Whilst it usually takes longer to recover from a caesarean than a vaginal birth, there are a few ways to reduce discomfort and speed up recovery. By taking regular pain relief and following professional advice, you can get moving sooner, and this can help. Staying well-hydrated is important and eating healthy foods. Keeping your scar and your pelvic area clean is important to avoid infection.
It’s important to remember that a caesarean is major abdominal surgery, and you will need help and support, especially in the early days just after surgery. You will need to stay in hospital for one or more nights to make sure that all is well before returning home.
If you were awake for your caesarean and had aneasthetic (numbing) for your lower body, then it will take a little while for the feeling to come back into your legs. If you had general aneasthetic (were put to sleep) then you will need time to rest before you will be up and about. It can take a day, or sometimes several days, after any operation to recover from general anaesthetic. That's without a baby to care for!
You will have had a catheter in your bladder whilst in surgery. Once you are ready to be getting up, this will be removed. You will be asked to urinate (wee) into a cardboard pot at first so that the amount is measured. This is to check your bladder is working normally after the surgery.
Keeping your scar and your pelvic area clean is important to avoid infection. You can wash your hands before and after the toilet and change your maternity pad regularly.
It is important to balance getting back on your feet and doing things with frequents rests. You need both for your recovery.
For the first 24 hours after surgery, you will have a dressing on your caesarean wound. This will then be removed to check for signs of infection. Signs of infection can include oozing from the wound, an unpleasant smell, or hot, red or raised skin around it. If you feel unwell, call the unit to get checked immediately.
When you go home, you will be advised to keep your caesarean wound clean and dry. Use only water to clean the area, and dry gently but thoroughly by patting with a clean towel or tissue. Never rub your wound.
Most women will have dissolvable stitches. If you have had non-dissolvable stitches, your midwife will remove them for you at your day 5 postnatal visit.
As your wound heals over the first days and weeks, the area should become more comfortable. If you have any concerns, talk to your midwife.
It’s important to take pain medication regularly for at least the first week. It is easy to stop taking them after several days due to feeling better, but then to end up being less active due to feeling more discomfort. Keeping gently active is important for recovery, which is why regular pain relief is advised.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen are safe to take after the birth but if these are not suitable for you, you can discuss other options that are suitable, depending on if you are breastfeeding or not. Some women may find that their pain persists for even a few weeks. Everybody heals at different rates, but if you are concerned speak to your midwife or GP.
Some women find that sneezing, coughing and other activities that strain the abdomen are painful for a while, and recommend pressing a cushion or pillow to the scar as you cough or sneeze.
You may be recommended to take blood clotting medication in the form of injections under some circumstances, to prevent the formation of blood clots. Your midwife will explain why this is recommended and can show you or a family member how to give the injections.
Some women may have further complications after a caesarean. Call your midwife or maternity unit if you experience:
- redness, swelling or discharge around your scar
- an unpleasant odour from your lochia (post birth bleeding)
- more pain than can be controlled by painkillers or
- pain when you urinate (wee)
- feeling unwell