Complete recovery from a C-section procedure may take several weeks after childbirth. C-section is a major abdominal surgery, and it is normal to experience soreness and pain on the incision for some time.
Although most women can recover within six weeks after childbirth, some may recover a little later due to individual factors such as delivery complications and general health status. Therefore, you may give time to your body to recover and set your timelines to resume activities as you feel comfortable.
Read this post to know about the activity timeline and recovery tips after C-section delivery and when to contact your doctor.
Activity Timelines After C-Section
The time to heal from a C-section can vary in each woman. However, it may take nearly six weeks to completely heal after cesarean sections in most cases. Some may recover and begin activities within a week or two after childbirth. Most mothers can recover within six to eight weeks after delivery. However, it can even be challenging for many to take care of the baby during recovery time. You may resume activities as your body heals.
Activity timeline after C-section may include (1):
1. Breastfeeding after a C-section
La Leche League recommends breastfeeding as soon as possible after a C-section. Women who had epidural anesthesia (regional anesthesia) can breastfeed in the delivery room as soon as the baby is delivered. Mothers who had general anesthesia can breastfeed in the recovery room. You may try positions that do not hurt the incision wound.
2. Exercise after a C-section
Some mothers can begin pelvic floor exercises once the urinary catheter is removed after C-section delivery. Women with difficult labor or complications may wait a while to begin exercises. Doctors recommend beginning exercise at least three weeks after C-section. After that, you may begin with gentle exercises when your body is ready.
3. Driving after a C-section
You may wait two to three weeks after C-section to begin driving. Mothers can feel fine and can drive soon after a C-section. However, driving is restricted for a while since sudden braking or sudden movements of legs while driving can stretch the abdomen and be painful. Difficulties in getting in and out of the car are also a reason to hold off before getting behind the wheel after C-section.
4. Sex after a C-section
Waiting at least six weeks after C-section before vaginal intercourse and up to eight weeks if you have delivery complications is recommended. The time may vary for each woman, depending on the emotional and physical factors.
5. Bathing after a C-section
It is recommended to delay bathing or any activities, including submerging in the water, for at least two weeks after C-section. Some mothers may feel difficult to get in and out of the tub after the procedure until the incision heals. After that, you can shower and even clean the incision with soap and water and pat dry. Soaking in public pools and baths can also increase the risk of certain infections.
All mothers can return to activities after C-section within a few weeks. However, each woman’s body is different. Some may recover faster than others. Seek your obstetrician or gynecologist’s advice if you cannot resume activities at the recommended time.
Tips For C-Section Recovery
1. Follow pain management
Follow recommended pain management during the recovery period. Take the daily doses of pain relievers at recommended timings rather than taking them when you feel pain. It may take a few weeks to recover from the pain.
Seek medical care if you experience unbearable pain after C-section anytime during recovery, even after taking prescribed pain medications.
2. Get plenty of rest
Get enough rest during the early weeks of postpartum. The body can heal quicker and well when you allow plenty of rest. Unfortunately, most mothers may not get enough rest due to taking care of their newborn and breastfeeding. Getting assistance from a partner, family member, or caregiver can help you get enough sleep and rest during postpartum days.
In addition, you may rest when your baby rests because you may have to wake up to breastfeed and comfort them when they are awake.
3. Follow a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy diet helps your body recover well. Try to follow nutritious meals rather than calorie-filled meals. You may also seek dietary advice from a certified dietician during the postpartum period. They can help you plan your diet according to the calories and nutrients required during breastfeeding.
You may also take vitamin or mineral supplements if prescribed by your doctor. Adding fiber and fluids to your diet can also help prevent postpartum constipations. Never follow crash diets in the postpartum period to lose pregnancy weight since it could affect your health and may also affect breastfeeding.
4. Increase daily fluid intake
Drinking plenty of water is also necessary during postpartum. Breastfeeding moms need more water than pregnant mothers. Breastfeeding mothers are advised to take additional 800ml/day of water for the first six months and additional 650ml/day of water after six months of postpartum. This addition is over the 2.3 liters per day water intake recommended to non-pregnant women (3).
5. Begin with gentle activities
Walking around a little can help in recovery and prevent blood clots during initial postpartum days. Walking in the house is sufficient for the initial days. After that, you may gradually increase walking as you get better. However, it is recommended to delay heavy lifting, brisk walking, running, jogging, squats, and other intense activities for at least six weeks postpartum.
C-Section Incision Care
Your healthcare provider will provide instructions for appropriate care of the incision wound during the recovery period. These instructions may include the following (2).
- If the wound is dressed with a bandage, change the dressing once at home as directed by the doctor. You may change it after a shower or when it is dirty.
- Stop covering (dressing) the wound after some days as recommended by the healthcare provider.
- Keep the incision wound dry and clean.
- Wash the incision wound with soap and water during the shower and pat dry after cleaning.
- Let the bandage or tapes fall off itself.
- Do not soak in a bath or swimming pool until the wound is completely healed.
Never scrub or apply something to the wound. This may delay healing and increases the risk of wound infections. You may also ensure the wound is healing over time and seek medical care if it is not healing.
When To Call A Doctor
You may contact your healthcare provider for any queries and concerns during the postpartum period. Seek prompt medical care if you have any of the following symptoms during the postpartum period (4).
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or depressed
- Having troubling thoughts
- Breathing troubles
- Severe belly pain (abdominal pain)
- Signs of wound infection such as pain, redness, swelling, or pus from the incision wound
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding soaking more than a pad in every two hours or less time
- Heavy vaginal bleeding or bleeding lasting more than four days
- Passing several large vaginal clots
- Incision opens up
- Signs of blood clots such as pain in the calf muscles, back of knee, groin, or thighs
- Trouble passing urine or stool
You may also seek help from a certified lactation professional if you are concerned about breastfeeding or have any issues related to feeding your baby.
The postpartum period is to care and cherish the time with your little one and care for yourself. Proper care during postpartum is also as important as pregnancy care. You may also give attention to mental health along with physical wellbeing. Have adequate rest to regain strength, and consider keeping someone to assist you during this time. Always follow and seek healthcare provider’s recommendations for any concerns during the postpartum period.
- Going home after a C-section.
- Going home after a C-section.
- SaptawatiBardosono et al; Fluid Intake of Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women in Indonesia: A Cross-Sectional Survey with a Seven-Day Fluid Specific Record.
- The Do\’s and Don\’ts of Healing from a C-Section.