10 Tips for Recovering from a C-Section

  • newborn baby with mother and father following Cesarean section
    Extra Care After Cesarean Delivery
    During a cesarean section (C-section), your obstetrician makes an incision in your lower abdomen and wall of your uterus to delivery your baby. A C-section is the most common major surgery in the United States. Most women go home after 2 to 4 days in the hospital, and take about six weeks to feel back to normal. Abdominal surgery is a challenging recovery on its own, even without the added work and joy of taking care of your baby. These 10 tips will help make your C-section recovery as comfortable as possible.

  • Mother Kissing Baby
    1. Accept offers of help.
    Feeding your baby, going to the bathroom, and bathing will be about the most you can handle for the first few weeks after your C-section. But like most moms, some part of you will want to do all the things you used to do. Things like driving, cooking, and doing the laundry will, however, make your abdominal pain worse and prolong your journey back to feeling yourself. Let family and friends pick up the slack for a bit. Your to-do list will still be there in six weeks—and you can return the favor for another mom later!

  • Woman Sleeping
    2. Sleep like a baby.
    It’s normal to feel extremely tired after a C-section. Remember that it’s major abdominal surgery. You will need more sleep than a mother after a vaginal delivery. Take a cue from your newborn and sleep as much as possible. The down time will give your body what it most needs to recover.

  • Happy Young Mother
    3. Take short, slow walks.
    Thinking about taking a walk may sound unpleasant after a C-section, especially at first. But some easy strolling a few times a day helps you more than you realize. It can prevent blood clots in your legs, keep constipation at bay, loosen your muscles and joints so they don’t become stiff or sore, and give you a boost of physical and emotional energy. You can start by walking to the mailbox, and then down the street. Pretty soon you’ll be taking your baby for stroller walks!

  • Pain Medication
    4. Take your pain meds.
    Don’t try to tough out the pain, especially for the first week after your C-section. Any medication your doctor recommends will not contaminate your breast milk or hurt your milk supply. Prescription painkillers like codeine and morphine do have side effects like constipation and nausea, but for many women these side effects are worth putting up with for the pain relief. You will only be taking them temporarily. And you can step down to less potent pain medication when you’re ready.

  • Fruits and veggies
    5. Get your greens.
    The sleep deprivation, incision soreness, and general mayhem of newborn life may make you crave cookies instead of kale. But try to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains every day. Healthy foods will give you more energy in the long run. These foods will also help stave off constipation and keep your mood positive. Don’t deprive yourself of a cookie now and then, but keep the sweets to a minimum.

  • Happy Woman in Shower
    6. Keep an eye on your incision.
    Follow whatever steps your doctor and nurses give you to keep your incision clean and dry. This promotes healing and prevents infection. And have your partner or a friend check it every day to make sure that it looks gradually less red and puffy. You can shower as soon as you feel able, but avoid a bath until your obstetrician says it’s OK.

  • Caucasian woman in bathrobe preparing bathtub
    7. Wear your comfort clothes.
    Now is not the time to model the latest clothing trends. No one will blame you for being as comfy and cozy as you can. Wear stretchy, loose-fitting pants and tops to prevent irritating your tender incision. You may want to invest in a nice bathrobe or nursing gown to avoid pants altogether. Comfortable clothes also keep you ready for all the impromptu naps you should be taking!

  • glasses-of-water
    8. Take steps to prevent constipation.
    You may have trouble with bowel movements after having a C-section, possibly from the pain meds you’re taking. Take steps to keep your bowels moving so that you don’t have to strain yourself. Take a short walks every day, eat a few servings of vegetables and fruits, drink lots of water, and use stool softeners and laxatives if you need them. Don’t ignore even the slightest urge to have a bowel movement, but don’t strain either. 

  • Woman Sitting on Bed
    9. Keep an eye out for anything amiss.
    It can’t be said enough—a C-section is a major surgery, and complications may arise. Prevent emerging problems from becoming emergencies by calling your doctor if you feel that anything is wrong. Be especially aware of fever, breathing problems, excessive bleeding, incision changes, or if you feel confused. These are often issues that need to be looked at, but the sooner they’re treated, the sooner you’ll feel better.

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    10. Go to your follow-up appointments.
    Both you and your baby will have checkups. Even if you feel fine, go to your scheduled postoperative and any other follow-up appointments. Don’t wait to call the doctor with concerns. The quicker you recover, the sooner you’ll be able to fully enjoy your new baby.

10 Tips for C-Section Recovery | Care After Cesarean Delivery
C-Section

About The Author

  1. Most Frequent Procedures Performed in U.S. Hospitals, 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb149.pdf. Accessed December 18, 2013.
  2. Cesarean Birth. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq006.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20131217T1528582233. Accessed December 18, 2013.
  3. Cesarean Sections. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/childbirth/c_sections.html. Accessed December 18, 2013.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.