Helpful Recovery Steps For C-Section Healing Week by Week

Mom with c-section scar holding baby, c-section recovery

What is a c-section?

A c-section (cesarean delivery) is major abdominal surgery where your baby is delivered through an incision made in your abdomen and uterus. This happens when a vaginal delivery seems to be unsafe or risky. 

A few possible reasons a c-section might be needed include: 

  • Fetal heart distress (baby’s heart rate is at a concerning level) 
  • Your baby is malpositioned (breech or transverse) 
  • Your labor is not progressing 
  • Health complications: pre-eclampsia, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. 
  • Birth of multiples (twins/triplets) 

You might be wondering…

What happens if I need a c-section to give birth to my baby? 

When you are faced with the possibility of needing a c-section, it is helpful to have your partner, support person or doula by your side. They can help you process this transition, suggest questions you can ask and provide emotional support and comfort. 

Discuss your birth plan and wishes with your support team beforehand so they are aware of your preferences. They may need to absorb information quickly during labor and birth. A lot can happen in a short amount of time, especially in the event of an unplanned c-section. 

Some families opt for or need a scheduled c-section for various medical reasons. If this is your path, the rest of this information will definitely still apply to you. 

And keep in mind… 

No matter the reasons for having a c-section, you are a good parent doing what is best for you and your family. 

Recovery From a C-Section 

C-section recovery will take some time. Let’s walk through what that could look like. 

Day of C-Section

Hospital staff will take you into an operating room, usually with your partner, or one person that you want to have with you. In some hospitals (for instance: Tampa General Hospital) they may also allow your doula to join you in the operating room in most circumstances, although this is not very common. 

An anesthesiologist will administer a regional form of anesthesia to ensure that you do not feel pain during the surgery. This is typically an epidural or spinal. They will test out the area to make sure the epidural is working. During the surgery you should not feel pain, but it is common to feel a pushing or tugging sensation as your baby comes out. 

Many mothers choose to have skin-to-skin time with their baby immediately after they are born. Your baby is placed near your face while still in the operating room on the surgery table, with the help of a nurse or your support person. If your baby does not need any immediate treatment, this request can often be accommodated. 

Advice for this first day: 

Don’t overdo it. 

Your body has been through so much. 

For several hours after surgery, they’ll monitor you for bleeding and other complications. 

You’ll be able to start eating as you gradually transition from ice chips and a fluid diet. 

Day 1 After C-Section

Your pain may spike on this day. You may not be keen to get out of bed. But hospital staff will encourage you to move, as the activity will help with recovery. It will especially prevent blood clots from forming. 

They may offer oral narcotics or IV medication to manage your pain after your numbing has worn off. As this happens, be prepared for a higher level of pain. Many women have described their pain during this stage following a c-section as intense or severe. However, everybody is different and you may not have the same experience. 

As your milk comes in, you will be able to nurse your baby normally, if you decide to breastfeed. Having a c-section will not stop this from happening.  

However, keep in mind –  if you are giving birth to your second or third baby, postpartum cramping will be more painful than it was the first time. With each delivery, it feels worse than the time before, especially while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding triggers oxytocin to flow through your body, which helps to shrink your uterus down to its pre-pregnancy size. The cramping feels painful but it is necessary to return your body to normal. 

Having support during this first day is paramount. 

Make sure you have someone by your side: your partner, doula, or another support person. You can also ask for a nurse to help you whenever you need it. 

Have them help you to the bathroom. 

Let them bring the baby to you. 

Ask them to do the diaper changes. 

This is your time to heal and enjoy your new baby. You don’t need to carry the entire load by yourself. 

Day 2 After C-Section

Once again, increased activity day by day will allow you to heal faster. Getting up out of bed and moving will decrease swelling and overall healing time. 

On this day, you’re probably ready to bathe. 

You’ve experienced a lot.

Surgery, baby feedings, a long night…. 

You’re ready to rinse off the hours of labor and feel refreshed. 

But, keep in mind, there are rules with bathing when it comes to c sections… 

Here are a few tips: 

  • Take a shower, no baths
  • Allow soap and water to run over your incision, don’t scrub
  • Dry the incision area by gently patting it or using a blow dryer on cool

In addition to showering, you’ll be eating solid food as well. This is wonderful, but also a little daunting. The thing about major abdominal surgery is that your body “shuts down” your bowels temporarily. It may take a few days for you to have regular bowel movements. Your care provider may prescribe a stool softener to make it easier. 

Take it from us…

These will be your best friends: 

  • A belly wrap for extra support over your abdomen
  • Stool softeners
  • Gas-X
  • Rock in a rocking chair (this can help relieve built-up gas) 
  • Drinking plenty of water (will help prevent constipation)

Side note: Typically, with c-sections, your provider will check to make sure you are passing gas before you return home. They want to make sure that everything is working properly in your intestinal area.

After 1 week

At this point you will most likely be in the comfort of your own home. Typically, the hospital will discharge you 2 to 4 days post-surgery. 

Before going home, you’ll learn how to care for your incision and how active you should be. While you do need to get up and move around, you also don’t want to over exert yourself. Make a plan to have support with you at home.

Not only to help you with your new baby, but with things like getting food to eat, stocking up on groceries, walking the dog, cleaning the house, etc.   

It will take some time for you to return to your normal routine. 

Here are a few tips for this stage: 

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby 
  • Prioritize your physical healing 
  • Have your partner set up stations with your everyday essentials where you spend the most time at home 
  • Limit going up and down the stairs

Here’s the good news:

At this point, you’ll start feeling more like yourself again. 

Listen to and welcome the old parts of yourself back. 

A lot changed in the last week. Make room for mistakes. Create space for imperfection. 

It is part of the process. 

Not only are you figuring out a routine for your new baby, but for yourself too, all while healing from major surgery. 

Give yourself patience. 

After 2 weeks 

At this point, you will continue to feel more and more like yourself. You may be seeing your doctor again for a postpartum check-up. They will check out your incision for swelling, redness, or signs of infection. Don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns you may have. 

As you begin to feel more normal, take this time and reflect on how amazing your body is. 

You’ve accomplished so much! 

Make sure you give yourself credit where credit is due. 

After 4 weeks 

You are inching closer and closer to feeling physically healed. Soon, your postpartum bleeding will greatly decrease and may taper off completely. 

During the first 2-3 weeks postpartum you may experience what is often referred to as the baby blues. This is caused by hormonal changes resulting in anxiety, crying or restlessness. As your hormones level out the baby blues typically go away. However, if you experience symptoms lasting longer than 2-3 weeks or can’t eat, sleep, or take care of your baby, or you have anxiety or panic attacks these may be warning signs of a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder. Tell your doctor or your doula so you can get the help you need.

Remember to stay active every day, even if it’s just for a short walk. You and your baby will both benefit from the fresh air and outside time.

After 6 weeks

Usually, this is when you have your 6-week check-up with your doctor and they give you the all-clear for more physical activity (including driving and sexual activity if you so choose.) 

Most of your stitches have dissolved at this point, and your scar is healing nicely. 

You should be feeling better, not worse. 

So, listen to your body. If you are feeling worse, let your doctor know. 

How Can Your Doula Help With Your C-Section Birth?  

You might be wondering… 

Can doulas even help with c-section births? 

Yes, Doulas are there for cesareans too! 

At Buddha Belly Doulas, our doulas will be there for you through every step of your pregnancy journey whether you need a c-section or not. You may need this more than you anticipate. 

We’ve seen it all, and we aren’t afraid of any obstacle you may face during this phase of your life. Talk to us! 

Contact us here

Need More C-Section Recovery Tips? Also check out: Recovering After a Cesarean or Cesarean Birth: What to Expect 

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading