It usually takes longer to recover from a caesarean birth than a vaginal birth. Having a caesarean birth can make future births more complicated.
Recovery in hospital
You may feel uncomfortable after a caesarean. You'll be offered pain-relieving medicine and you'll have a drip in your arm to give you fluids. You'll usually be in hospital for 3 to 4 days.
During this time it's important to do deep breathing and leg exercises regularly. This will reduce the risk of chest infections and blood clots in your legs.
There will be a tube called a catheter in your bladder. This is put there during the operation to keep your bladder as empty as possible during the surgery.
The catheter is usually removed within 12 hours of surgery.
This is because you may not be aware of the sensation of needing to pee until the anaesthetic wears off. Also, you could find it difficult getting in and out of bed to go to the toilet.
You'll probably get injections in your tummy to prevent blood clots developing in your legs or lungs. The 6 weeks after having a baby are a higher risk time for these clots to develop.
The first dose is usually given within 6 hours of the caesarean.
You may have to give yourself extra doses of the drug to prevent clots after you go home. You'll be shown how to do this. You may have to give yourself the medicine for 6 weeks after you go home.
You may have to wait a few hours before you're allowed to eat anything.
You'll be helped to shower the next day, and encouraged to be mobile as soon as possible. A specialist physiotherapist may see you to help your recovery.
Avoid driving for up to 6 weeks after a caesarean birth.
When getting in and out of bed:
- Lie on your back in the centre of the bed with both knees bent.
- Roll over to your side without twisting too much (keep your knees bent).
- With your top arm well in front of you, push your upper body forward and up, and allow your legs to go down at the same time. Remember to keep breathing.
- Keeping your knees bent, come forward and up into a sitting position in one smooth action.
Recovery at home
Caring for a newborn baby is demanding and can make your recovery challenging.
Like any operation, your body needs time to recover after a caesarean birth. Rest is part of this recovery process.
Try to rest whenever you can. Get help from family and friends to ensure you get as much rest as possible.
Emergency action required: Contact your GP, obstetrician or midwife immediately if:
you have any of the following symptoms:
- heavy vaginal bleeding, particularly if there are large clots in the blood
- severe pain
- smelly blood, fluid or pus coming from your vagina
- red, swollen or painful wound
- shortness of breath, chest pain or a cough
- a swelling or pain in your lower leg
- a temperature or a fever
- feeling generally unwell
Follow instructions from your obstetrician and midwife on caring for your wound. You may be advised to gently clean it every 1 to 2 days, pat it dry, and change the dressing.
Hold a pillow against the wound area when you:
- get up from a lying or sitting position
Wear loose comfy clothes and big knickers. You may find it more comfortable to wear knickers where the waistband is much higher than the wound.
Watch out for signs of infection. These may include your wound or the skin around your wound becoming red, painful or swollen. Contact your GP, public health nurse (PHN) or midwife if any of these signs develop.
Take regular painkillers for as long as you need them. Take the medicine prescribed by your obstetrician or anaesthetist. After that is finished, paracetamol may be enough to keep the pain at bay.
If you are breastfeeding, make sure your doctor knows before they prescribe medicine. Many medicines can pass in small amounts to breastmilk.
Often these are harmless to babies. But it is important that your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding so they can prescribe the safest medicine for you and your baby.
You may bleed from your vagina for several weeks after a caesarean birth. Use maternity pads or sanitary pads. Do not use tampons for this bleeding.
The more active you are, the more likely you are to have an increase in your bleeding. If you are breastfeeding, there can be an increase in bleeding when your milk production increases.
Urgent advice: Contact your doctor or midwife urgently if:
- you bleed heavily or pass several large clots
Returning to normal activities
At first, you should not carry or lift anything heavier than your baby.
Try and go for short gentle walks and stay mobile. This will reduce your risk of blood clots.
You may have to wait up to 6 weeks before:
- having sex
- lifting or carrying anything heavier than your baby
Trying for another baby
You should wait for at least 6 months after a caesarean before trying for another baby.