Recovering after a C-section by Chase Lodge Hospital

30 May

Chase Lodge Hospital in Mill Hill NW7 is delighted to have been asked to write some information for Nurturing Mums.  We have  asked them to talk about postnatal recovery after a caesarean or popularly known as a C-section.  Nowadays, approximately a quarter of births in the UK are via this type of delivery.  It is often a time of uncertainty for new mums, as they have a lot on their plate having just had a baby as well as surgery!  

official member

The first thing to take note of is not to worry!  While most of you reading this will have already had your baby, some of you will still be pregnant and planning to have a normal vaginal birth.  Unfortunately, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.  (Of course, there are those of you who have a planned C-section, either because there is some risk to giving birth for you or your baby, e.g. placenta previa or your baby may be breech and refusing to turn.)  Whatever your reasons are, a C-section is not something to be afraid of, and millions of women worldwide deliver this way on a daily basis; risks are low as long as you look after yourself.

We would advise that you shouldn’t expect to be up and running (even walking!) immediately after your C-section; you have had an operation so you will need to rest.  You will also be wearing a catheter for approximately 24 hours post birth (this protects your bladder during delivery), after which time it will likely be removed.  Expect at least three days in hospital during which time doctors, nurses, and your consultant/midwife will monitor you and check that you are fit and well enough to go home.  It  is normal for a nurse to help you out of bed the day after your c-section to get you moving around. The amount of activity you take up over the next fortnight should be minimal but gradually increasing on a daily basis, e.g. achieve this by increasing your walking distance and becoming more active. If you have experienced a long labour prior to your C-section you will be more exhausted so expect to feel very tired (welcome to motherhood 🙂 ).  The key is listen to your body and rest when you need to!

The area where the consultant has made the incision may well be uncomfortable for a while. Post-delivery, you shouldn’t feel any pain as the epidural will ease any soreness immediately but as this wears off, you should expect soreness and some pain; this should not be unbearable and be very manageable with given anti-inflammatory painkillers such as codeine and diclofenac which are usually administered (unless you have an intolerance) –incidentally, these won’t interfere with breastfeeding.

Expect bleeding – (not from your incision), but rather like an exceptionally heavy period. You may well bleed up to 10 days later and this is absolutely fine.   If you bleed from your scar there is something wrong and you will need to tell your midwife, health visitor or GP; you must take care not to get the scar infected and it should be well dressed after the c-section.  Your nurse will keep it clean and change the dressing until she/he is happy that you can go without the dressing and then usually some sticking plasters will be used to keep everything in place.  Dependent on whether you have had staples or stitches will make a difference to how your incision is dealt with.  These days, dissolvable stitches will disappear over a few weeks, you will still feel a bump where each stitch has been made before they disappear, don’t worry about this.  Staples and non-dissolvable stitches are removed approximately a week after birth.  Again, take great care as excessive or sudden movement can open these stitches or staples, if this happens see a doctor immediately to avoid infection or blood loss.

When washing, don’t scrub the area where you have had the incision, pat it and be gentle.  Too much rigorous washing can affect your wound, open it and even cause infection; any oozing, turning red or pain on the scar could be the start of infection so take care to check the area regularly.

You shouldn’t be released from hospital until you have been to the toilet and passed a stool.  Your bowels can take a while to recover after this type of delivery so you will be advised to eat plenty of fibre and may well have to take a natural laxative such as prune juice to get your body back to normal.

We are sure you will have been told not to carry large objects as this can interfere with your scar healing, carrying excess weight can result in tearing and you don’t want to be admitted back to hospital with a weeping wound.  You should be able to gently lift your baby, but please do not lift anything heavier and do not carry your new baby for too long a time.  Certainly, sitting in a chair and nursing your baby is absolutely fine, if you are able to, please try and get help particularly for the first 2 or 3 weeks.  You may well feel pain as your uterus shrinks back to its original size, this is completely normal.  However, if you do feel sharp and sudden pains a couple of weeks after a C-section speak to your doctor to check your healing is coming along properly.

mum and baby

Post C-section recovery time often depends on your fitness, health and age and most women report feeling well within 6 weeks, which is when you will have a 6 week postnatal check.  Your consultant/GP or midwife will check your scar and make sure your uterus has contracted back into the right place.  If they are happy, they will sign you off to drive, take part in exercise and let you know if it is safe to have sex again.

Finally, there will be a scar left after a C-section but in time it will fade and you won’t believe you ever gave birth through the thin white line that is left!  You can use Bio oil or vitamin E cream which will help the healing of the scar, but really it will be well hidden so you can get the bikini out for your next holiday! There is no reason why you can’t have a vaginal birth after a C-section, as long as you are healthy and your pregnancy is risk free and you haven’t had more than one C-section – you will still be a candidate for a natural birth.

Chase Lodge Hospital in Mill Hill can do your 6 week postnatal check and offers free baby weighing for a year for members.  They also have access to breast feeding consultants, sleep consultants, weaning consultants and have a full paediatrics department.  Please call on 020 8358 7110 for more information.

Chase Lodge maternity services


Have you had a C-section? Was it planned or emergency? How long did it take you to recover? Please share your experience with other new mums who have delivered via a C-section!


One Response to “Recovering after a C-section by Chase Lodge Hospital”

  1. Claire B June 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    I had an emergency c-section in February and I’m only just feeling like myself again. The recovery was really tough!

    If we’re lucky enough to have another baby, I would hope for a VBAC.

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