Recovering from a C-Section Delivery
It takes longer to recover from a caesarean birth than it does a vaginal delivery – usually around six weeks in total – so despite having a newborn to look after you do still need to make sure you have plenty of rest, and that you really take care of your post-op body.
Your midwife should advise you on how to look after your wound. You'll usually be advised to:
Gently clean and dry the wound every day.
Wear loose, comfortable clothes and cotton underwear.
Take painkillers for as long as you need them if you are feeling any discomfort. Paracetamol is usually recommended for mild pain, co-codamol for moderate pain, and a combination of co-codamol and ibuprofen for more severe pain.
Watch out for signs of infection such as extra soreness, redness or discharge, or if the wound feels hot to the touch. Tell your midwife if you spot these signs, if you feel feverish, or if it looks like the wound is coming apart.
Non-dissolvable stitches or staples will usually be taken out by your midwife after five to seven days. After about six weeks, your scar will be healed and you'll likely be able to resume all regular activity without disturbing it. Giving yourself at least six weeks of healing time allows the incision lines to mature, so that when strenuous activities are performed, the integrity is not compromised.
Wear loose fitting clothing and underwear – You’ll want to avoid putting too much pressure on your healing scar so it’s best to either wear underwear a size bigger or you can buy special underwear that fit over the area.
Take things slowly - You might find your tummy feels quite sore doing mundane things like walking up and down stairs, and getting in and out of a chair or bed – so take things gently and slowly. Keep everything you need, like diaper changing supplies and food, close to you so that you don’t have to get up too often. Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby. Whenever you have to sneeze or cough, hold your abdomen to protect the incision site.
Eat fibre-rich food – Eating food rich in fibre will help to avoid constipation and keep everything moving. Make sure that also drink plenty of fluids as this will help prevent constipation
You'll need to use maternity pads after your caesarean, because you will have some bleeding from your womb (lochia) just as you would after a vaginal birth, although the blood loss may be lighter.
If your caesarean was an emergency, your medical team may first have tried to help your baby be born with ventouse or forceps. If so, you're likely to have a sore area between your vagina and back passage (perineum) especially if you've had stitches. You can follow our tips for perineum care.
Most importantly get plenty of rest. A C-section is major surgery and just like with any surgery, your body needs time to heal afterward.
While physical recovery from a C-section is usually straight forward, how you will recovery emotionally will really depend on what happened before and during your baby's birth and what your birth expectations were.
It is ok to feel up upset or disappointed that you didn't have a vaginal birth if that's what you were hoping for especially if you’ve had to have an emergency caesarean. If you’ve had to spend time in intensive care you may feel that you’ve missed out on those first precious moments with your newborn.
It may help your emotional recovery to talk about the reasons why your caesarean was necessary with your midwife or maternity unit counsellor which will give you the opportunity to talk through your birth experience and raise any concerns about future births.
On the other hand, you may just be glad the birth is over and grateful that you and your baby are well. Many mums recover quickly and accept their caesarean as a part of their baby's birth story.