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Recovering from a caesarean birth

By Kezi Levin May 30, 2023 0 comments

Recovering from a caesarean can take around six weeks, which can feel like a very long process. It’s important to remember that a C-section is considered major surgery, so listen to your body and take it slowly. Once you’re home from the hospital, which is usually four days after your caesarean, you’ll need to take care of yourself and your scar.

Here are a few essential tips for a faster recovery:

Looking after your C-section incision

Once your dressing has been removed, your midwife will advise you on the best way to keep your C-section incision site clean. Use soap and water and use a gentle wiping motion to clean the area. Gently pat the site when drying to avoid discomfort. It is really common for your wound to start to itch after a week or so, as this is often the sign you are healing. However, do flag up any redness or pain around the area to your health visitor so they can check the wound carefully.

Wearing cotton high-waisted pants and loose clothing will help to prevent irritation of the incision site; comfort is key over the next six weeks.

Lifting anything heavier than your baby is not advised at this time, as the incision site needs time to recover. Unfortunately, this includes your toddler if you have one, so ask for help from family and friends to help your toddler get to you for cuddles.

Sudden movements will likely make the pain more acute, so take your time. If you need to cough, sneeze or laugh, try leaning forwards and supporting your wound with your hands or a small pillow or towel.

It’s very important that you look out for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or odour, and to get in touch with your GP or midwife, as these symptoms should be treated straight away.

Pain relief

Most women will experience pain in the first days following their C-section, and some will experience discomfort for several weeks. You will need to take pain relief for at least 7–10 days after your C-section, as your wound will feel sore and bruised.

You need to take the painkillers your doctor or midwife prescribed, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, on time to help prevent pain. If you find that you are still in pain, your GP may offer you a stronger alternative. However, certain medications are not suitable if you are breastfeeding.

Organise help to support your recovery

Although it can feel challenging to ask for help, this is definitely a time when the support of your friends and family can help to make your recovery easier.

Following your surgery, you’ll need time to rest and recover. Movements that involve stretching upwards will be difficult for you for a while, and strenuous jobs around the house are off-limits.

For the first couple of weeks, having people to make meals, put some washing on, vacuum, watch baby whilst you sleep, or relax in a bath (once you’ve had the ok from your doctor) will all help with your physical and mental well-being.

If you don’t have a support network nearby or people that can help you regularly, you can contact your health visitor or local children’s centre to find out what support is available locally to you.

Gentle Exercise

To begin with, getting out of bed may be quite painful and uncomfortable. To make it slightly easier, roll onto your side and then put your feet over the side of the bed. Put your hands on the mattress and push yourself up gently using your arms rather than from your stomach. The first few times you do this, you’ll be in the hospital, so make sure a midwife or your birth partner is with you, as you may feel quite shaky, to begin with.

It is essential to stay mobile as this helps to prevent blood clots, deep vein thrombosis and promotes a healthy recovery. When you get home from the hospital, gentle walks are the best way to keep active on the days that you feel up to it.

Depending on how your recovery is going, you’ll be able to increase your activity level after six weeks, but always check with your GP or midwife before undertaking anything more strenuous.

Attend all of your postnatal check-ups

Once you have left the hospital, your midwife will be in contact with you so that you can talk about your recovery, ask for guidance, and they can check the incision site is healing well. After five days, you’ll have an appointment to remove any staples or stitches if you don’t have the dissolvable kind.

You will have the support of your midwifery team for at least ten days following your C-section. 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. Every recovery is different, so the length of time you require support will relate to the care you need.

At around six to eight weeks, you will have a postnatal check-up with your GP, who can provide support and guidance so you have a healthy recovery.

Massaging your scar once it has healed

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. 

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.

If you have any concerns or questions about needing support, returning to activity or how to help your body recover, do get in touch with your care providers.

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