Recovering from a caesarean section, commonly known as a c-section, requires special attention and care. This article provides essential postnatal care tips to aid in c section recovery, ensuring a smooth and healthy healing process for new mothers. In this guide, you will discover effective strategies and practices for a successful recovery from c section.
Please note these are general recommendations. They may not be appropriate for everyone.
Having access to obstetrician-guided early non-constipating pain relief is crucial for a smoother c-section recovery time. It can significantly assist you in moving more easily and comfortably, allowing you to focus on feeding and caring for your baby with minimal pain. However, it is important to note that the use of pain relief medication should always be guided by your medical practitioner, such as your GP or OBGYN, to ensure safe and appropriate management of post-operative discomfort during your c section recovery time.
Use wound support when coughing, e.g. a folded-up towel gently placed over the wound.
Take care when you’re getting out of bed to reduce the strain on your wound:
1. Gently brace abdominals and pelvic floor, and support the wound with hand or gentle support such as a folded-up towel.
2. Bend knees up and roll onto side (log roll)
3. Push up with arms whilst dropping legs over the side of the bed
4. Try and attain an upright posture
Watch for signs of infection. These can include redness above and below the scar line, discharge, and pain. It is very common to notice a firm lump at one end of the scar – these are generally caused by the suture knots. These stitches should dissolve by 6 weeks post-delivery.
It is important to achieve a scar that moves well and heals flat. It will take 6-10 weeks for your wound to heal completely. A C-section scar can adhere to the bladder, which can make you feel like you need to go to the toilet a lot. Scar adhesions can also irritate surrounding nerves and lead to itching around the anus and even knee pain.
Although these symptoms may be uncommon, it is important to have a quality physio assess your scar early to ensure it heals as well as possible. The scar will usually appear purple/red for 6-12 months. Sometimes, the scars can remain red for years after surgery. Occasionally laser therapy is required in these instances. You should consult your physio if you have questions about lasers for scars. Laser therapy can help finish the healing process and allow the scar to go white in these circumstances; however, it is not appropriate for everyone.
It is common to have an area of numbness or itchiness across the scar and surrounding area for up to 12 months post-delivery—this is due to the healing of any nerves that were cut during the procedure. Ice can help manage itchiness.
Sometimes there can be an unpleasant prickling sensation as these nerves regrow. If this is bothersome, we recommend discussing it with your GP.
Following delivery, the obstetrician will stitch 3-6 layers of closure for the uterus, muscle and skin. As the layers of the scar heal, they can sometimes stick together or ‘adhere’. The aim of scar massage is to gently reduce the development of these ‘adhesions’ and allow the scar layers to move freely on each other. Scar massage must not be completed until the scar has fully closed (no oozing or scabbing present). This is usually around 6-8 weeks post-delivery.
Post-cesarean delivery, it is advised to avoid heavy lifting and exercise for the first six weeks. Use the weight of your baby as a general guide. As your baby gets heavier, you should generally be able to lift heavier items.
However, be careful with the travel capsule and pram, as these items are heavier than they look. Gradually incorporating exercise after c-section can be beneficial, but it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate guidelines and recommendations.
Remember good lifting technique:
● Squat and use your legs to get down to the load keeping your back straight
● Position the weight close to your body
● Engage core and pelvic floor before and during the lift
There are conflicting advice and guidelines for driving during caesarean recovery. Some health professionals suggest 6-8 weeks of no driving. Most women return to driving 2-6 weeks post-delivery. We advise not returning to driving until you feel able and capable and also when your insurance covers you to do so.
Some insurance companies will not cover you in the event of an accident for a minimum of 6 weeks following major surgery. You should check with your insurance company if they include a caesarean as major surgery to ensure you are covered when driving.
Possible test of driving suitability:
● Can you walk up and down a flight of stairs with no pain?
● When sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, can you rotate and look over your shoulders in both directions without pain?
It is generally considered safe to return to intercourse one week after cessation of bleeding during caesarean section recovery. However, if you are breastfeeding or experiencing low oestrogen levels, the vaginal tissues can still be dry and fragile, potentially causing discomfort.
Using a paraben-free lubricant and taking your time can provide some relief, but we strongly recommend a postnatal check-up. An experienced women’s health therapist can assess for muscle tightness or signs of oestrogen deficiency that may impact your comfort during intercourse.
We hope you find this general information helpful. We strongly encourage all postnatal women to book in for a postnatal check with one of our awesome women’s health physios for advice specific to their situation.