Recovering from a caesarean usually takes longer than recovering from a vaginal delivery.
The average stay in hospital after a caesarean is around 3 or 4 days, compared with an average of 1 or 2 days for a vaginal birth.
You may experience some discomfort in your tummy for the first few days. You'll be offered painkillers to help with this.
When you go home, you'll need to take things easy at first. You may need to avoid some activities, such as driving, until you have had your postnatal check-up with the doctor at 6 weeks.
The wound in your tummy will eventually form a scar. This may be obvious at first, but it should fade with time and will often be hidden in your pubic hair.
The average stay in hospital after a caesarean is around 3 or 4 days.
You may be able to go home sooner than this if both you and your baby are well.
While you are in hospital:
When you're well enough to go home, you'll need to arrange for someone to give you a lift as you will not be able to drive for a few weeks.
It may take about six weeks to recover from your caesarean section (c-section). If you had any problems during or after your c-section, or if you are looking after other children at home, you may feel you need more time to recover.
Gentle exercise, such as walking, will help you recover from your c-section. But avoid anything more active until you have no pain and you feel ready. For example, avoid driving, carrying anything heavy, doing heavy housework, such as vacuuming, or having sex until you feel able to. You will need help with carrying your baby in their car seat and with lifting their pram. Check with your insurance company when you will be covered for driving after a c-section.
With a newborn baby in your life it can be easy to prioritise their needs above your own. Yet you also need to focus on yourself and get enough rest and support so your wound heals well.
Your body will need time to recover physically from a c-section operation and you’ll need to recover emotionally. It can take around six weeks to recover, sometimes longer if you had any complications or you’re busy looking after children at home.
Try to take it easy when you can and ask for help if you need it.
Most women will experience pain for a few days or weeks following a caesarean. In hospital you’ll be offered pain relief if you need it.
When you get home, you can continue to take suitable pain relief. You could take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen if you need. It’s normal to experience vaginal bleeding after a caesarean birth. Use sanitary pads rather than tampons to help reduce the risk of infection.
If you’re concerned about the level of pain or bleeding, or symptoms are getting worse, talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor as soon as you can.
You will have a dressing put on your wound in hospital, which will remain on for at least 24 hours after the caesarean. Ask your midwife or health visitor for advice if you think the dressing needs to be changed or if you have any questions.
Once the dressing is removed, you’ll need to keep the wound clean and dry. A week or so after the operation it might start to itch, which is good news – the wound is starting to heal.
Eventually the wound will form a scar that will fade. Most women find their scar fades over time to a feint line barely visible and usually below their bikini line.
Make sure you ask your friends and family for help. That way you can focus on resting and recovering from the c-section operation. You could ask them to help with shopping, housework or washing up. Or simply ask them to come over to hold your baby while you take a shower. Or ask them to make you a cup of tea.
If you don’t have a local support network then ask your health visitor what support is available locally for parents.
It’s important to get out of bed and get mobile after having a caesarean section to help prevent the risk of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You’ll be encouraged to get out of bed in hospital.
At first it might be painful or uncomfortable getting out of bed. You may find it easier to get out of bed by rolling on your side. You can then put your feet over the edge of the bed and push yourself up to sitting.
When you get home, it’s a good idea to get up and start going for gentle walks when you feel up to it. Over time, you’ll start to feel better.
In the weeks following a caesarean you may find it more comfortable to wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Elasticated waists might rub on your wound. If so, you might prefer to wear loose dresses or trousers with high waists that sit above your wound.
Some women find it more comfortable to wear their pregnancy clothes for a few more weeks while their wound heals. When your wound heals, you’ll find it’s comfortable to start wearing tighter clothes again.
It’s a good idea to eat healthily while you recover from a caesarean. Having plenty of fruit and fibre will also help ensure you avoid any constipation.
You’ll really want to avoid constipation while you recover from a c-section because it can increase discomfort around the waistline near your wound or scar. A healthy balanced and fibre rich diet will help keep your digestion regular. It also makes sure you get all the required nutrients so your body can heal well.
Your midwife or health visitor should give you information about recovering from a caesarean. This will include practical information about how to clean your wound, when to return to your usual activities and when to seek medical advice.
It’s important that you don’t lift anything heavier than your baby in the first few weeks following a caesarean. This includes not lifting a pram up or down steps, not carrying your baby in a car seat and not carrying heavy shopping.
Don’t rush to get back to driving or exercising if you don’t feel up to it. It can take six weeks or longer to feel like returning to these activities.
The same goes for having sex. Only get back to these activities when you feel ready to.
It’s worth checking with your insurance company if they have a policy on driving after a caesarean. You should make sure you’re insured and you should be confident you will be able to perform an emergency stop safely.
Although rare, it’s important to know the signs of possible infection or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) following a c-section. Contact your midwife or doctor for medical advice if you develop: a cough or shortness of breath, pain or swelling in your lower leg.
Also contact your midwife or doctor if: you have heavy vaginal bleeding, your wound is becoming red and painful, you have a high temperature or feel really unwell.
You should contact your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have any symptoms you’re concerned about or that are worsening.