal nutrition for healing. Proper nutrition will also help you to drop weight gained during pregnancy -- when, of course, your body is ready.

Diet Immediately Following a C-Section

You'll be allowed to consume only ice chips in the hours after a C-section and may experience nausea that can persist for a few days, especially if you had general anesthesia. Depending on your progress, your doctor will permit a clear liquid diet and then real food. It's important that you can pass gas, an indication of a working intestinal tract, before you transition to whole foods. Gentle walking as soon as you are able helps improve circulation and gets the digestive tract working normally.

Expect it to take several days for you to have a bowel movement. Any narcotics given post C-section may also contribute to constipation, which may last more than a few days. Focus on high-fiber choices such as whole grains, fresh vegetables and beans when you can eat solid foods. Hydrate thoroughly and have an occasional glass of juice, especially prune juice, to get things moving.

Diet Tips for Mothers in the First Few Weeks After a Cesarean

It takes about six weeks to completely heal from a C-section -- possibly longer if you experienced complications. At first you may still look slightly pregnant, but your uterus will return to its normal size in time. Don't try to diet and lose weight, during the first six weeks because your body is still healing. Also, if you're breast-feeding, your milk supply is just getting established, and you need adequate calories and nutrients to feed you and your baby.

Balanced meals containing lean proteins, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits -- especially those with vitamin C, which helps with healing -- low-fat dairy and whole grains should comprise most meals. Avoid relying on take-out, frozen dinners or other processed foods. Instead, prepare easy-to-make meals such as roast chicken breasts, salads, pre-chopped vegetables and whole-grain pasta. Enjoy healthy snacks, such as fruit, a handful of nuts or low-fat yogurt.

Nutrition in the Months After a Cesarean Delivery

Every woman loses pregnancy weight at a different rate. By six months, much of what you gained will probably be gone if you've been eating well. If you gained 35 pounds or more, you might need 10 or 12 months to drop the extra weight. Breastfeeding naturally boosts your daily calorie burn to help you lose weight.

Wait on any concentrated effort to lose weight until six weeks after surgery and talk to your doctor before starting any diet. Eating between 500 and 750 calories less than you burn daily will lead to a weight loss of 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per week. Exercise helps, too. For example, go for a walk with the stroller or hire a sitter while you hit the gym. Avoid fad diets, which compromise your energy, metabolic rate, and your breast-milk quality -- if you're nursing your baby.

Long-Term Expectations

Having a baby can cause permanent changes to your body. A C-section leaves a scar, while pregnancy can leave stretch marks and slightly more saggy breasts. For some women, the extra abdominal fat that develops around the site of your C-section scar never fully disappears. A C-section doesn't mean you'll never have a flat tummy, though. It's easier to achieve one post-pregnancy if you exercised and ate right during pregnancy, kept weight gain to about 30 pounds and then breast-fed your infant. Consult a doctor or see a dietitian for detailed advice if you need help with a weight loss plan.

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