News

Innovation opportunities in C-Section recovery

14th April 2023

Striving to make post-caesarean care more wonderful

Imagine if we could re-address how we care for women approaching and recovering from a C-section. What if it was more considered, or even more wonderful? Rather than expecting them to have a typical post-partum pattern, why not acknowledge the extraordinary, and at times, unwanted circumstances they’ve been through?

Image credit: Erin Patel http://www.erinpatel.com/

Whilst every 4th trimester comes with extreme challenges, the nature of recovering from major surgery whilst entering a new life chapter gives rise to a complex layering of physical and emotional effects, which have been underserved.

According to the WHO, caesarean sections are rising globally, now accounting for 21% of all childbirths and is set to increase to 29% by 2030.(1) With those significant numbers and the clear gap in support, it’s time to start seeing these women.

Uncovering more

We explored this in more detail by sitting down with five women who gave birth via c-section, between 4 months and 8 years ago. Their experiences covered emergency intervention and planned surgery.

What we learned

Within our group, none of the mothers-to-be had spent significant time in the hospital setting, let alone faced the prospect of major surgery. They described feelings of shock, fear and helplessness, whether it was a planned or emergency C-section.

Birthing through caesarean section is not the ‘easy option’ and the road ahead is long. With every step afterwards, from 1 hour post operation to many months later, something else emerges: the need for self-administered stomach injections and a wound to care for, to potential unforeseen heavy bleeding, abdominal difficulties and deteriorating mental health.

The consequences are immediate and limiting. Our group described an undignified sense of failure, as simple tasks become challenging, and lifting, breast feeding or bonding with the baby can be tough.

With all childbirth, society has a tendency to focus on the new life. The baby’s condition is scrutinised, but the women are often considered secondary. The loss of identity many new mothers face can be exacerbated after such a procedure.

Whilst hospital procedures are for the most part out of our control, the period prior to admission and the time back home are rich in potential to serve mothers who go through a C-section.

The opportunity

Whilst there are plenty of services for women in pregnancy, general post-partum and some stand-alone C-section products, how can we create an empathetic, overall experience to ease post C-section mothers out of the professional but transactional experience they’ve just been through?

We think the key is a unique staggered experience – ‘the right thing, at the right time’ – reducing the complexity and overwhelm associated with the lengthy post-caesarean period.

What if there was a kit with physical and digital elements that are revealed over time?

It would address what might be needed prior to the C-section, on the first days back home, to many months later. By combining aspects of clear information & guidance, dignified care, a supportive ‘village’ and curated ‘me’moments we could enable new mothers to control their care and feel seen.

Lead up (pre-planned C-section)

Medical advice or a previous procedure can mean a C-section is expected, allowing for some planning and preparation.

  • Imagine if there was a printed guide that honestly summarised what to expect at each hospital stage: waiting areas, the operating theatre, and a post-operation ward.

We’re aware that those who have emergency intervention will not necessarily gain from this section.

Subacute (1 – 5 days back home):

The first hours back home can be emotionally overwhelming, physically tentative but also tedious and sedentary.

  • Imagine if the next chapter of the guide helped initiate light mobility around the home: how to comfortably hold & feed the baby and navigate basic tasks simply and safely.

  • Imagine if an adjacent phone app prompted women, or partners to administer the stomach injections on the right schedule.

  • Imagine if the medical compression socks given post C-section resembled lifestyle socks instead.

  • Imagine if those first nights navigating sleep with an abdominal wound were soothed with calming pillow spray and a personalised healing tea blend.

Early recovery (2 – 8 weeks back home):

As new life patterns form and the body improves, previous freedoms start to be recalled and frustrations of feeling restricted start to emerge.

  • Imagine if the guide clearly explained when and what exercise you can do.

  • Imagine if the app initiated a C-section community platform when the women was ready to share and learn from her experience with others.

  • Imagine if we could provide shaped scar strips, curated in different skin tones, to offer protection and reassurance to a delicate area.

  • Imagine if we introduced relaxing bath infusions, at the time it’s safer to take a bath, or a melt in shower version for those without a bath.

Long term realisation (3 – 6+ months):

The reality of the physical and psychological trauma can be delayed and understanding how to come to terms with it can fall into focus much later.

  • Imagine if the guide concluded with focused pelvic floor AND abdominal exercises, to reintegrate the abdominal muscles and increase strength.

  • Imagine if the app sent a scheduled notification at 3 months to suggest women seek out specialised physio or talk therapy and provided relevant local contact details.

  • Imagine if there was a nourishing balm to encourage loving touch of the sensitive skin around their scar.

  • Imagine if we included a reflection journal, to encourage quiet moments to acknowledge and process what has happened.

Image credit: Erin Patel http://www.erinpatel.com/

Who could ‘own’ this opportunity and deliver the most impact?

We think an existing brand could credibly extend into this space to bring new value to those who need it. What space that brand comes from, is up for grabs.

Could it be a trusted skincare brand with the existing knowledge of women’s bodies? Or could it be a FemTech brand, that already has the digital infrastructure and client base to make huge impact? It could even be a menstrual tracking app, who wish to bridge their audience through a gap in usage?

How could this approach be available to as many as possible? There could be private / public model, where for every kit purchased or gifted, a kit is donated to a state healthcare service or insurance provider – making sure we ‘see’ more women after their caesarean.

References

(1) https://www.who.int/news/item/16-06-2021-caesarean-section-rates-continue-to-rise-amid-growing-inequalities-in-access

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About Studio Every

We create clarity from complexity. Defining where brands should go next, then depicting how to get there.

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