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Recovering from a caesarean

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 medication and you'll have a drip in your arm to give you fluids. You'll usually be in hospital for 3 to 4 days.

Catheter

A tube called a catheter will be in your bladder. This is inserted at the time of the operation to keep your bladder as empty as possible during the surgery.

The catheter is left in for approximately 24 hours after the surgery. This is because you may not be aware of the sensation of needing to go to the toilet until the anaesthetic wears off. Also, immediately after the operation you may find it too difficult to be getting in and out of bed to go to the toilet.

Tummy injections

You'll almost certainly receive injections in your tummy to prevent blood clots for the duration of your stay in hospital.

The first dose is usually given within 6 hours after 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.

Some mothers may have to give themselves the drug for 6 weeks after they go home.

Everyday tasks

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 chartered women’s health physiotherapist may see you to help your recovery.

Usually you won't be allowed to drive for up to 6 weeks after a caesarean birth.

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.

Your wound

Follow instructions from your obstetrician and midwife on caring for your wound. You may be advised to gently clean it every day or two, and to change the dressing.

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 or midwife if any of these signs develop.

Painkillers

Take regular painkillers for as long as you need them. Take the medication prescribed by your obstetrician or anaesthetist. Later, paracetamol may be enough to keep the pain at bay.

Bleeding

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.

Returning to normal activities

At first you'll be advised not to 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:

  • driving
  • having sex
  • exercising
  • lifting or carrying anything heavier than your baby

Warning signs after a caesarean

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

Page last reviewed: 17/09/2018
Next review due: 17/09/2021