There is no clinical evidence which concludes that recovery is longer or more difficult after a second caesarean. That said, anedotally you will always find women who say this was the case for them. For some it may be the surgery itself causing physical difficulties second time round but in many cases it is actually the circumstances around the birth that create the difficulties. By this I mean not only the circumstances at home but also whether or not the second caesarean had been planned.
Please do not underestimate the disappointment and emotional trauma that can follow a failed VBAC attempt (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean). Some women view a vaginal birth not only as their preferred mode of birth but also as a way to expunge the memories of a previous emergency caesarean. So when a second vaginal birth attempt ends in caesarean some women can be left with a lot to deal with emotionally.
However having a young child already at home plays a very particular role too. The extent to which it is possible for you to ‘take it easy’ after this caesarean can vary significantly depending on the age of siblings, how much help you have etc. A young child needs your time and attention and will be making physical demands, not just to be carried or lifted but they will naturally want to play with you and half the time that will mean on the floor. Getting up and down, trying to visit playgroups, do the nursery / school run as well as look after your new baby and run a home means that the circumstances in which you are trying to recover from this caesarean are really very different from the last.
So listen to your body – even quite small twinges should be viewed as your body’s way of telling you you’re doing too much. At the very least they may be telling you to change the way you are doing something or to do it more slowly. The way in which you approach this recovery is very important. You will need to plan even more than last time.
Something as simple as getting everything on one level e.g. the changing mats on your dining table for the first few weeks (then daily bring everything you and your baby need for the day downstairs) so you limit the number of times you go upstairs, manage your toddlers expectations before the birth – start them climbing onto your lap rather than you picking them up etc. I talk about this in lots more detail in my book Caesarean Birth: A positive approach to preparation and recovery.
Speaking personally, I found recovery second time round to be no more difficult than after my first, if anything it was easier:
- I knew what to expect and so did my immediate family
- I didn’t fret about getting off the pain medication as fast as possible
- I knew how to get out of bed and off the sofa without hurting myself
- I had my ‘baby station’ set up downstairs
- My toddler loved ‘helping’ (though I didn’t sell it to her as helping – she thought she was playing games seeing how many things she could fit in her trolley (the muslin, the remote, the telephone, the baby wipes) when all I actually might need was the baby wipes)
Put simply: Be prepared both physically and emotionally.