Recovering at home after a c-section

Advice on how to make a healthy recovery at home after a c-section. Find out how long it takes to recover and how to care for your wound.

How long does it take to recover after a c-section?

It may take about six weeks to recover from your caesarean section (c-section). If you had any problems during or after your c-section, or if you are 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 six weeks.

‘I was busy at home looking after my older children. I felt tired and uncomfortable for nearly three months.’

Sarah

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, doing heavy housework, such as vacuuming, or having sex 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.

Read more about when to exercise after a c-section here

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 postnatal check six to eight weeks after your c-section. This is to check how you are recovering.

Read about coping emotionally after a c-section here

Looking after your c-section wound at home

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 clips after about five days, unless you have dissolvable stitches. This does not hurt but it may feel uncomfortable.

Once your dressing has been removed, 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 a high temperature
  • you feel generally unwell - for example, an upset stomach
  • your wound becomes red, swollen, painful or has a discharge.

These can be signs of infection. Read more about when to call a midwife about a c-section.

‘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.’

Laura

Pain relief at home

Your wound will continue to feel sore and bruised for a few weeks and you will need to take pain relief for at least 7-10 days after your c-section, so you may want to make sure you have some paracetamol and ibuprofen at home. 

To help control the pain 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.

The amount of pain relief recommended by your midwife or doctor should be safe for you to take while you’re breastfeeding. Small amounts of any medicine you take may pass into your breastmilk but they are unlikely to harm your baby if you take them as instructed. However, codeine or co-codamol (which contains codeine) may be harmful for your baby. Always check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicines. Your midwife may give you painkillers to take at home, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

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. Most people don’t have beds that you can raise and lower, as you do in hospital.

You may find it easier to get out of bed by rolling on to your side, dropping both legs over the side of the bed and then 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.

C-section scar recovery

Your wound will take about six weeks to heal. You will have a scar but this will fade over time.

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 five months. I just had a strange feeling of pins and needles when I touched the area.’ Sarah

Your midwife may advise you to massage your scar to break up the scar tissue and stop any itching. There isn’t much evidence to show how well this works, but some women find it helpful. Only do this once your wound has fully healed. 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 two or three times a day.

Read more about what to expect after a c-section here

Preventing blood clots

You may have been given a supply of a blood-thinning drug to reduce your risk of blood clots. If so they will show you how to inject yourself. You will need to have the injections once a day for about a week after your c-section. If you have a higher risk of blood clots, you may need to have the injections for up to six weeks.

If you’re worried about doing the injections yourself, you can ask your partner, a family member or friend to do it for you. But they’ll need to be available to give you the injection at the same time each day.

Sex after a c-section

Physical recovery from a c-section takes up to six weeks. However, everyone recovers differently, so when you can start having sex again will depend on how you feeling physically and emotionally. Talking about it might help to reduce any anxiety you are both feeling.

Driving after a c-section

There is no hard and fast rule or legal requirement about when you can start driving again after a c-section.

However:

  • you must be insured - check with your insurance company whether this operation affects their coverage. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most insurance companies will ask you to check with your doctor or midwife to make sure you have recovered sufficiently.
  • you must be in control of the car
  • you must be well enough to be able to perform an emergency stop.

If you meet the guidance above, you are free to drive. For most women anecdotal evidence suggests that this will be around week 4-6 after the birth.

Read DVLA guidance here

When to seek help after a c-section

If you have any of the following symptoms contact your GP or call 111 straight away:

  • you have pain when you pass urine or if you leak urine when you don’t mean to
  • your pain relief is not keeping your pain under control, or your pain is getting worse
  • your abdomen (tummy area) feels sore or tender, or you have an upset stomach
  • your wound is red, swollen or painful
  • your wound has a discharge or you are worried it is not healing properly
  • you have a high temperature
  • vaginal bleeding 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’
  • you are worried about the smell or colour of your vaginal blood
  • you have a cough, chest pain or you’re short of breath
  • you have a headache together with either vision problems or sickness (nausea or vomiting)
  • you have pain, redness or swelling in the calf muscle of one leg
  • you are worried about your baby’s breathing – call 999 if your baby is having problems breathing.

Read more about vaginal bleeding after a c-section here.

Call 999 if you or your baby needs emergency medical help.

Sources

NHS Choices (2016) [Accessed 15 March 2018] Caesarean section: recovery. www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/

NICE (2011) Caesarean section. Clinical guideline 132, London National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Kalkur S, McKenna D et al (2007).“Doctor - when can I drive?” – Advice obstetricians and gynaecologists give on driving after obstetric or gynaecological surgery. The Ulster Medical Journal76(3), 141–143.

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Last reviewed on April 24th, 2018. Next review date April 24th, 2021.

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