C-section recovery

Some women bounce back quickly, others take longer to recover from a caesarean. You've just had major abdominal surgery, so your wound will be painful, but while you're in hospital you should be given appropriate painkillers. C-section recovery varies greatly from woman to woman and there's no point suffering in silence.

If you had an epidural or spinal block during your c-section (rather than a general anaesthetic), it's likely this won't be removed for a few hours or so after your baby's birth. During this time, you should be able to have 'top-ups' so you'll be virtually pain-free. The only downside is you won't be able to move much, but then it's unlikely this will be high on your wish list.
 

Breastfeeding after a c-section | Coping at home | Driving after a c-section | Physical and emotional effects | Long-term effects

Once the epidural is removed, you may be quite shocked by how hard it is to move around. Your midwifery team should advise you on how to get in and out of bed, but it can help to put your hand over your scar and apply mild pressure if you need to cough, laugh or do anything that will involve you tensing the area.

Make sure you also wear really big 'Bridget Jones style' knickers - you don't want the waistband rubbing against your scar.

Usually, you'll be up and about within 24 hours of a c-section - although you won't be dashing anywhere. Your midwifery team will be keen to get you out of bed as soon as possible; even if you don't feel like doing as they ask it's important to try to get up and walk (or stagger) around a bit. Doing so will help your circulation, speed up your general recovery and also reduce the risk of your getting a blood clot.

That said, don't be afraid to ask for assistance. Yes, you've just had a baby, but you have also had major surgery, so if you're not getting enough help make a fuss.

On average allow three to four days in hospital for c-section recovery (compared with an average of one to two days for a vaginal birth) although it may be longer. 
 

Breastfeeding after a caesarean

While you're less likely to start to breastfeeding in the first few hours of your baby's life, there is nothing to stop you breastfeeding as soon as you feel up to it.

You should ask your midwifery team to advise you on the easiest positions to breastfeed - lying on your side can make things easier. Some mums swear by a position called the rugby ball. A nursing cushion can also help to take the pressure off your tummy area.
 

Coping when you get home

Back home, regardless of how well you feel, it's important to take things easy for at least six to eight weeks.

When it comes to recovering from a c-section, lifting heavy items - and that includes small children and shopping - doing the vacuuming or anything else that puts particular pressure on your tummy muscles (or current lack of them) is to be completely avoided: you do not want your scar to tear.

So try not to stress about housework and take steps to ensure you have extra help, particularly if you've got older children to care for. Remember, treating yourself kindly is not being lazy - it's common sense. Overdo things and your recovery could end up taking a lot longer.

Driving after a caesarean

A common misconception is that you have to wait six weeks before you can drive again, but actually there's no law to say you can't drive yourself home from hospital - although you'd be a numpty to try and your insurers might have something to say about it.

You need to be fully in control of your vehicle - and able to do an emergency stop - without any hesitation that pain or fear of pain might bring.

There's no point rushing things, but if you do make a timely recovery there's no reason why you shouldn't drive earlier - just make sure your motoring insurance isn't affected. In most cases it won't be, but you might be asked to provide written confirmation from your doctor that you are fit to drive.
 

Physical and emotional effects

It can take several months for your muscles to knit back together - and even then you may feel numb around the scar area for years to come. Despite what the gossip mags would have you believe, it's perfectly normal to not instantly ping back to your pre-caesarean shape. Try not to get dispirited if things don't look how they used to.

Time - and then exercise - will help strengthen your tummy muscles, but don't hit the gym before you're ready as you can end up doing more harm than good.

Aside from the physical recovery from your c-section, some mums - particularly those who have undergone emergency c-sections - can feel quite traumatised by the experience. This is perfectly normal and you shouldn't feel ashamed if this is how you feel.

It can help to talk through what happened with your midwife and obstetrician - and this can usually be arranged very simply by contacting your hospital.

Long-term implications of having a caesarean

Women who have a caesarean are more likely to have one again with future pregnancies, although nobody is really sure why, as there's not enough evidence to go on.

Some indications for the original caesarean may persist into subsequent pregnancies, but the majority of women will be able to have a vaginal birth next time, if they want one.

Sometimes a mum is left with a scar that causes considerable discomfort or that she feels unhappy with. In these cases, it's possible to undergo a caesarian scar revision to improve upon the original.

In many cases this can be performed under local anaesthetic. Depending on the reason for the revision, it may be possible to get this operation done on the NHS - however, if the cause is purely cosmetic you should be prepared to have to pay to go privately. (The upside of this operation is that you may be able to have a tummy tuck - if you need one - at the same time.)

Alternatively, if you have to have an elective caesarean with a subsequent pregnancy, you should flag up any problems with your old scar as your consultant can try to address them during the delivery.

What Mumsnetters say about recovering from a caesarean section

  • Being sent home with your first baby and told not to do anything is really difficult, but you really do need to rest. My scar still felt odd and pulled for at least six months, but I think I would have healed sooner if I had acted like I'd just had major surgery instead of trying to be supermum. snotbuster
  • I couldn't do all the usual things - like putting washing in the machine and emptying the dishwasher. Things that can help include: 'Handy Andy' a mechanical arm that older people use; it's great for picking up things from the floor and saves you bending over constantly. A Theraline Caesarean belt to help soothe and protect your scar. A nursing cushion. Online food shopping - they deliver straight into your kitchen so you don't have to lift heavy shopping. Stretfordmum
  • I read so many horror stories about c-sections before I had one but mine, and the recovery, was an entirely positive and pretty painless experience. Gangle
  • I think it's important not to try to exercise too soon. I went for slowly increasing walks and did the postnatal exercises they recommend but that was it for about nine months, when I started doing sit-ups. Possibly I took it a bit too slowly but at least I feel I am totally recovered now. There is no point doing yourself an injury trying to be a toned, skinny person straight away. RedFraggle
  • I had an emergency c-section two years ago. It was a traumatic experience but when I was ready I talked through my notes with a midwife and was able to ask lots of questions. I even spoke to a very nice consultant about some things the midwife could not answer. I think this helped a lot. WowOoo
  • I had lots of adhesion and numbness following an emergency section. The next time around I had an elective one, which meant my consultant was able to spend a long time clearing up the damage and resecting the old scar. I have much more feeling now. Minster

 

Last updated: 16-Dec-2013 at 3:45 PM