As can be expected with any major surgery, your body is going to need plenty of time to heal following a C-section or vaginal delivery with an episiotomy. Alongside plenty of rest, lots of fluid and being careful with movement new mothers must maintain the nutritional principles that they followed during pregnancy to ensure they not only have enough nutrients for their body to recover but also as a source of nutrition for their baby. While a healthy balanced diet is a great place to start, there are a few key nutrients that are particularly indicated for wound healing and should be focused on post-C-section or episiotomy to support the healing process.
Jacqueline Alwill is an accredited nutritionist, author and mum. Join Jacqueline and nutritionist/herbalist, Brittany Darling in their upcoming workshop in Sydney on Post Natal Nutrition on Tuesday, September 24th. Find tickets here.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is known to enhance wound healing and reduce scarring. It helps to support wound healing by maintaining the structural integrity of skin tissue and aiding in the cell division, which is essential for creating new tissue. Additionally, zinc plays a major role in the immune system and helps to boost immune function which is really important post-surgery. High levels of zinc are found in oysters, sardines, pumpkin seeds, eggs, and red meat.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in the juice and the stem of pineapples that has several skin healing benefits. Studies have shown that bromelain directly impacts pain mediators in the body, decreases bruising and also reduces healing time post-surgery. This makes for an ideal nutrient post-c-section or episiotomy. Bromelain shows that it helps support the immune system by decreasing inflammation and modulating immune responses, helping to reduce the risk of wound infection. While bromelain is edible in the form of fresh pineapple, concentrated bromelain supplements that offer a more concentrated dose. However, it is important to speak to your health care provider before taking any supplements.
The skin healing process is largely dependent on Vitamin C as is an essential molecule for skin health. Vitamin C is particularly important for wound healing as it helps to support collagen synthesis and stimulates the formation and repair of the stratum corneum (most outer layer of skin). Additionally, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect against any free radical damage from injury to the tissues. Gold kiwi fruits, berries citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage are all high sources of Vitamin C.
When there has been an injury to the muscles it is important to think about providing the body with the building blocks it needs to start healing. Protein is broken down into amino acids which are the building blocks required to build and repair tissues. Consuming adequate protein will help reduce the loss of muscle tone, allowing for efficiency in the healing of tissue structures. To ensure you are getting enough protein to remember to include a palm-size serve of protein with each meal. Also, go for those snacks that contain a protein element. High sources of protein include eggs, meat, fish, dairy products, tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds, and legumes. I would also recommend having plenty of organic bone broths and making some collagen gummies to further support wound healing and skin integrity as these are a rich source of glycine, one of the primary amino acids involved in collagen synthesis.
Thinking about bowel movements can be quite daunting following a C-section, hemorrhoids or any other type of stitching you may have had to have done following pregnancy and birth. To reduce stress on the muscles and prevent further damage to tears you must reduce the risk of straining. For easily passable bowel motions we need two key things: plenty of fiber and plenty of water. To ensure you are getting enough fiber, focus on including plenty of cooked vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds complex carbohydrates. You should be aiming for 28 grams per day. For post-birth health, hydration is needed to help move contents through the bowels. Ensure you are drinking plenty of fluid. The water requirement while breastfeeding is 2.6L per day, so get a funky water bottle! Tip: carry it everywhere with you to keep hydrated!
While you’re here, check out our founder Bianca Cheah’s incredible birth story.