C-section recovery will vary from one person to the next and from C-section to C-section, for those of us who have had more than one (!). Recovery from an emergency C-section may be longer than if it were a planned C-section, and this is certainly true of my own experience as a 3 C-section mama.
1. Prep your home before your C-section
The first couple of weeks can be especially tough following a caesarean section. Think about where would be most comfortable to rest and keep your essentials so that they are within easy reach. Some movements and activities such as getting up from a lying flat position or climbing the stairs may be considerably more painful. I preferred to rest on the recliner seat of my sofa as it was more comfortable and easier to get up from than the bed. Prepare meals in advance and freeze them for easy, quick meals when your new baby arrives.
2. Arrange for extra help
Extra help from family and friends can make all the difference. Examples include: a meal rota (also known as a “meal train”), help with household chores, and childcare. The list of activities you need to avoid in the weeks after a c-section may surprise you – even vacuuming is a no-no. Consider home-delivery options such as simple quick prep food subscriptions. You may need to re-visit plans closer to the day of the delivery, especially with the ongoing pandemic and restrictions which may impact access to support (e.g. self-isolation requirements, lockdowns, etc).
3. Go for regular short walks
Regular short walks are great for C-section recovery and reduces the risk of blood clots. I loved going for walks with my baby kept snuggled close in myBoba Stretchy Wrap. It was so comfortable and meant that I didn’t need to push a buggy. You can read about some other benefits of babywearing here. Stretchy wraps can look quite complicated but the soft fabric without any bulky additions makes it a great lightweight option after a C-section. Check out my video and post on How To Use A Stretchy Wrap to see how simple it really is.
4. Take it easy
A C-section is major abdominal surgery so although regular short walks are great, it’s important to go at a slow pace and not over-exert yourself. Follow your doctor’s advice about which activities are okay and when you might be able to resume others. You should receive a leaflet with information on gentle post c-section exercises to aid recovery.
5. Seek breastfeeding support
Breastfeeding can be more challenging after a c-section, particularly soon afterwards when you will still have an IV drip, reduced mobility, or certain movements might be limited by pain. Your milk may also take longer to come in. Some breastfeeding positions may be more comfortable than others and a nursing pillow can make a huge difference. La Leche League have plenty of helpful tips in their article “Caesarean Birth and Breastfeeding”.
6. Manage constipation
Constipation and trapped wind are common after a C-section and can be quite painful. Going for gentle walks will help, as will making sure you are keeping well hydrated and ensuring a fibre-rich diet. Some people find peppermint tea helpful to ease trapped wind. Discharge medication may include a stool softener to manage constipation and avoid straining.
7. Abdominal support
I used to dread coughing, sneezing, and even laughing too hard. You can reduce that discomfort by holding something like a pillow/cushion to your tummy. I used Belly Bandit C-section and Recovery Underwear after my second c-section as it provided light support.
Abdominal binders aren’t advised after a c-section here in the UK, but they are often used in other countries so it can seem confusing about whether or not they are of any benefit. Lots of positive benefits are attributed without any clear evidence to support those claims. Having said that, I did try one after my third c-section. You can read about that experience here.
8. Wear high-waisted clothes
Pack high-waisted full-brief underwear in your hospital bag and opt for loose, comfortable clothing to avoid anything sitting lower where it might rub against the wound. I preferred to wear flowing dresses or maternity leggings (which were really soft) with a loose top for the first few weeks.
9. Manage your pain
In hospital, you receive regular pain relief to keep discomfort to a minimum. After one of my C-sections, I made the mistake of unintentionally delaying the next dose when I was en route home, which resulted in feeling a lot of pain. I felt better once I had some pain relief on board, but that pain relief took some time to take effect. Pain relief is usually prescribed for regular use after a C-section, then tapered down. Ensure you follow the advice of your medical team.
10. Learn about C-section scar massage
C-section incision advice tends to focus on the signs to look out for that might signal a problem with the C-section site, such as infection. Aesthetics, however, is less well covered. Scar massage is thought to help improve the appearance and comfort of scars, but the evidence on how much this helps c-section scars is limited. Advice given on C-section scar massage seems to be variable depending on where you give birth. This leaflet (page 3) is an example of information about C-section scar massage from one hospital. Ensure that you discuss with your doctor first as it’s important that your wound has healed adequately before attempting any scar massage.
Silicone sheets and gels (e.g. Kelo-Cote) can improve the appearance of scars, although they are not routinely recommended as post C-section care in the UK. It’s worth having a chat about scar management options with your medical team, especially if you have a tendency to form keloid or hypertrophied (thickened) scars.
Be kind to yourself. You may need some time to process your emotions following the delivery, especially if you are trying to come to terms with changes to your birth plan and body image. Your midwife, health visitor, or GP can help support you if you are struggling with these feelings. Speaking to other mums who have had C-sections can also be really helpful. I’ve shared my thoughts on my changing birth plan in my post “Planning For An (Im)Perfect Birth”.
Amal is a paediatrician and mum/step-mum to four wonderful children. She started MedicMum101 to share tips and experiences on all things motherhood. She enjoys writing about parenting, health, and wellness, as well as other life musings from time to time. When she is not working, writing, or running after the kids, you can often find her working on a new piece of art.