Having a caesarean is a major operation so you’ll need to take it easy afterwards. Here we share some c-section recovery tips to help you heal.
You might find you recover relatively quickly from a caesarean birth, or you might take longer to heal. Whatever happens, it’s important you take the time to rest and recover.
You might also find the recovery emotional as you process what’s happened. This is particularly the case with women who had an unexpected or emergency caesarean. So you’ll need to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally to recover well.
If things are tough, just remember, you’re never alone. Have a look at our support page if you need practical or emotional support, or make an appointment to see your GP.
Here are ten tips for recovery after a caesarean birth
1. Taking care of yourself
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 (NHS Choices, 2016; Tommy’s 2018).
Try to take it easy when you can and ask for help if you need it (Tommy’s 2018).
2. Managing pain and bleeding
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 (NCCHCW, 2011).
When you get home, you can continue to take suitable pain relief. You could take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen if you need (NICE, 2011). It’s normal to experience vaginal bleeding after a caesarean birth. Use sanitary pads rather than tampons to help reduce the risk of infection (NHS, 2016).
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.
3. Caring for your wound
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 (Tommy’s, 2018). Most women find their scar fades over time to a feint line barely visible and usually below their bikini line (NHS Choices, 2016; Tommy’s 2018).
4. Use your support network
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. For example, a charity like HomeStart might be able to offer practical help.
It’s also a good idea to contact your local NCT branch to see what NCT support and social groups are nearby.
5. Get moving
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) (NCCHCW, 2011; NICE, 2011). You’ll be encouraged to get out of bed in hospital (NHS, 2016).
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 (Tommy’s, 2017).
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.
6. Make yourself comfortable
In the weeks following a caesarean you may find it more comfortable to wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes (NCCHCW, 2011). 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.
7. Healthy eating
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 (NHS Choices, 2018). It also makes sure you get all the required nutrients so your body can heal well (NHS Choices, 2018).
8. Follow caesarean recovery advice
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 (NICE, 2011). This includes not lifting a pram up or down steps, not carrying your baby in a car seat and not carrying heavy shopping.
Make sure you don’t overdo it – ask for help when you need it (NHS Choices, 2016).
9. Driving and exercising after a caesarean
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 (NHS Choices, 2016).
The same goes for having sex. Only get back to these activities when you feel ready to (NHS Choices, 2016).
It’s worth checking with your insurance company if they have a policy on driving after a caesarean (Tommy’s, 2018). The DVLA states that your doctor should deem you safe to drive again after an operation. You should make sure you’re insured and you should be confident you will be able to perform an emergency stop safely (DVLA, 2016).
10. Know when to seek medical advice
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 (NICE, 2011).
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 (NHS Choices, 2018). If you can’t get through to your doctor, call 111 for advice.
You should contact your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have any symptoms you’re concerned about or that are worsening.
This page was last reviewed in June 2018
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Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Find out more about HomeStart - a family support charity that offers practical support to parents.
NICE provides evidence-based recommendations about caesarean.
DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). (2016) Miscellaneous conditions: assessing fitness to drive. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/miscellaneous-conditions-assessing-fitness-to-drive [Last accessed 25 September 2018].
NICE. (2011) Caesarean section. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg132/resources/caesarean-section-pdf-35109507009733 [Last accessed 25 September 2018].
NCCWCH. (2011) Caesarean section. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg132/evidence/full-guideline-184810861 [Last accessed 25 September 2018].
NHS Choices. (2016) Caesarean section: recovery. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/ [Last accessed 25 September 2018].
NHS Choices. (2018) Your body just after the birth. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/you-after-birth/#going-to-the-toilet [Last accessed 25 September 2018].
Tommy’s. (2018) Recovering at home after a c-section. Available from: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/labour-birth/caesarean-section/recovering-home-after-c-section [Last accessed 25 September 2018].