About one in three births happen by Cesarean section in the United States. More women are having C-section babies, but that hasn’t made the recovery any less stressful. No matter how you cut it, the procedure is hard on the body.
What can you expect during the recovery phase? How long will it take, and are there things you can’t do? We’ll cover everything you need to know about your post C-section recovery.
Table of Contents
- Why Would a Doctor Recommend a C-Section?
- How Long Does a C-Section Take?
- How Long Does an Anscheduled C-Section Take?
- How Long Does a Scheduled C-Section Take?
- How Long Are You in the Hospital After a C-Section?
- How Long Does It Take for a C-Section to Heal?
- Helpful Tips for a Smooth Recovery
- Are There Any Restrictions After a C-Section?
- Driving After a C-Section: How Long Do You Have to Wait?
- When to See a Doctor
Why Would a Doctor Recommend a C-Section?
If you were planning a natural birth, news that your baby may need to be delivered by C-section may be disappointing and troublesome. Suddenly, your vision of pushing and grunting your way through labor turns into fear and worry about the procedure.
There are many reasons why your doctor may peg you for a scheduled Cesarean section:
- Infection: If you have an active genital herpes infection or are HIV-positive, your doctor will urge a C-section birth, as these infections can be passed during delivery.
- Certain medical issues: Vaginal delivery can be extremely stressful to the body, so if you have a chronic medical condition – like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or kidney disease – your doctor will recommend a C-section birth.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risks of complications during birth, so your doctor may recommend a C-section to avoid these complications.
- The baby’s size: The baby may be too large to pass safely through the vaginal canal.
- Multiples: Your odds of having a Cesarean section increase if you’re carrying multiple babies.
- Placenta problems: If the placenta is completely or partly blocking the cervical opening or if it has separated from the uterine wall, a C-section will likely be safer for you and the baby.
An unscheduled C-section may also be performed. Common reasons for an emergency procedure include:
- Labor stalls
- Labor that doesn’t start
- Fetal distress
- Uterine rupture
- Prolapsed umbilical cord
How Long Does a C-Section Take?
The amount of time the procedure takes will depend on whether the C-section was planned or unplanned.
How Long Does an Anscheduled C-Section Take?
An emergency, or unscheduled, procedure will take about two minutes from first incision to delivery.
How Long Does a Scheduled C-Section Take?
A scheduled Cesarean section will take about 10-15 minutes to complete.
It will take an additional 45 minutes to deliver the placenta and suture the incisions.
How Long Are You in the Hospital After a C-Section?
When most women imagine giving birth, they imagine being in the hospital for a day and leaving with their newborn.
But a C-section is not like vaginal birth. Because this procedure is major surgery, your recovery will take longer and your hospital stay will be extended.
Most women spend three to four days in the hospital after a Cesarean section.
That may seem like a long time to be in the hospital, but you’ll welcome the extra care – especially when the anesthesia starts wearing off.
Plus, you need that extra time in the hospital so that your doctor can monitor you for complications that may arise.
How Long Does It Take for a C-Section to Heal?
Even with vaginal births, the body needs some time to heal after labor and delivery. A C-section delivery, which is much harder on the body, will require extra healing time.
It can take up to six weeks for your body to fully heal after the procedure.
I know what you’re thinking: Six weeks?! I have a baby to care for and a house to run.
It can be difficult to get the rest your body needs when your baby demands attention and life still goes on around you. Ask friends and family to help out by taking care of the household chores and cooking, so you can rest in between feedings.
Helpful Tips for a Smooth Recovery
Some women recover faster than others, but it’s still important to give your body the time it needs to heal.
Your doctor will likely provide you some recovery tips. Here are a few more to help make the healing phase as smooth and stress-free as possible.
1. Take Your Medicine
Your doctor prescribed you medication for a reason – take it. Your physician may also recommend taking acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) or some other medications for pain relief.
Whatever your doctor recommends should be safe for breastfeeding moms, so take these as needed to keep pain at bay.
2. Support Your Belly When Breastfeeding
If you’re breastfeeding, use a pillow to add extra support for your abdomen, which is tender right now.
Some women also like wearing pregnancy belts because they provide additional support.
3. Stay Hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated during the recovery phase, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Drinking plenty of water will help replenish fluids you may have lost during delivery and can also help with constipation.
If you’re still in the early phases of recovery and haven’t had your first after-birth poop, take my advice and drink as much water as you safely can. Staying hydrated can help prevent that dreaded feeling of “pooping glass” when you finally do go number two.
4. Don’t Have Sex
Right now, a good release sounds like the best thing in the world, but avoid having sex until your doctor gives you the green light.
In most cases, women have to wait four to six weeks before they can start having sex again.
Are There Any Restrictions After a C-Section?
Yes, there will be some things that you won’t be able to do right after a C-section.
While you’re recovering, you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than your baby. If you have toddlers running around, this means you won’t be able to pick them up either.
Your doctor will also tell you that doing strenuous jobs around the house is also a big no-no. In fact, any type of strenuous activity is off limits for a while.
Lifting heaving things is the major restriction after a C-section, but there are some things you may want to voluntarily avoid doing, such as:
- Making sudden movement, which can cause serious pain.
- Stretching upwards. That upward motion may also cause you pain and discomfort.
The main goal is to take it easy while you’re recovering. Your body has undergone a serious procedure, so you need all the rest you can get.
Your doctor will encourage you to perform some postnatal exercises after the procedure and throughout the recovery stage. Don’t panic about these – they’re gentle and therapeutic.
Driving After a C-Section: How Long Do You Have to Wait?
Now that you’re home and life is starting to get back to normal, you may be wondering when you can begin driving again. If your spouse is out all day at work, you might start feeling cooped up.
It can take up to six weeks for you to start feeling well enough to drive again. Some women are up and ready to start driving in as little as four weeks.
If you feel like you’re ready to get back behind the wheel, talk to your doctor first.
When to See a Doctor
Most women sail through the recovery phase with no issues at all. But if you experience any of the following, see your doctor right away:
- Heavy bleeding, foul-smelling discharge and a fever. This may indicate that you have an infection in the womb.
- Discharge, redness and hot wound.
- Worsening pain.
- Separation in your wound.
- Pain in the groin or tummy.
Whether your Cesarean section was planned or unplanned, it’s important to remember that the recovery time won’t last forever and you’ll soon get back to your normal routine. In the meantime, enjoy the time with your baby and the help around the house.