Having a caesarean is a major operation so you’ll need to take it easy afterwards. Here we share some caesarean birth recovery tips to help you heal.
1. Taking care of yourself
With a newborn baby in your life it can be easy to prioritise their needs above your own, but you also need to focus on yourself and get enough rest and support so your body can heal.
Take it easy and ask for help if you need it. Making time to look after yourself is important – having a bath, taking a nap, or going for a short walk can all support emotional wellbeing and physical recovery.
- Physical wellbeing – get plenty of rest, don't lift anything heavier than your baby, eat healthily and keep hydrated (NHS, 2019a).
- Emotional wellbeing – the postnatal period can trigger lots of different thoughts and emotions, as you reflect on and process your birth experience. If you need emotional support, you could contact a peer support service, or many hospitals offer a birth reflections service. Some independent midwives will also review maternity notes with you to help you understand what happened and why.
2. Organise help (and accept it)
Sometimes it feels difficult to ask for and accept help, but now is the time to draw on the support of your friends and family to help out however you need it.
We are not all fortunate enough to have family or friends living close by, but think about who you could ask for help, so you can focus on resting and recovering from surgery, and bonding with your baby.
If you don’t have anyone nearby, you might want to consider hiring a postnatal doula. They’re trained to support you after birth and can often provide support with breastfeeding or bottle feeding, if you want it. They can help you with your recovery and answer any questions you might have about your baby. They often have lots of local information and are happy to provide whatever support you need in the home too. A few hours of doula support could be a great gift to a new family!
If planning a caesarean birth, you could consider the tasks your support network could do ahead of time, like freezing meals, and decide who could help with which tasks.
If you don’t have a local support network, ask your health visitor or contact your local children’s centre to find out if any support is available locally. 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.
3. Get moving
It’s important to be mobile after having a caesarean to help prevent the risk of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis, and aid healthy recovery (NHS 2019a, NHS 2019b; Sheedy et al 2022). You’ll be encouraged to get out of bed in hospital as soon as you regain feeling in your legs and feel able to walk (NHS 2019a).
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 a sitting position. It may be helpful to have a midwife or birth partner close by the first few times you stand up, in case you feel lightheaded and/or wobbly.
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.
Gentle exercise, such as walking, can start as soon as possible, moving on to gentle swimming or yoga from six weeks, depending on how recovery is going (NHS 2019b). Stronger exercise may need to wait longer for internal healing and you can discuss this with your midwife or GP.
4. Attend postnatal check ups
Your midwife or health visitor should give you information about recovering from a caesarean. This may include practical information about how to clean your wound, when to return to your usual activities and when to seek medical advice.
Each hospital trust is different, but most offer contact with a midwife every day for the first few days after a baby has been born. These are good opportunities to discuss recovery, and check the wound is healing well.
You will be offered an appointment after around five days to a week to remove any stitches or staples, if they are not the dissolving kind.
You will be offered midwifery support for at least the first 10 days, before being discharged. Every recovery is different, and the length of time support is offered should be personal to your birth and recovery.
You will also be offered a postnatal check with your GP at six to eight weeks after birth, which is another opportunity to seek guidance and support with recovery.
5. Don't rush back behind the wheel
Wait to get back to driving until you feel up to it. You might have to wait six weeks or longer to get back behind the wheel (NHS 2019a).
It’s worth checking with your insurance company if they have a policy on driving after a caesarean.
The DVLA suggests that a doctor should be able to say when a driver is likely to be able to drive again, but in practice, a midwife or GP would say that you can begin driving again when you feel you have recovered from the surgery. It would be a good idea to wait until you feel physically able and comfortable to perform an emergency stop.
6. Know when to seek medical advice
Although rare, it’s important to know the signs of possible infection or deep vein thrombosis following a caesarean birth.
Contact your local maternity assessment centre or your GP immediately if you experience any of the following:
- severe pain
- pain when weeing
- a cough or shortness of breath
- pain or swelling in your lower leg
- discharge, pus or bad-smelling fluid from the caesarean wound
- heavy vaginal bleeding, or large clots
- the wound becomes red, swollen and painful
- fever, high temperature, or you feel very unwell (NHS 2019a)
If you can’t get through to your doctor, call 111 for advice or an emergency appointment.
This page was last reviewed in April 2022
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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). (20162021) Miscellaneous conditions: assessing fitness to drive. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/miscellaneous-conditions-assessing-fitness-to-drive [Accessed 26th April 2022].
NICE. (2021) Caesarean section. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng192/resources/caesarean-birth-pdf-66142078788805 [Accessed 26th April 2022]
NHS (2018) Sex and Contraception after birth. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/sex-and-contraception-after-birth/ [Accessed 26th April 2022]
NHS Choices. (2019a) Caesarean section: recovery. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/ [Accessed 26th April 2022]
NHS (2019b) Keeping fit and healthy with a baby. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/keeping-fit-and-healthy-with-a-baby
NHS (2021) Your Body after birth. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/after-the-birth/your-body/ [Accessed 26th April 2022]
RCOG (2015) Reducing the Risk of
Venous Thromboembolism during Pregnancy and the Puerperium . Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/media/qejfhcaj/gtg-37a.pdf [Accessed 26th April 2022]
Sheedy G, Stulz V, Stevens J, (2022) Exploring outcomes for women and neonates having skin-to-skin contact during caesarean birth: A quasi-experimental design and qualitative study, Women and Birth. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1871519222000117 [Accessed 26th April 2022]