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Recovery after a caesarean

6-minute read

Whether you have had a planned or an emergency caesarean (C-section) birth, it will usually take you longer to recover than it would after a vaginal birth. Here’s what to expect after you have had your baby.

What happens straight after having a caesarean?

The midwives and nurses will look after you in the recovery room until you’re ready to go to the postnatal ward. The midwives will keep checking your blood pressure, your wound and how much you are bleeding from the vagina.

If you are awake, you can usually see and hold your baby straight after your C-section birth. You can begin skin-to-skin contact and possibly breastfeeding.

Skin to skin contact is important for you and your baby after birth to enhance bonding and establish breastfeeding. Your partner or support person can provide this if you are unable to.

If you have had a general anaesthetic, you will stay in the recovery room until you wake up, usually in about 30 to 60 minutes. You will be able to see your baby when you wake up.

Your baby may be allowed to stay with you unless the team is worried about your health or the baby’s health.

Sometimes after the birth, the baby’s nose and mouth needs to be cleared of fluids. Sometimes your baby may require additional care or support from the medical team.

How long will I recover in hospital?

Most women feel some pain for a few days. You can take strong pain medication for relief. It’s important to control pain since this will help your recovery. Tell the midwives if you are in pain or if you feel nauseous.

You will stay in bed until your epidural or spinal anaesthetic wears off. Then the midwives will help you to get out of bed. The drip in your arm and bladder catheter (tube to collect urine, or wee) are usually removed in the first 1 to 2 days. You will be given breathing and leg exercises to do when in bed.

When you are allowed out of bed, the midwives will help you have a shower. You should walk gently every day to reduce the chance of a chest infection or blood clots. A physiotherapist may give you exercises to help rebuild your muscles. It’s important to take things gently after a C-section.

The incision (cut) will heal over the next few weeks.

Will I be able to breastfeed after having a caesarean?

In most cases you can breastfeed your baby soon after a C-section. Sometimes there may be short-term effects from the caesarean, for example there might be a slight delay in your milk coming in.

If breastfeeding is delayed for any reason, ask for help to express colostrum (the first milk you produce after your baby is born). Colostrum is rich in antibodies and fat, which newborns need to build their immunity. Breastmilk has lots of vitamins and minerals to help your baby grow and develop.

Ask your midwife to help you position your baby. It may be more comfortable to:

  • have a pillow on your lap to protect your wound
  • lie on your side
  • hold your baby under your arm, with their feet towards your back

You can also organise a visit with a lactation consultant can be arranged if you’d like extra support.

What should I do when I get home?

You will probably go home from the hospital after about 3 to 5 days. Make sure you have plenty of rest at home and accept as much help with the baby as you can.

Eat well and drink plenty of fluids. Do not lift anything that weighs more than your baby. Support your tummy when you can.

If your wound has been closed with staples, these will need to be removed 3 to 7 days after surgery. If you had stitches, they will usually be absorbed by the body.

Make sure you keep your wound clean and dry. Wear loose clothing and look for signs of infection. Tell your doctor or midwife straight away if you notice:

  • redness, pain or swelling around the site of the wound
  • smelly discharge
  • high fever
  • pain when you wee
  • heavy bleeding from the vagina (that soaks a sanitary pad in an hour), or lots of blood clots
  • that you are still bleeding from the vagina after 6 weeks

Talk to your doctor or midwife about when it is safe to drive. This is usually around 6 weeks.

You will not be allowed to drive until you have fully recovered and your wound has healed. Talk to your doctor about when it is safe to drive.

Where can I get emotional support after having a caesarean?

In the early weeks after your baby arrives, your emotional and sexual relationship with your partner might feel different. It’s normal to take weeks, even months, before you feel like having sex again. It’s OK to wait until you feel ready.

Some women feel happy about having a caesarean birth. Others can feel a range of overwhelming emotions, particularly if the C-section was unexpected. It can be very helpful to talk through your feelings with your partner, support person, family, or carers.

Your doctor or midwife can also discuss your birth experience with you and guide you to the appropriate support if needed.

Will having a caesarean affect future pregnancies?

The risks of pregnancy complications increase with each caesarean you have. These can include problems with the position of the placenta and problems with the placenta detaching after the birth.

It is possible to have a vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC). This is a safe choice for most women.

Sometimes health problems or pregnancy complications mean that a planned caesarean for your next birth is a safer option than a vaginal birth.

Discuss your options with your midwife or doctor early in your next pregnancy, so you are able to make an informed choice.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022

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Recovery after caesarean: first six weeks | Raising Children Network

This guide to recovery after caesarean section has tips for wound care, pain relief, practical help, physical and emotional recovery, and breastfeeding.

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