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Caesarean Healing Time: Your Recovery Timeline After a C-Section

Caesarean Healing: Your Recovery Timeline After a C-Section

Finally meeting your baby after nine long months is a joyous, if not slightly overwhelming affair—whether it’s in an operating room or with you sounding more like a farm animal than you ever imagined. While birth is birth (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), knowing what to expect after a C-section can really take the edge off those first few weeks of motherhood

 

If you're anticipating or have just undergone a C-section, let’s get you up to speed on Caesarean healing.

Understanding Your Caesarean Procedure

A caesarean section, commonly referred to as a C-section, is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through incisions in your abdomen and uterus. And, here’s a fact: During a C-section, your doctor makes an incision through seven different layers of tissue. YES, seven. Feel free to mention this anytime someone mentions that awful phrase of 'too posh to push'. Eye roll. Eye roll. Eye roll.

The First Moments After a C-Section

Immediately after delivery, while you're likely crying happy tears, your medical team will be at work ensuring that both you and your baby are stable. 


You might feel some weird sensations as the surgery concludes, but generally, once you've had your 'Lion King moment'—when your baby is lifted for you to see—the focus shifts to stitching up the incision and your first precious moments of skin-to-skin.

Clare Bourne, c-section healing advice
Clare Bourne, pelvic health physiotherapist and co-author of C-Section Recovery E-book

FTC Expert tip: Skin-to-Skin


'If you’d like first moment to be gooey and as close to a vaginal birth as possible, then share your wishes with your care team. You can request that your baby isn’t cleaned before your skin-to-skin. But, it can be tricky holding the baby when you are laying down so just ask your birth partner to help or the medical team around you.'

What to Expect In the First 24 Hours After Your C-Section

It might surprise you that despite a C-section being major abdominal surgery, post-op you are not prescribed endless bed-rest. ‘You will be advised to start mobilising as soon as it’s safe to do so,’ advises Dr Anna Cantlay GP & Chief Medical Officer at For The Creators. ‘Getting up and moving helps to reduce the risk of blood clots.’


Even a shuffle around the ward still counts as movement and will help promote circulation and reduce the risk of complications. This period might feel daunting, and FTC mums report being worried that their organs feel like they’re going to burst out. But trust the process and keep informing your care team of how you feel as taking those first few steps is key to your recovery process.


But, “don’t over do it,” warns Cantaly. “Rest lots and only gently mobilise being mindful when getting out of bed.” A tried and tested tip is to roll onto your side and pendulum your legs over to avoid pulling on your wound. 

What to Expect: The First Week After a C-Section

We’re sure that it’s no surprise that recovery doesn’t happen overnight. During the first days of c-section recovery, Bourne shares what the early days might look and feel like:

  • Your scar will look red / swollen / bruised
  • It may feel hot and numb
  • Your tummy might be slightly swollen
  • You may have pain

Now is not the time to compare your post-birth body with your pregnancy body or the one you knew before those two lines on a pregnancy test. You’re on a journey and trust the process. 

Healing at Home

Once you're home, the real journey of recovery begins and caring for your incision is paramount, notes Hannah Poulton, co-author of C-Section Recovery E-book and a UK Leading C-Section & Scar Expert.

Keep your scar clean and dry

Don't have a bath - only shower

Be gentle with your scar - never harshly rub or use exfoliants in the shower 

Pat your scar dry

Use a pad in front of your underwear to prevent rubbing

Let air get to your scar where possible 

It's normal to experience some pain, so try not to miss any prescribed medications,

Getting to know your scar


During this time it can be handy to learn about your body and what it’s going through - this can help with cultivating self-love and compassion. 

Getting up and about


During the first week of healing, try to avoid going back to pre-pregnancy life - just because your baby is no longer in your tummy, it doesn’t mean that your body is back to how it once was. 


'You will need lots of help immediately after surgery,' notes Cantlay. 'Get your partner to support you in caring for your baby and doing most of the lifting.'


Annoyingly, the advice of ‘not lifting anything heavier than your baby' should be listened to. Which, we know is hard when the car seat/pram/insert baby kit is heavier than your little one. But do ask for help and try to limit the lifting movements.


But, 'what about slings?' we hear you cry. 'For most women, wearing a sling is entirely possible,' notes Cantlay. 'You will want to use a sling that is comfortable, supportive and is higher enough to keep pressure off your incision wound.'


And prams? According to Cantlay, who can speak from experience, most women feel able to push a pram in the second week after their c-section, as long as it’s a flat road and they are able to take regular breaks. Bear in mind that twins will be heavier to push, and you might not feel ready for a little longer. Avoid any heavy lifting, going uphill or downhill and whilst recovering, take care with bumps on the road.

How you might feel


This time can be emotionally challenging due to hormonal changes and the physical demands of recovery. Feelings of postpartum depression or anxiety are common and talking about these feelings with a professional can be incredibly beneficial.

Re-connecting with your pelvic floor


We totally get it if you feel like you've done enough body admin but including pelvic floor muscle exercises in your postpartum recovery is really quite important.

You can start as soon as your catheter is out and you’ve had your first wee. Bourne, explains how to work through these workouts below. 

What to Expect: Weeks 2 Onwards

As the weeks pass, you'll notice gradual improvements. You might no longer wince or moan as you try to get out of bed and feeding your baby will become much more comfortable.


Most women can return to their normal activities within six to eight weeks post-surgery, but complete healing can take longer. Go at your own pace. 

What to eat during recovery


All our experts agree that good hydration and nutrition is essential for recovery. Aim to eat lots of fibre and protein to help wound healing and prevent constipation. But why? Protein is the building block of wound healing so make sure your plate and food shopping includes easy to eat (read: food that can be consumed with one hand) options.


You might find that during the early weeks you become more backed up than the M25, this is because constipation can be common after surgery, particularly with pain medication, so eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables can help. 

Dr Anna Cantlay, GP & Chief Medical Officer at For The Creators 

FTC Expert Tip: Bloating


'After a C-section, it's common to experience abdominal bloating and discomfort due to gas, which is a side effect of the surgery and the medications used during the procedure. A simple, natural remedy to alleviate these symptoms is to sip on peppermint tea. Peppermint is known for its antispasmodic properties, which can help relax the gastrointestinal muscles and release pent-up gas, easing bloating'

What to expect: Week 3 of C-Section Healing

Around now, you’ll probably be finding your feet with night feeds and nappy changes but still try to keep your daily activity light and manageable.


'It’s a good idea to try to avoid having lots of visitors, you need to rest and recover,' advises Cantlay. 'You also need to keep on top of your pain relief - you will have been discharged with some, but make sure you have plenty in the home, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.'


Consider this your friendly nudge to draw the curtains and have a snuggly day in bed. 

Now is a good time to start to practice deep breathing? Yes. More breathing. After months of hypnobirthing practice it’s probably the last thing you want to do but starting to connect with your deep tummy muscles through your breath is your journey back to exercise. 

What to Expect: Week 4-6 of C-Section Healing

Around a month in, some mums are starting to find their rhythm and are itching to get back behind the wheel. If your relate, do check with your insurance and ensure you have medical sign off. You'll need to be recovered enough to perform an emergency stop as well as be able to manage to putting baby in and out the car - remember that car seats can be heavy. Rather than risk stressing your scar, leave your car seat in the car and take baby from car-to-sling and back again. 

Cramping & bloating

Did you know it takes six weeks for your uterus to contract to its normal size? If not, now you do. Knowing this is helpful if you find yourself wondering why you still have a baby bump in the weeks and months after delivery. You might also find that you still have cramping and bleeding at this point too - this is all part of the recovery process. 

What to Expect: Week 6 of C-Section Healing

This is the time when you might feel like ordering a nursing sports bra and starting to exercise more than your pelvic floor. Although, do know that if this isn’t how you feel then that’s totally fine too. When you return to exercise will very much depend on your birth, your recovery and your baby.

Your Postnatal Check-Up


Around 6-8 weeks you will have your postnatal check. According to the NHS, the aim of this appointment is to make sure you feel well and are recovering properly. However, there is a lot of ground to cover in a short space of time, often while you manage hungry babies who are on their 15th nappy change of the day.


If budget allows, booking an assessment from a pelvic health physiotherapist can be a helpful option to ensure everything is tickety-boo. Not sure where to find help? You can find a private or NHS pelvic health physiotherapist via Squeezyapp. Or you could book directly with FTC contributing expert Clare Bourne.

But do know, that if you have symptoms - like the ones below - help is available via the NHS. 

Incontinence

Prolapse

Diastasis recti

Back or Pelvic Pain

Make a note to discuss your symptoms in your check-up or book a followup doctor’s appointment. 

Scar massage


From 6-weeks, when your scar is scab-free and no longer swollen, you can start to care for your scar through scar massage - although, there is no rush.

Scar massage can be done at home, or in a clinic and uses light and gentle movements to mobilise and help with pain, pulling and itching. Instagram account @hlptherapy is a good, expert-backed resource for scar massage and therapies. 

When to Seek Help During C-Section Healing

Watch for signs of infection at the incision site, severe pain, or any unusual symptoms. Fever, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision are all reasons to contact your healthcare provider immediately. Not later, not tomorrow. It’s important that you prioritise yourself alongside the baby.

Products to Support Your Healing Journey

There are several products designed to ease your recovery, like high-waist postpartum underwear and supportive belly bands, which we can hardly keep in stock. Our mums love renting these for comfort and support while navigating the challenges of early motherhood. 


Additionally, renting clothing specifically designed for postpartum bodies is practical and a good pep-up. We understand what it is like to not fit into your favourite clothes and default to trusty pregnancy jeans but only to find, they now sag and bag and just don’t feel good. We also have first-hand experience of c-sections so know what makes a good c-section recovery trouser, or not. Our handpicked edits are chosen to help you feel like you, while you get used to life as a two.

Unlock your dream maternity wardrobe with a For the Creators membership from £30 per month. 


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Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. For The Creators has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

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