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C-Section Recovery Time and Tips
Updated on
September 11, 2023

C-Section Recovery Time and Tips

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C-Section Recovery Time and Tips.
C-Section Recovery Time and Tips

Whether you had a planned c-section or a surprise one, recovering from your baby’s cesarean birth (aka c-section) can require extra time and care. In addition to normal post-birth symptoms like postpartum bleeding and cramping, you’ll also have an incision to care for. From recovery timeline to tips and tricks to help things go smoothly, here’s everything to know.

C-Section Recovery

“Cesarean section recovery is usually longer than vaginal delivery recovery because it’s [a] major surgery,” Tora Spigner, a registered labor and delivery nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, tells Babylist. In other words, it’s going to take some time for you to heal.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, most people stay in the hospital for two to four days following a c-section birth. Once you’re discharged, you’ll most likely see your doctor two or three weeks later to check on your incision and to make sure you’re healing well. Full c-section recovery varies but it typically takes about four to six weeks to regain some semblance of normalcy.

C-Section Incision Care

Your c-section scar might be painful at first. But with proper care and time, the pain should lessen. The main things to keep in mind are, “Here’s what to know about caring for your incision.

Healing: It can take up to three months for it to fully heal. Keep your incision clean, and avoid scrubbing or otherwise irritating it. Depending on the type of c-section scar—a horizontal or a vertical incision—and how your wound was closed (with stiches, staples or surgical glue), your doctor may have you apply first aid ointment or Vaseline; others may want you to keep it uncovered.

Allowing your incision to breathe helps with healing as well, so wear breathable fabrics to give your scar a chance to air out. Stay away from treatments for fading the scar’s appearance until it’s fully healed—and get the go-ahead from the doc first.

Pain: In addition to your incision hurting, you also may experience cramping as your uterus shrinks. If you’re feeling sore, most over-the-counter pain medications—ibuprofen and acetaminophen, for example—are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding, or your healthcare provider may prescribe something. You can also try applying a heating pad on a low setting to your abdomen to help ease discomfort.

Doctor visits: Make sure you’re going to all your appointments for getting your incision checked and removing stitches (if they’re not the dissolvable kind).

C-section infection: If the c-section incision is red, swollen or has pus, it’s likely infected, so call your doctor immediately.

C-Section Recovery Tips

We know it’s hard to take care of yourself when you have a newborn in the house. These items can help keep you comfortable during your c-section recovery:

  • Stool softeners and/or a fiber supplement or fiber-rich foods (constipation is common after a cesarean delivery)
  • Pain relief medication, as recommended by your doctor
  • Heating pad on a low setting
  • Ice pack (this can help if you’re experiencing itching around your incision area)
  • Super-absorbent menstrual pads for postpartum bleeding
  • Antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly for your incision, if recommended by your doctor
  • Gauze pads and first aid tape, if covering the incision is recommended by your doctor
  • Water bottle (staying hydrated can help with constipation issues you may experience)
  • A c-section-friendly belly band or belt to help support your abdomen while you’re healing

If you’re still experiencing pain or discomfort once your incision has healed

Commonly Asked Questions About C-Section Recovery

You’re probably wondering when you’ll be ready to get back to regular daily activities. “Usually you can resume some activities 2-3 weeks after a c-section,” says Spigner, but recommends “[taking] it easy as long as you can.”

When can I drive again?

You won’t be ready to drive for at least two weeks after having a c-section. You’ll need to be able to brake without feeling any pain in your abdomen before getting behind the wheel.

Will I be able to breastfeed my baby?

You can absolutely still breastfeed your baby if you’ve had a c-section. The trick will be finding a comfortable way to hold your baby while nursing them. You’ll want to position baby so they’re not pressing against your incision. The football hold and side-lying are two post-c-section-friendly breastfeeding positions you can try. Some people find nursing pillows to be really helpful too.

How long should I wait to take a bath?

In general, it’s recommended to stay away from baths, swimming pools and hot tubs after any major surgery–and cesareans fall into this category. Until your incision has healed, you’ll want to stick to showers.

When will I be able to exercise again?

Your doctor will probably have you to get up and walk within 24 hours of giving birth—but just to the bathroom or down the hospital hallway. Walking and moving around will help you heal, but keep your activity level low, until you get the go-ahead for exercise from your healthcare provider. That will likely be at least four to six weeks post-birth. Until then, don’t lift anything heavier than your baby, and get help with household chores like vacuuming and laundry, if you can. Once you get the OK from the doctor, you’ll likely want to start slowly with gentle exercises like walking, yoga and swimming.

__When can I have sex after a c-section? __

Most doctors recommend waiting at least four to six weeks after birth to have sex. You can check with them at one of your postnatal checkups to see if your incision has healed well enough and get the general OK to have sex from a medical standpoint. Of course, emotionally you may need longer, so don’t feel like this time frame is set in stone.

When to See a Doctor

In addition to your follow-up appointments, it’s important to call or see your doctor any time you suspect you’re not healing well or you could be experiencing an infection. Here are some signs your incision has become infected:

  • Pus or liquid at the incision
  • Redness at the incision
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Swelling at the incision or in your lymph nodes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Any severe or unusual pain in your abdomen, or in your groin or leg area, is a sign that you should see a doctor right away.

You definitely want to get checked out if you experience:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Depression, unusual sadness or troubling thoughts
  • Excessive vaginal bleeding (soaking through more than one pad every two hours)
  • Vaginal bleeding that gets heavier or is bright red more than four days after the birth
  • Your incision comes open
  • Vaginal blood clots larger than a golf ball
  • Difficulty going to the bathroom

It’s OK to call your doctor when you’re in doubt about any symptom or problem. They’re here to help you recover following your c-section, so you can focus on taking care of yourself and your new baby.


Babylist Staff


Babylist editors and writers are parents themselves and have years of experience writing and researching, coming from media outlets like Motherly, the SF Chronicle, the New York Times and the Daily Beast, and the fields of early childhood education and publishing. We research and test hundreds of products, survey real Babylist parents and consult reviews in order to recommend the best products and gear for your growing family.

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