C-Section Recovery: Duration, Tips & Wound Care

Updated in November 2022

To quickly recover from a C-section, you should ensure adequate hydration and a protein-rich diet with vegetables and fruits. These factors promote healing and contribute to a shorter recovery duration. 

The total time of recovery from a C-section varies from woman to woman. Some woman are able to walk hours following surgery, while others may take a little longer to recover, especially if there were labor-related complications. In any way, the body takes about 6 months to completely recover from a C-section.

During the first post-partum days, women may feel pain and discomfort. Many require additional assistance to lay down, to stand up, and to complete house chores. 

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Post-partum recovery duration

Women in the post-partum may be advised to wait about 6 weeks after labor before returning to normal sexual activity. You should consult your doctor to ensure you are clear to engage in sexual activity. The doctor will assess your healing and recommend ways to decrease discomfort and risk for infection. 

Hospital duration 

Following a C-section, women will usually stay in the hospital for 3 to 5 days. Once mother and baby are medically stable, the doctor will discharge them home. In some cases, the mother or baby may need to stay for longer to recovery from a health condition. 

Tips for recovering at home 

After being discharged, women will continue their recovery at home. Some measures to consider include:

1. Extra help 

Women should avoid any physical activity in the first 6 weeks. Priority should be on the woman’s wellbeing, breastfeeding and caring for the baby. Therefore, whenever possible, you should have help with household tasks and child care. 

2. Pelvic exercises 

Performing pelvic exercises are a great way to strengthen the pelvic floor. This can reduce the risk for post-partum incontinence (urinary or stool) and hemorrhoids. 

3. Back or side-sleeping 

You should ideally lie on your back when sleeping, with a pillow under your knees. This will ensure proper spinal alignment and prevent pain. Women who prefer to sleep on their side can place a pillow between their knees to keep their back straight. 

4. Ice for pain and swelling 

Some women may benefit from applying cold compresses to their C-section incision. Be sure to keep the incision completely dry by wrapping a sealed bag of ice in a cloth. You can apply cold therapy to the area for 15 minutes, every 4 hours, to relieve pain and swelling. 

5. Light exercise 

On the second post-partum day, women can engage in light, 5 minute walks to help speed-up recovery. 6 weeks after labor. Women can return to light, low-impact physical activity (e.g. longer walks) as directed by their doctor.

Some exercises, like planking and hypopressive exercises, may help to strengthen the abdominal muscles and decrease belly flaccidity. However, you should wait to be cleared by your obstetrician before starting exercise. 

6. Avoiding heavy lifting and driving

You are advised to avoid any heavy physical activity. As a rule of thumb, you should not lift anything heavier than the body. You are also advised to avoid driving for 4 to 6 weeks after a c-section, as this can worsen your incision pain and discomfort. 

7. Healing ointment 

After the dressing and any stitches are removed, the doctor may recommend a healing cream, gel or ointment to help reduce any visible deformities of the incision. To reduce scarring, you can lightly massage the scar in circular movements. 

8. Balanced diet 

You should ensure your diet is rich in protein, like eggs, chicken, cooked fish and rice with beans. Protein is essential for wound healing. It is also important to eat fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, as these also promote healing and optimal intestinal functioning to prevent constipation and gas. 

You should also drink 2 to 3 L of water per day to help with breastmilk production, healing and constipation. 

9. Birth control

Women may be advised to speak with their OB about restarting birth control pills or other contraceptive methods. Becoming pregnant within a few months of a c-section can increase the risk for uterine rupture, and women are often advised to wait 18 months before getting pregnant again. 

10. Diuretic teas for swelling 

It is normal to retain fluid following a C-section. To reduce discomfort, women can sip on chamomile tea or mint tea throughout the day. These teas do not have any contraindications for use and do not interfere with breastmilk production. 

Wound care for a cesarean incision

The C-section incision can take 6 to 10 weeks to heal completely. Stitches may be removed between the 7th to 15th post-partum day, as directed by an obstetrician. 

Wound care is usually done by a nurse, with saline and sterile gauze, until stitches are removed.