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Recovering from a C-Section

If you had a C-Section, you will have a little more mending to do. You will have had major abdominal surgery, which takes 6-8 weeks to fully recover. The following accounts were written by fellow subscribers.

“So, you had to have a C-Section for one reason or another. Maybe you are heartbroken because of it, maybe you wanted it, or maybe you fall somewhere in between. At least you get to skip all that horrific bleeding, right? Right?! Eh, not exactly, although c/s moms tend to bleed a little less than their vaj-delivery counterparts.

Because you’ve just had surgery, you may be gassy (more gassy than your normal pregnant self) and bloated, even uncomfortably so. Ask for Simethicone in the hospital (or at home) if it gets really bad and remember walking around will help get your bowels moving again.

For the first 3-4 days, walking is a difficult task. You will probably need help. You might need help showering. Or, you might just not shower (if you are me). Either way, it is pretty hard to do much more than exist for the first few days. It’s ok, just go with it.

Back to the bleeding – like with a vaginal delivery, you will be bleeding anywhere from 4 – 6 weeks. Still no tampons, just the enormous pillows they send you home with to use as pads. Some advice? Take as much of those mesh undies home as you can, because you best just throw away anything you are wearing for the first two weeks. After that, it should start to taper off.

Unfortunately, constipation, incontinence (ever hear of snissing?), and hip/knee/back pain are also prevalent even with a “section.”

Your incision will be painful at first. It also looks terrible, but it will get better very soon. Your doc will remove your sutures or staples in the hospital after a few days, although they may opt to do it later at their office after you’ve been discharged. Don’t worry, the removal is not very painful. They may also use glue on your incision, which will slough off on its own.

Don’t pick at your scar. Let soapy water run over it (once you are able to bathe) and pat it dry. You can put a little triple antibiotic on it after the first week. Don’t worry, the incision is very low, so it’s not going to show in your underwear or in a bikini. After time, it fades very nicely.

Be careful about what you wear. You don’t want much pressure on your abdomen, so maternity pants or sweats it is! You might have some trouble with stairs at first, you shouldn’t drive for about two weeks, and no lifting anything heavier than the baby. Really, just take it easy.

*Side note: Check out our guide on what to wear after a c-section and our thoughts on postpartum binders/girdles

Even though you will be up and at it soon enough, it will be a very long time until you are 100% healed. At four months postpartum, I STILL get some pain around my incision.

Some women say they are running again two weeks after a C-Section. I call them liars. Two-week recoveries after labor are like unicorns; everyone would like to believe in them, but they don’t exist. They say it takes a woman’s body 18 months to recover after a pregnancy. So don’t balk at an 8-week span before you start to feel a bit like your old self.”

– Angie A.

“Like many, I tried to avoid all c-section topics in the irrational pregnancy belief that if I didn’t known about it it won’t happen… however my irrational plan didn’t work and my baby was breeched. After going through an unsuccessful version, I had to have a c-section hence I read every material I found on sections and I have to say… I got really depressed.  

All everyone talks about is restrictions, recovery time, no sports etc. It really put me in a funk. In the end, it was all for nothing! Yes we did stay in the hospital longer, but I was cleared for sport (and sex) when the baby was just 4 weeks old, I was in pain for 3 days and then so much better each day. Yes, my body was weak but I am sure it would have been after a vaginal delivery too. Plus… there are all the benefits, mainly no labor! I think it’s worth to tell that story too! Not just the bad ones.”

– Karina

“So you think you may end up with a C-Section? Fear not, it happens to the best of us. I was totally psyched to birth my baby under a rainbow in a pool of natural spring water in the woods (totally kidding) when my stubborn baby decided being head down was for the birds. So C-Section it was! If you’re in this boat, or think you may want or end up with a C-Section, try not to stress; every lil thang gonna be alright.

As far as recovery goes, it’s definitely no walk in the park. The main thing is it’s major abdominal surgery, which any other time would be a reason for you to take it very easy and get lots of rest and not do too much lifting or activity. Only… you just had a baby so that’s absolutely impossible. Repeat this mantra- ‘Baby your baby, baby yourself.’

So there you are being wheeled into the postpartum room, and they’re likely going to hook you up to this weird contraption that wraps around your legs and sounds like Darth Vader. This is to massage your legs to help prevent blood clots that are a risk in almost any surgery. They’re also going to withhold food from you until you toot and/or poop. Since they just did a lot of fooling around in your abdomen, they have to make sure your intestines and digestive whatnots are in proper working order before they’ll let you put them to work digesting food again. So as soon as you pass gas? Go ahead and let everyone know. Loudly. Hit the call button and tell the nurses (can you tell I was starving?).

The next thing to know is your nurse is a sadist and will make you get out of bed at some point. Just kidding, she’s likely going to be a wonderful old pro. It really helps to get your body moving, as miserable as it feels. You will feel like an old lady who’s been hit by a truck, but it’ll get better the more you’re up and moving. Just don’t overdo it.

The drug I was given for my ‘family centered C-Section’ (also called gentle cesarean, look it up, really pretty cool) was called Duramorph and its pain killing powers wore off 24 hours after administration. Right when it wore off, I was hit by a coughing and I’ve never been in so much pain in my life. Don’t let this happen to you. I must’ve sounded like I was dying when I hit the call button because a bunch of nurses busted through the door like the Kool-Aid man. So to prevent that from happening, ask about your pain options and frequency and have your husband/partner/mom/whoever set alarms for you to call for them. You will sound like a total junky calling the nurse every few hours for your pain meds, but if you don’t, you won’t get them on time and you just don’t want to go there.

Also, I was constantly clearing my throat and drinking water to prevent myself from coughing again because surgery can make you congested and you do NOT want to be clutching a pillow to your belly and trying to cough, it’s godawful.


At some point, they’re going to want to remove your catheter; they asked me at about 10 PM if I wanted it removed, which I postponed due to reeeally not wanting to have to get up in the middle of the night to pee, so I had them remove it the next morning. Score!

As soon as you feel up to it, take a shower. If the bandages are allowed to come off, take some baby oil with you to wash the sticky adhesive off your skin. Try not to look at the incision, it will look terrible now and just freak you out. It will look waaaay better down the road and there’s no reason to get upset and see it in its worst condition. Ignorance is bliss at this point, trust me.

As far as when you leave the hospital, just remember your mantra: baby your baby and baby yourself! The laundry and the vacuuming and the dishes can all wait, you just park your butt on the couch or in the bed and take it easy. You’ll bleed and hurt and be sore, have random referred pain in your shoulder and weird burning and pulling sensations in your incision, but you will feel back to normal in a few weeks. As rough as it is, just try to relax and not worry so much, and soak up your sweet new baby!”

– Sydney S.

Editor’s Note: There is more than one way that OBs can close your incision, so your incision may be very different than someone else’s, as noted by contributing OB, Dr. Jennie Hauschka:

Dermabond Advanced ‘glue’ is available for wound closure, but is not widely accepted due to lack of data. We sometimes use it for small laparoscopic incisions, but I avoid it for anything larger and prefer staples or suture [for C-Sections]. I give the patient the option. Suture dissolves on its own and I can make it look “pretty” right away, but the staples come out before the patient leaves the hospital and usually result in the same, nice cosmetic effect in the end. If staples are removed too early, there may be some skin separation that takes longer to heal.

My answer: I like suture for healing and cosmetic effect. Staples are faster, but may have higher chance of wound separation. Dermabond has not been studied in a large trial to demonstrate its superiority to these other two methods and is much more expensive.”

Read more about recovering from vaginal delivery or move on to Your Emotions.

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