C-Section Recovery Time and Tips

C-Section Recovery Time and Tips

May 15, 2019

C-Section Recovery Time and Tips

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 can require extra time and care.

In addition to normal post-birth symptoms like postpartum bleeding or lochia and cramping, you’ll also have a sore incision that will have to heal—all while caring for a newborn. Here’s everything you need to know to help yourself fully recover after a c-section.

C-Section Recovery Time

It’s going to take some time for you to heal from your c-section. You’ll probably stay in the hospital for two to four days. Then, you’ll see your doctor two or three weeks to check on your incision and again 6-12 weeks postpartum to make sure you’re healing well.

How Long Does It Take to Heal from a C-Section?

Full recovery will probably take about four to six weeks. Of course, that all depends on your health before the birth, as well as whether or not you had any birth complications or issues with your incision, which can increase healing time. You had major surgery, so try to take it easy during this time.

Here are some other common questions about healing after a c-section:

  • Exercise after a c-section: 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.
  • Driving after a c-section: You won’t be ready to drive for at least two weeks after having a c-section. You need to be able to brake without feeling any pain in your abdomen before getting behind the wheel.
  • Bathing after a c-section: Don’t take a bath (or dip in a pool or hot tub for that matter) until after your incision is healed. This will probably be at least three weeks after delivery. Until then, stick to showers and gently pat your incision to clean and dry it.
  • Breastfeeding after a c-section: Finding a comfortable way to hold your baby while breastfeeding is a common concern after a c-section. 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 find nursing pillows helpful too.
  • Sex after a c-section: Get your doctor’s OK before you have sex. Most say to wait at least four to six weeks after birth. You can check with them at one of your postnatal checkups to see if your incision has healed well enough to have sex. Of course, emotionally you may need longer (or not!), so don’t feel like this time frame is set in stone.

C-Section Scar Care

Your c-section scar might be painful at first. But with proper care and time, the pain should lessen. Here are things to be aware of in the weeks following your c-section.

  • 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. Talk to your doctor about which pain relief is right for you. 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). It can be tough to get out with a new baby, but ask a friend, partner or family member if they can watch the baby or come with you for the appointment.
  • 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, but you need to care for yourself so you can heal properly. These items can be helpful 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)
  • Belly band or belt to help support your abdomen while you’re healing (make sure yours is c-section friendly, like this one)

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.

Signs of infection can include:

  • 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 is a sign you should see a doctor right away. This can include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Pain in your groin or legs, which could be a sign of a blood clot

Other reasons to see a doctor.

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 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.

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