Even though 1 in 4 women give birth via c-section, most of us have no idea what to expect afterwards. We’ve broken it down for you, babes. Check out our day by day c-section recovery timeline.
💛 Fresh from your C-section
The day of your c-section can be a bit of a blur.
Straight after surgery. You’ll be moved to a post-operative area where they can monitor your vitals and check any bleeding that you may have from your incision or vagina.
While you are in hospital:
you'll be given painkillers to reduce any discomfort
you'll have regular close contact with your baby and can start breastfeeding if you wish to do so
you'll be encouraged to get out of bed and move around as soon as possible
you can eat and drink as soon as you feel hungry or thirsty
a thin, flexible tube called a catheter will remain in your bladder for at least 12 hours
your wound will be covered with a dressing for at least 24 hours
Please remember to REST. You've had major surgery so don't expect to be able to do everything straight away.
Accept all offers of help, overdoing it in the beginning can make it harder to recover in the long run.
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💛 The day after your c-section
Hopefully a nurse will show you how to massage your uterus to encourage it to contract and shrink back down to its normal size. All hail the power of massage! This might feel quite weird and uncomfortable, but it will hopefully work wonders to get your mid section feeling a little more like it did before.
If able, you’ll be encouraged to get out of bed and walk around. It’s normal for your abdomen to feel tight or to walk with a stoop, but the movement will help your body knit back together.
As the anaesthetic wears off, you might start to feel some pain from your surgery, and can have pain medication delivered through your IV.
Looking after your wound
Your midwife / doctor should advise you on how to look after your wound.
You'll usually be advised to:
gently clean and dry the wound every day
wear loose, comfortable clothes and cotton underwear
take a painkiller if the wound is sore – for most women, it's better to take paracetamol or ibuprofen (but not aspirin) while you're breastfeeding
watch out for signs of infection
Non-dissolvable stitches or staples will usually be taken out by your midwife after 5 to 7 days.
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💛 Two days after your c-section
Today’s the day you’ll likely start to feel a bit more like yourself again. It’s time to pee on your own, you superstar! Your catheter will probably be removed by now, or at some point today. This means you’ll have to walk back and forth to the toilet, which will keep promoting your body’s healing.
Getting up and walking about as soon as you are able to is so beneficial to your healing. TAKE IT EASY and listen to your body.
You might experience pain when walking, or a tugging sensation on your abdomen. This can be disconcerting but is very normal. The increased activity will help improve your blood circulation to avoid clotting, and will help your bowels stay more regular.
SHOWER TIME! Many people experience anxiety around getting their incision wet/soapy. Trust us babes, you’ll be okay. You’ll have steri-strips on your incision by now, which are fine to get wet. Don’t scrub your stomach, just let the soapy water run over it and gently pat it dry afterwards. As always, we recommend using a body wash that’s kind to skin.
Out of shower, you’ll want to put on a fresh pair of postpartum pants (no shit, sherlock) and may notice some discharge which is called lochia. This is totally normal, if a little gross. It’s a mixture of blood, mucus and uterine tissue that passes after c-sections.
💛 Four days after your c-section
According to the NHS, the average stay in hospital after a caesarean is around 3 or 4 days. You may be able to go home sooner if both you and your baby are well.
Whilst some women will be counting the minutes until they can go home, others might feel nervous of being let loose in the world again, without 24/7 medical support. Please know that there’s no right way to feel. You do you.
Before you leave, you may also be inundated with cautions from your doctor. The main thing you need to remember is that your body will be doing a tonne of healing, especially for the first six weeks. This means that in this time, you shouldn’t:
Drive a vehicle
Use the stairs, if avoidable
Lift anything heavier than your baby
Insert anything into your vagina (this includes tampons, soaps and penises)
A human or robotic assistant to endlessly run errands and fetch you things.
💛 Week two of recovery
Though you’re probably feeling heaps better by now, you may still have cramping. If you’re still experiencing cramping, you can try using a hot water bottle on your stomach (but not directly on your incision).
Contact your midwife or a doctor straight away if you have any of the following symptoms after a caesarean:
pain when peeing
heavy vaginal bleeding
your wound becomes more red, painful and swollen
a discharge of pus or foul-smelling fluid from your wound
a cough or shortness of breath
swelling or pain in your lower leg
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💛Week four of recovery
You will be more able to move around, take longer walks and feel generally a little more like the warrior woman you are. That said, recovery is different for everyone, and if you’re still feeling like taking it slow, listen to your body and do just that. No two bodies are the same, and there’s no rush to get through this stage.
A good relaxation routine for whenever you can fit it in a little R&R and comfortable clothes to go for a walk in. It’s Winter right now, so we recommend throwing on the duvet coat and some wellies for a much needed British weather shield.
💛Week six of recovery: C-section massage
It’s likely that you’re out of the woods, as this is the time medical professionals recommend returning to "normal activities" after an uncomplicated c-section recovery.
However, we encourage you to remember that everybody is different and you may still not be feeling fantastic. If this is the case, take your recovery at your own pace and don’t push yourself to the point of pain.
From 6 weeks onwards, you can begin to perform gentle c-section massages to help heal your wound. Our incredibly nourishing balm, Scar Saviour is packed full of anti-inflammatory ingredients to accelerate scar recovery and recommended by leading UK Health Care professionals.
Do you have any questions about c-section recovery? Let us know, and we can put your queries to our Experts.
Wishing you a swift and strong recovery,
Love, Nessa. x
(references NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/)