Recovering from a c-section
If your baby is delivered by caesarean section, your body will need some time to heal and recover.
You will typically remain in hospital for around two to four days after a c-section, although you may be able to go home earlier if both you and your baby are doing well. In some cases, you may even be discharged the day after the procedure.
The first 24 hours after a c-section
After your c-section, you will be taken to a recovery room for between 30 and 60 minutes before going onto a postnatal ward with your baby. You will be given painkillers to manage any pain and discomfort and will be encouraged to have skin-to-skin cuddles with your newborn.
If you have decided to breastfeed, you will be given help and support to start feeding your baby. You will be encouraged to get moving as soon as you able to and you will be able to have food and drink as soon as you want to.
For at least the first few hours after the procedure, you will have a catheter in place to empty your bladder so you won’t need to get up and go to the toilet. Your wound will also be covered with a dressing for at least the first 24 hours after your c-section.
How to look after your wound
It is really important that you look after your wound properly, so it heals well and does not become infected. Before you are discharged from hospital, your midwife will talk to you about what you should do and how to look out for possible signs of infection.
If your wound is causing you pain, you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve the discomfort. You should wear cotton underwear and clothes which are loose and comfortable so they don’t dig into the wound.
If staples or non-dissolvable stitches were used after your c-section, your midwife will usually visit you to remove them after five to seven days.
As your wound heals, it will become a scar, which will appear red at first but will eventually fade. In most cases, the scar will be just below your bikini line so it may be covered by your public hair.
The first few weeks after your c-section
You are likely to experience some pain and discomfort for the first few days after your c-section and in some cases, this may continue for several weeks. It is a good idea to make sure you have plenty of painkillers at home so you are able to take them as and when they are needed – just make sure you follow the instructions on the packet regarding maximum dosage.
After your baby has been delivered, you will experience vaginal bleeding – similar to a heavy period and it may contain some blood clots. Known as lochia, this is a vaginal discharge containing the extra blood, mucus and tissue which was in your uterus during your pregnancy.
For the first few days after your baby is born, these bleeding can be very heavy but it will gradually taper off. Most women experience postpartum bleeding for around six weeks, although it can continue for up to 12.
Avoid using tampons to absorb the bleeding as they pose an infection risk. Maternity pads and sanitary towels are much safer to use and will allow you to keep an eye on how heavy your flow is and whether it contains any clots.
For the first six weeks after your c-section, you will be asked to wear compression stockings to lower your risk of blood clots. You may also be prescribed anti-clotting medication which will need to be administered through a daily injection.
Most women who have had a c-section will need these blood-thinning injections for seven days but if you have been assessed as being at high risk of clotting, you will need to continue them for longer. Your midwife will give you your first injections while you are in hospital and will show you how to inject yourself once you are at home.
You are likely to feel sore and tired in the weeks following your c-section but you need to stay mobile while you are recovering. Don’t overdo things or take part in any strenuous exercise – a gentle walk each day is plenty of activity.
It is recommended that you don’t drive a car, exercise or carry anything heavier than your baby for the first six weeks after your caesarean. You may be able to start doing some of these things earlier if you are recovering well but speak to your midwife for advice.
When your baby is six weeks, you will see your GP for a postnatal check where they will ask you about how you are recovering and check how your wound is healing.
When should I seek help?
For most women, the recovery from a c-section will be straightforward but there may be times when you need to get medical advice.
Speak to your midwife or doctor if you are experiencing severe pain, your wound becomes swollen and painful or you notice an unpleasant smell or fluid coming from your wound. You should also seek advice if it hurts when you urinate or you are leaking urine.
Contact your midwife or doctor if your lower legs become swollen or painful as this can be a sign of a blood clot.