C-section is one of the most common surgeries in the world (1). It is one of the major surgical procedures that demand special post-operative care for recovery. Therefore, a well-balanced nutritious meal is important and must be planned with the help of a dietician or nutritionist. This will ensure a speedy recovery and also support optimum breastmilk production for your newborn baby.
In this post, MomJunction tells you about the various nutrients that you need after a c-section, how to include these nutrients in the diet, and other tips.
Why Is Nutrition Essential Post Delivery?
Whether it is a normal delivery or a C-section, optimum nutrition speeds up the recovery and improves your energy levels.
According to the Dietary Guidelines published by the US Department of Agriculture and endorsed by the American Dietetic Association, new mothers, who are breastfeeding, might require an additional daily intake of 450-500K calories. They also need additional amounts of vitamins and minerals (2).
A higher intake is recommended for women who are breastfeeding more than one baby or are underweight or who regularly indulge in physical activity. This is important to meet the nutritional needs of the mother and the growing baby.
Essential Nutrients To Have After Cesarean Delivery
A balanced diet supplies you with all the macro and micro nutrients that are required for you and your growing baby. Here are some of the nutrients that you need on your road to recovery after delivery – both normal and C-section (3).
Proteins aid in the growth of new cell tissues and help in the healing process. Protein-rich foods facilitate tissue repair and maintain muscle strength after the surgery. You can eat fish, eggs, chicken, dairy foods, meat, peas, dried beans, and nuts. These foods provide high-quality protein, which would also be the source of essential amino acids that are crucial for you and your baby (4).
Calcium aids in the relaxation of muscles, strengthens bones and teeth, and helps in blood coagulation. The deficiency of calcium impacts bone-density and could also lead to the development of osteoporosis. Therefore, it is important to include good sources of calcium in your diet (7).
Some of the good sources of calcium are milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, kale, and spinach. The recommended daily intake of calcium for lactating women of ages 14 to 18 is 1,300mg, and for those older than 19 years is 1,000mg per day.
During breastfeeding, 250 to 350mg of calcium is transferred to the newborn (8).
Note: Vitamin-D is important to enhance the bioavailability of calcium. Therefore, it is wise to ensure that you include vitamin-D enriched foods in your diet, along with calcium-rich foods. You could also try sunbathing, which is another effective way to enhance vitamin-D levels.
Iron is essential to maintain hemoglobin levels in the mother. Whereas for infants, it is required to support proper neurological development (9). However, its demand during lactation is less when compared to pregnancy (7). To meet the needs, you could include iron-rich foods, such as egg yolk, red meat, oysters, figs, beef liver, dried beans, and dry fruits.
While you plan to add iron-rich sources of food in your diet, practice caution, as an excess of iron can cause constipation. This could be an added concern in the early weeks after the surgery.
The recommended dietary allowance for iron is 10mg per day for women of ages 14 to 18 years, and 9mg per day for those older than 19 years (10).
4. Vitamins C
The recommended daily allowance is 115mg for lactating women of 14 to 18 years, and 120mg for those above 19 years (11).
Vitamin C helps strengthen your and your baby’s immune system. Optimum levels of vitamin-C are important for a mother post delivery, as it could support prompt healing by boosting collagen production. Whereas for babies, it is a key milk antioxidant that could help fight infections (11).
Breast-fed infants are well protected against vitamin-C deficiency (12). Thus, it is important that a mother’s diet includes vitamin-C rich fruits and veggies, such as oranges, melons, papayas, strawberries, grapefruits, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Note: Vitamin-C is important to enhance the bioavailability of iron. Thus, it is wise to include vitamin C-rich foods along with iron-rich foods in your diet. For example, you can have spinach sandwiches with lemon water or eat an orange after a meal with kale and other iron-rich foods.
3. Multivitamins and multiminerals
Recovering after a cesarean section is very important and warrants proper nutritional care of the mother to ensure effective care of the baby. Therefore, it is wise to consume a well-balanced diet, rightly planned with the help of a nutritionist. Also, you should follow the course of multivitamins and multiminerals as prescribed by your doctor.
Fiber mitigates constipation, which, otherwise, causes undue pressure on the incisions formed after c-section. Thus, a diet rich in fiber is crucial. You could include plenty of whole grains, raw fruits and veggies, as they add roughage to your diet (13).
However, as you increase fiber in your diet, remember to maintain optimum water intake, as too much fiber could counteract, especially with less intake of water.
- Drink water and fresh juices and soups to avoid dehydration and constipation. Fluids help in smooth bowel movement and recovery from the surgery. In addition to water, you may have low-fat milk, non-citrus juices (unsweetened), herbal teas, coconut water, and buttermilk.
- You may cook and consume fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and eggs that provide zinc. It could also act as a good source of vitamin-E for your breastfeeding baby.
- Milk is not only an excellent source of calcium but also promotes the production of breastmilk. Cottage cheese, broth, and yogurt are good sources of calcium too. Yogurt supplies your body with calcium and zinc. In case you are lactose intolerant or a vegan, you can try other sources of calcium such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, sesame seeds, etc. (14).
- You can also consult your nutritionist and try to include some spices and condiments that have known medicinal properties to support healing after cesarean delivery. For example, fenugreek, milk thistle, coriander seeds, fennel, Shatavari, etc. could be helpful post delivery (15). These are not only known for their galactagogue properties but are also believed to heal the mother’s body after delivery.
- You can include clarified butter or ghee in your diet if you wish to. Generally, ghee is purported to develop heat and thus delay healing of the incision post c-section. However, there are no known studies to support this belief. Therefore, it would be wise to consult your nutritionist and consume ghee, which is a good source of conjugated linolenic acid, omega-3, omega-6, vitamin-A, D, and K. All these are essential nutrients for the mother as well as the breastfeeding baby (16).
Even as you take care to include healthy foods in your diet, you need to eliminate or avoid certain unhealthy foods.
Foods To Avoid After C-Section
You should avoid highly processed, refined, high-fat foods, especially because your physical activity is low after C-section. They may just add to your weight. Avoid spicy foods as they can lead to gastric problems. Maintain variety in your diet and consume everything in moderation.
Here are a few more foods that are best avoided:
- Carbonated drinks, which may cause gas and flatulence.
- Citrus juices should be taken with caution. You may take them in small amounts and then increase to moderate quantities.
- Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea have diuretic properties. Therefore, have them moderately.
- Continue to stay away from alcohol as it can impair your ability to produce milk.
- If you have bloating and gas, then you may stop eating gas-forming foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lady’s finger and onions, for a few days. You may also eat white lentils, red kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed beans, and green peas in small quantities and one variety at a time.
- Avoid spicy foods, especially the ones not prepared at home.
- Avoid cold foods and drinks. They may make you catch a cold.
Things To Remember
Follow these basic tips to ensure you get the best out of what you eat:
- Have small meals throughout the day instead of consuming three heavy meals.
- Avoid gulping down your food. Instead, take some time to chew it slowly. It may be difficult for you to have a relaxing meal while having a newborn around, but you can ask your family members to look after your baby for some time.
- With a newborn, you may not get enough sleep. So, try to rest whenever possible. Sleep will help your body repair and heal better.
- Try to eat home-cooked meals as you can include lots of fresh ingredients.
Whether it is C-section or vaginal delivery, diet plays an important role in your recovery. Remember, the body is healing from the major birthing process and needs all the support that it can get. Along with a nutritious diet, you need to have enough sleep, rest, and some slight exercise as advised by your doctor.
2. When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume?; National Institute of Health; U.S Department of Health and Human Service
3. Michelle A. Kominiarek; Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation; NCBI (2016)
4. Amino acids; Medline Plus; U.S National Library of Medicine
5. How much protein do you need every day?; Harvard Health Publishing
6. Promoting Nutrition for Pregnant and Breast-Feeding Women; Eat Right; American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
7. Meeting Maternal Nutrient Needs During Lactation; Nutrition During Lactation; National Center For Biotechnology Information
8. Calcium; National Institute of Health; US Department of Health and Human Services
9. Iron; Breastfeeding: Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
10. Iron; National Institutes of Health; US Department of Health and Human Services
11. Vitamin C; National Institutes of Health; US Department of Health and Human Services
12. Salmenperä L.; Vitamin C nutrition during prolonged lactation: optimal in infants while marginal in some mothers.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
13. Recovery after a cesarean birth; Kaiser Permanente (2019)
14. Calcium; Eat Right; American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
15. Rania MohamedAbdou and MonaFathey; Evaluation of early postpartum fenugreek supplementation on expressed breast milk volume and prolactin levels variation; Science Direct
16. 9 Health Benefits of Ghee; ECPI University