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Woman laying in bed and covering her mouth to avoid coughing

C-Section, Cough and Congestion Care

By Amalah

I had an emergency c-section this month, and have been struggling with lung congestion since. It causes me to cough, which is very painful on my c-section wound. Is there any advice you can give me to ease the pain, reduce my congestion or make it easier to cope with?

Thank you so much for your help!

Ugggggh, this brings up such vivid, painful memories! I came down with colds and congestion in the early post-c-section weeks ALL THREE times, and every sneeze and cough felt like a hot burning kick in the gut.

Here are three things that can help:

1. A postpartum belly binder

Once upon a time I thought these things were some kind of silly vanity item, full of false promises of faster weight loss like those stupid “waist training” devices you see the C-list celebs pushing on Instagram. AND THEN I BOUGHT ONE. They help sooooo much with c-section incisions (and postpartum uterine contractions) by providing constant support of your tender abdomen, so movements like getting in and out of bed are less painful. Look for something easy and adjustable so you can cinch it smaller as your belly naturally deflates over the next few weeks and months and continue supporting and protecting your incision.

2. A handy-dandy throw pillow

Keep a small, firm pillow by your side at all times. Anytime you feel a cough coming on, grab it and brace it against your stomach. Like the belly binder, this will help keep your incision from being as affected by the natural movements/heaving that come with along with coughing and sneezing.

3. A humidifier

You probably bought a humidifier for the nursery, right? Break that puppy out and put it in your bedroom. I’m also a big fan of those plug-in vaporizers for general head/chest congestion, particularly for keeping the symptoms down to a minimum at night.

If you’re breastfeeding, here’s a super comprehensive overview of cold and allergy remedies that are safe and recommended for nursing mothers. I can’t speak to the effectiveness of some of the home remedies listed specifically for cough and chest congestion, but there’s at least no harm in trying any of them. You’ll always want to check with your doctor or lactation consultant about anything you take orally (herbal supplements AND OTC medicines), but there are lots of OTC decongestants/antihistamines that are generally considered safe and compatible with breastfeeding. Nasal sprays, saline drops and cough lozenges are also safe to use. (Avoid chest vapor rubs, since you don’t want a newborn breathing it in or getting it on their skin. There’s also some anecdotal stuff out there about it affecting milk supply.)

Final Recommendation

And one last product plug, even though this isn’t directly related to your question: ScarAway Silicone Scar Sheets for C-Sections. They really work! (Read more about my experience here.) And are sooo much easier to use than the creams and other topical treatments that require tons of applications to be fully effective. Slap a sheet on, take it off only to wash it (and your scar) once a day, and then put it back on. Repeat for up to two weeks before replacing the sheet. Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.

More postpartum body advice here:

1. Postpartum Belly Binders: Help or Hype?
2. Postpartum Belly Binding?
3. Sex After a C-Section: What’s “Normal?”

Photo source: Depositphotos/kmiragaya

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Raine
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Raine

I had bronchitis before, during and for a month after my feb c-section. This included coughing so bad I vomited regularly. The only thing that suppressed the cough enough to sleep was codine cough syrup and extra strength mucinex. Yes, we found our later codine isn’t recommended while nursing but the coughing g was so bad no one was sleeping.

Talia
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Talia

Congestion may ease up by working to expand your lungs more, too. After a surgery it’s natural to unconsciously avoid deep breaths that irritate the wound, but this can collapse the lungs a bit and worsen the congestion. To overcome this, practice taking slow deep big breaths any time the thought occurs to you, as much as possible. Ideally after you get the binder 😉 Good luck!!