C-section recovery

C section recovery is also referred to as caesarean section recovery. C-section patients typically stay in the hospital for two to five days before going home. Nearly one in three women in countries such as the United States of America and Australia deliver their babies by C-section, either for elective reasons, or because of a risk to mother or child. Having a C-section can be an elective or emergency procedure. The fact is that you will be recovering from major abdominal surgery while dealing with typical post natal issues. More about these under our Post natal recovery section here.

Your C section recovery will be measured in weeks, not days, because a c-section is major surgery so it’s important to focus on caring for your baby and giving your body the rest it needs to recover. It’s important to put a c-section recovery plan in place, and we can also help you lose baby weight, too. Here’s a look at what you may be feeling in the hours, days, weeks, and months after a Caesarean birth. You’ll need help taking care of yourself and your new baby.

Firstly there are a few vital components for your C section recovery:

C-section recovery – the first 6-24 hours post

Your IV and a catheter will still be in place.  Many patients are encouraged to be out of bed within six hours of surgery. The reason for this is that its commonly known that “The more patients ambulate, the faster they recover,” says Dr. Thompson. So its important that you are encouraged to get out of bed as soon as possible.  Moving = Recovering faster.

What about breastfeeding after a c-section?  If you and baby are both feeling well, you may have started nursing in the recovery room. You have just had major abdominal surgery so its important to not place too much pressure on yourself or baby.  It’s not unusual to need help with breastfeeding, especially at first. Your hospital’s lactation nurse can help you find breastfeeding positions.

Positions you might find useful for breastfeeding after caesarean birth are:

  • sitting with a breastfeeding pillow on your lap to support your baby and protect your wound
  • lying down on your side
  • holding baby underarm with baby’s feet towards your back – the ‘twin’ or ‘football’ position – that way you don’t put pressure on your tender abdomen.

Days 2 and 3 – Getting moving facilitates c-section recovery

You will probably be free of your IV and the catheter on your second day after delivery. And if you (and your bowels) are feeling well enough, you’ll begin eating and drinking again.  More about Food, Sleep and breastfeeding here.   It’s important not to eat foods that may cause you issues regarding your bowels and abdomen, so be mindful and follow our nutritionists tips on eating well after a c-section.

Time to get on your feet.  Be careful and have some support for those first steps after your C-section.  Around this time, your nurse may also help you take those first post-op steps and will encourage you to walk around the hospital, try to go a little further each time to gain your strength.   These first steps should only be done with a nurse present; and for the days following surgery, be sure to have a walking companion with you anytime you get out of bed.  If your hospital has scheduled physiotherapy classes – its a really good idea to attend.  The hospital physiotherapist or physical therapist will provide you will safe exercises to perform for your c-section recovery.  Our health care experts can guide you as to what is and isn’t appropriate c-section recovery exercise.

You can speed up your c-section recovery by continuing to be gently active.   Remember not to lift anything heavier than your baby or anything that causes you pain – for example, a full basket of wet washing or your toddler.   Specialized women’s health physiotherapists have safe and effective exercise routines to speed up your c-section recovery.  But to start with, A gentle walk each day can help your body and your mind feel better.  For example, you could start with five minutes walking around your home. You might like to ask a physiotherapist at the hospital to give you some other good exercise ideas as you start to recover or purchase one of the health care recommended DVD’s or books where you can do the exercises in the comfort of your own home.

How can I speed up my C-section recovery?

  • Get moving sooner.  Light exercise has multiple benefits both emotional and physical.  At the hospital and then at home.
  • Have some abdominal support in place (hospitals will provide an elasticized bandage, however there are other products such as abdominal binders that may also be supportive).
  • Start slowly with a modified exercise routine by a healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist, post natal exercise specialist, or physical therapist.    These rehabilitation exercises are crucial in your post natal recovery. The exercises will target your core and hip muscle groups and concentrate on decreasing abdominal separation-diastasis recti and activation of your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Don’t lift any weight that’s heavier than your baby or anything that causes you pain – for example, a full basket of wet washing or your toddler.

When can I start exercising?

As a general rule, it is recommended that you do not engage is strenuous exercise until you have your 6 week check-up.  It’s important that you talk about any health issues you may be concerned about.  Pelvic floor, bleeding or your c-section scarring and your abdominal muscles are just some. Make sure that you get the essential checks post birth prior to starting any exercise routine.