Our Guide to Caesarean Birth Recovery

A caesarean is one of the options available for giving birth. It’s a surgical alternative to vaginal birth, and it may be the right choice for you.

Recovering from a caesarean can be an extended process. You’ll need plenty of rest and support while your wound heals and you adjust to life with a newborn baby.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions throughout the recovery process. This can help your body heal more quickly, and it can prevent complications such as infection.

This article is our guide to caesarean birth recovery. We discuss what you can expect following the procedure, how to care for yourself, and the potential complications.

Key Takeaways

You’ll usually need to stay in the hospital for 3-5 days after a caesarean section
It can take 6-10 weeks to fully recover from a C-section
When you feel able, gentle exercise like walking can aid your recovery
Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding pain medication, wound care and follow up appointments
Call PANDA on 1300 726 306 for free mental health advice and counselling

    What Happens After a Caesarean Birth?

    After your caesarean, you will be moved to the recovery ward where a midwife can monitor you. Depending on how your procedure went, you’ll be with your baby for skin-to-skin time. A midwife will also help you initiate feeding and latch your baby if you are choosing to breastfeed.

    You’ll stay in the recovery ward for an hour or two, and then be transferred back to the maternity ward to rest.

    Pain Relief After Caesarean Birth

    Once the epidural is removed, your doctor will prescribe oral pain medication – typically a combination of paracetamol, ibuprofen and opioids (tramadol or oxycodone).

    Your doctor will also prescribe medications you can use to manage your pain once you have been discharged from the hospital.

    Caesarean Wound Care

    It’s crucial to keep your caesarean wound clean and dry at all times. Hospitals use waterproof dressings that allow you to shower without getting the wound wet.

    Your dressing needs to be changed every day. Depending on the type of dressing that was used, you may need to keep the wound dressed for 5-14 days after your procedure.

    Follow your doctor’s instructions for changing the dressing and cleaning the wound.

    How Long Will I Be in the Hospital?

    You will usually need to stay in hospital for 3-5 days after a caesarean section. A caesarean is a major procedure and your healthcare provider will need to monitor your recovery.

    The days following your caesarean will look like this:

    Day 1

    In the maternity ward, your epidural and urinary catheter will be removed, and you’ll be given pain medication.

    Once you’re able to move, hospital staff will help you out of bed and into the shower. Getting up after a major surgery can be daunting and uncomfortable. But it’s crucial to keep your body moving. This prevents complications like fluid buildup, trapped gas or dangerous blood clots.

    Day 2

    Hospital staff will encourage you to walk around your room multiple times per day.

    Make sure you ask for support when getting up, or changing between sitting and lying down. You may also need help with tasks like showering, dressing and lowering yourself onto the toilet. This help can be provided by hospital staff or by one of your support people (e.g. your partner).

    It’s normal to experience more pain on Day 2 than Day 1. This can be controlled with pain medication. Be honest with yourself about your pain levels. Hospital staff can’t help if they don’t know you’re in pain.

    Day 3

    By Day 3, your pain levels should be under control. If you’re feeling confident, it’s a good idea to take a longer walk around the ward.

    Many women find it helpful to wear recovery shorts or a belly binder. This gives your body extra support and can give you the confidence to move around.

    Days 4-5

    You will usually be discharged from the hospital on day 4 or 5 if there are no postoperative complications. Before you leave, your doctor will check your wound and a midwife may change the dressing. They’ll provide care instructions on cleaning the wound and changing dressings.

    You may need to stay an extra day or two if you experience complications that require further monitoring.


    Follow Up Appointments

    Your doctor will usually book a follow up appointment for 2 weeks following your caesarean. At the follow up appointment, the surgeon will check your wound and discuss your recovery.

    Be honest with your doctor. They can help if you:

    Are experiencing pain and need medication
    Need emotional or physical support
    Need support for looking after yourself and your baby at home

      You will also need to visit your GP around 6 weeks after giving birth. At the 6-week postnatal check, your doctor will assess your recovery and check your baby’s health.

      Most people have largely recovered by the 6-week mark. However, a caesarean is a major procedure, and it may take longer to fully recover.

      While you’ll feel better than you did a few weeks ago, it can take months for the body to fully recover from major surgery. Be kind to yourself and follow your doctor’s advice regarding exercise and physical therapy.

      Breastfeeding Your Baby After a Caesarean

      You can breastfeed your baby soon after a caesarean section. It’s important to begin skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as you’re alert. This supports bonding with your baby and can make it easier to establish breastfeeding.

      Your midwife will help you with latching and encouraging your baby to feed. A caesarean birth can cause complications with breastfeeding, e.g. your milk may not come through immediately.

      Don’t be discouraged if this happens to you. It often takes a little more time to start breastfeeding successfully.

      When Can I Go Home After a Caesarean?

      Most women are discharged from the hospital 4-5 days after a caesarean. You may have the option of going home sooner, depending on the hospital’s policies and whether you have support available at home.

      It’s important to look after your mind and body when you get home. You can aid your recovery by:

      - Getting as much rest as possible
      Eating balanced meals when you feel hungry
      Spending skin-to-skin time with your baby
      Going for short walks on flat ground
      Avoiding strenuous movement or tasks, especially if they require you to bend down or lift your arms above your head
      Wear comfortable, loose clothing around your wound
      Check your wound and change your dressing as directed by your doctor


        It’s normal to need support for the first few weeks of recovery after a caesarean. Avoid pushing your limits, and make sure you’re asking your partner, family and friends for support where you need it.

        Talk to your doctor if you need additional support beyond your partner. At-home help is available.

        Complications During Recovery

        Recovering from a caesarean is usually straightforward. However, there is a risk of infection or other complications. You should contact your doctor if you notice any of the following problems:

        An increase in pain, swelling and redness around your wound
        Fever or shivering
        Pain when you urinate
        Heavy bleeding from the vagina
        Discharge from your wound or vagina that smells bad
        Hard, red, painful lumps in your breast that don’t get better
        Continued bleeding from your vagina after 6 weeks of recovery

          Where to Get Emotional Support After a Caesarean

          Having a caesarean can be an emotional time. Some women feel happy, but it’s also normal to experience negative emotions, disappointment or confusion. This can be especially true if your caesarean was unplanned or traumatic.

          It’s important to look after your mental health after a caesarean. You should discuss your feelings with your midwife, doctor or support person. Keep an eye on how you feel during recovery, and ask for help if you are struggling to care for yourself or your baby.

          If you need help, you can also reach out to any of these organisations for support:

          Lifeline on 13 11 14
          Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
          PANDA on 1300 726 306

            Does Having a Caesarean Affect Future Pregnancies?

            Having a caesarean can increase the risk of pregnancy complications in the future. This includes problems with the position of the placenta, or the placenta detaching after birth.

            You should discuss your plans for future pregnancies with your doctor. It’s often possible to have a vaginal birth after a caesarean. Speak to your doctor to learn about your options and make an informed decision about future pregnancies.

            Get Ready for Your Birth Experience With Nourish Baby

            Many women choose to have a caesarean birth. Other times, your doctor may recommend a caesarean to aid in delivery and prevent complications. Whatever the case may be, learning more about the procedure can help you manage anxiety and plan your recovery.

            Nourish Baby provides online antenatal courses that walk you through your options for labour, birth and caring for your newborn. Our courses are designed to provide everything you need to make an informed decision.

            We’ve compiled resources from qualified and experienced healthcare professionals to guide you through your pregnancy, birth and recovery experience.

            You can explore our courses online at any time, or contact us to find out more about caesarean birth recovery.


            About the Author: Jane Barry - Your Health Content Expert

            Jane Barry is a registered nurse, midwife, and child health nurse with a passion for combining clinical expertise and writing. She has nearly 30 years of specialist experience in child health nursing and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Applied Science (Nursing). Jane specialises in women’s health, parenting, pregnancy, babies and maternity care, child health, nutrition, feeding, teething, and dental health issues.

            An active member of AHPRA, The Australasian Medical Writer’s Association, Health Writer Hub, and the Australian College of Children and Young People’s Nurses, Jane Barry delivers health content with professionalism and clarity.

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