If you’re reading this in hospital in the first hours after your caesarean you’ll probably be feeling quite sore and wondering how long it will continue.

For the first few days at least you’ll be in some pain and need painkillers to control this and you might find everyday movements like coughing and laughing uncomfortable.

Recovering from a C section

How long will I be in hospital?

Most women stay in hospital for at least four days after having a caesarean delivery, although in some cases you may be able to leave sooner, or you may be required to stay longer.

In hospital you’ll be encouraged to rest, but also walk around and wear surgical compression stockings to help the reduce the risk of blood clots (DVTS) forming, depending on your doctor’s advice.

Breastfeeding your baby

You might find it more comfortable if you breastfeed your baby on top of a pillow or cushion to avoid placing too much pressure on your scar. You may also find lying down beside your baby to feed them more comfortable – ask your midwife or consult a lactation consultant for advice about the best positions. The Australian Breastfeeding Association also provide great advice and support to help you on your breastfeeding journey.

How long does it take to recover?

In most cases recovering from a caesarean takes longer than recovery from a vaginal delivery, as your surgeon has cut through layers of muscle which all need time to repair themselves and knit back together.

The best advice is to take things easy in the first few weeks - the outside edges of your wound will knit back together within a few days, but it will take about 6 to 10 weeks for all the muscle and tissue to heal completely.

What should I avoid?

Try not to lift anything heavier than your baby and do not lift anything that causes you pain - concentrate on looking after him or her, getting as much rest as you can, (not easy with night feeds we know!), eating healthily (fibre rich foods will help you avoid constipation) and drinking enough fluids. Everything else can wait.

Sex, driving, lifting heavy objects, and intense exercise such as running, are best avoided for at least six weeks and started in accordance with your midwife’s or your doctor’s instructions.

Caring for your stitches

Since there is a risk of developing a wound infection after a c-section it is very important that you keep the wound clean and dry. Watch out for sign of infection such as redness, pain, swelling of the wound or bad smelling discharge. Report these to your doctor or midwife. 

The scar is usually 10-15cm long and just below your bikini line but can vary in position and length. For the first 48 hours, so it will be covered by a waterproof dressing. After that the dressing should be changed and is usually removed 5 days after the birth. Numbness or itching around the wound is normal. Help avoid infection by:

  • Washing your hands before you touch the dressing and keeping your skin clean, especially in the groin area.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry.
  • Watch out for signs of infection (such as redness, pain, swelling of the wound or bad smelling discharge). Report these to your doctor or midwife.

Signs of infection to look out for

Tell your midwife or doctor if you have developed a high temperature, experience intense pain in your wound or notice yellow/green discharge.

Minimising your scar

When your skin is injured by surgery, scarring is a natural process that happens when the skin repairs itself. To help with the healing and appearance of your scar, a silicone based treatment such as Bepanthen Scar Treatment, Dermascar or Cica-Care can be used.

Mum’s Tip

‘Hold your stitches when you laugh or sneeze and wear knickers a size bigger than normal so you don’t pressure on your wound. Check your car insurance if you start driving before six weeks after the birth as you might not be covered if you've had surgery.’

Anna, mum to Isabella 3 months