How long does it take to recover after a c-section?
It usually takes about 6 weeks to recover from your c-section but this will depend on your individual situation. If you had any problems during or after your c-section, or if you’re looking after other children at home, you may feel you need more time to recover.
Speak to your GP if you are still having pain or you don’t feel you have recovered after 6 weeks.
“I was busy at home looking after my older children. I felt tired and uncomfortable for nearly three months.”
Gentle exercise, such as walking, will help you recover from your c-section. But avoid anything more active until you have no pain and you feel ready. For example, avoid driving, carrying anything heavy, having sex or doing heavy housework, such as vacuuming, until you feel able to. You will need help with carrying your baby in their car seat and with lifting their pram. Check with your insurance company when you will be covered for driving after a c-section.
Your midwife and health visitor will visit you at home for the first few weeks to check how you and your baby are getting on. After that, you can see your health visitor at a local clinic if you’d like your baby to be weighed or if you want to talk about any problems you’re having. You will need to make an appointment with your GP for your post-natal check 6–8 weeks after your c-section. This is to check how you are recovering.
Looking after your c-section wound
Your midwife will visit you at home to check your wound and remove your dressing, if you still have one. They will also remove the stitches or staples after 5–7 days, unless you have dissolvable stitches. This does not hurt but it may feel uncomfortable.
Once your dressing is off, clean and dry your wound carefully every day. You may find it more comfortable to wear cotton high-waisted pants and loose clothes.
Tell your midwife or GP straight away if you have any signs of infection, such as:
- you have a high temperature
- you feel generally unwell - for example, an upset stomach
- your wound becomes red, swollen, painful or has a discharge.
“I got an infection in my wound a week after surgery and I felt a bit of a failure because of it. I had been bathing and keeping it clean as well as I could, but it’s in an awkward place and with the extra baby weight, it’s hard to see the wound.”
Your wound will feel sore and bruised for a few weeks. You will need to take pain relief for at least 7–10 days after your c-section.
Your midwife or doctor will tell you what pain relief you can take. Small amounts of any medicine you take may pass into your breastmilk but they’re unlikely to harm your baby if you take them as instructed. Do not take codeine or co-codamol (which contains codeine) if you’re breastfeeding, as they may harm your baby.
Always check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicines. Your midwife may give you painkillers, such as paracetamol, to take at home.
It’s important to take your pain relief regularly and on time, even if you don’t have pain at the moment. If you are still having pain with the painkillers, speak to your midwife, pharmacist or GP.
Getting in and out of bed
Getting in and out of bed can be difficult or uncomfortable while you’re recovering from your c-section. To make it easier to get out of bed, you could try:
- rolling on to your side
- dropping both legs over the side of the bed
- pushing yourself up sideways into a sitting position.
Try to stand up as straight as you can. You can do the opposite to get back into bed.
“I was not prepared for how difficult I would find getting out of bed after my second c-section. The first few days are the worst so if you can sleep sitting up, it’s probably worth trying!”
C-section scar recovery
Your wound will take about 6 weeks to heal. You will have a scar but this will fade over time. Your scar will be 10–20cm long and is usually just below your bikini line. It will be red at first but will fade over time. On darker skin, it may fade to a brown or white line. You may lose feeling in the area of your wound, which may come back over time.
“I had no feeling around my wound for nearly 5 months. I just had a strange feeling of pins and needles when I touched the area.”
Your midwife may advise you to massage your scar after it has fully healed. This can break up the scar tissue and stop any itching. There isn’t much evidence to show how well this works, but some people find it helpful. To massage your scar:
- lie on your back
- using a non-perfumed cream or lotion, make 20–30 small circular motions with your fingertips over your scar
- repeat 2–3 times a day.
Preventing blood clots
Keeping as active as possible and drinking plenty of fluids will help to lower your risk of a blood clot.
Your midwife may have given you a blood-thinning medicine. While you’re in hospital, they will show you how to inject yourself daily.
Tell your GP, midwife or health visitor straight away if you have signs of a blood clot, such as:
- a cough
- shortness of breath
- swollen or painful lower legs.
Sex after a c-section
You may not feel ready to have sex again until you have fully recovered from your c-section. This may take about 6 weeks. How long you wait will depend on how you feel physically and emotionally.
Read more about sex after pregnancy.
Driving after a c-section
You can start driving again once your GP has told you that it’s safe for you to do so. This may be about 6 weeks after your c-section.
You should be insured to drive once your GP has said you can. Have a look at your insurance company’s website to check their policy on driving after a c-section.
If you have ongoing complications from your c-section that affect your driving, you may need to tell the DVLA and your insurance company.
When to seek help after a c-section
If you have any of the following symptoms contact your GP or call 111 straight away:
- difficulty or pain passing urine or leaking urine when you don’t mean to
- your pain relief is not keeping your pain under control or your pain is getting worse
- sore or tender abdomen (tummy area)
- red, swollen or painful wound
- discharge from your wound or you’re worried your wound is not healing properly
- a high temperature
- vaginal bleeding that is still heavy after a week or gets heavier – get help straight away if you also feel faint or dizzy, or your heartbeat is fast or ‘pounding’
- unpleasant smelling vaginal blood or discharge
- cough, chest pain or shortness of breath
- a persistent or severe headache
- pain, redness or swelling in the lower leg (calf muscle)
- breast redness and swelling for more than 24 hours and is getting worse
- problems with your baby’s breathing – call 999 if you’re worried about your baby’s breathing.
Always call 999 if you or your baby needs emergency medical help.
Your next pregnancy
When you’re ready, you may start thinking about having another baby. Read more about your health in pregnancy and options for giving birth if you've had a previous c-section.