One in four babies are delivered by caesarean section - that's a lot of mummies who need to recover.
Having a caesarean is often necessary to avoid medical complications, and while some might see it as an easy alternative to vaginal birth, in fact, it's far tougher to recover from. Giving birth doesn't always go to plan, so whether a caesarean is emergency or elective, it's an extraordinary procedure that can save lives.
How long does c-section recovery take?
As with everything, this differs from woman to woman. You'll most likely be in hospital for 3 or 4 days after your caesarian but you'll need to take it as easy as possible for the new few weeks.
The time it takes for your scar to heal is often underestimated and mums feel deflated and bed-ridden in the weeks following - wondering if they'll ever get back to their usual active selves.
A c-section is a common operation, ‘but it’s important to remember it’s also quite a serious one,’ says Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the NCT. ‘You have an incision through your abdomen into your uterus, so although most women recover quickly, you do need to follow the advice you’re given.’
Driving after a c-section
Get someone else to do the driving. You won’t be able to drive for up to six weeks, so plan to have someone take you to clinics, and so on. ‘If you’re having an elective c-section, it’s a good idea to arrange all this in advance, but it can be more difficult to organise after an emergency c-section,’ says Elizabeth. ‘This is the time to call in favours from friends and relatives.’
Like with every postpartum journey, everyone's body is different and recovers at different rates. Although there's no set rule for all, many women feel comfortable returning to intercourse between four and six weeks after giving birth.
Exercise after c-section
You should wait until you've had your 6-8 week post-natal check before starting to exercise. Although your GP may recommend waiting for 12 weeks before starting high-impact exercises, it's usually fine to start low-impact exercises such as swimming and yoga before then.
When can I have a bath after a c-section?
This one is entirely your choice. Most women typically feel most comfortable waiting for around three to four weeks to take a bath after having a c-section to allow their wound to heal but the NHS say you are fine to bath and shower daily, providing you can keep your wound clean and dry.
How to sleep after a c-section
Sleep on your back: this will place the least amount of strain and pressure on your wound.
Sleep on your side: Another comfy option, this won't put additional pressure on your wound either and will make getting out of bed easier too.
Use a pillow: Make use of your pregnancy or feeding pillow to ease pressure points and keep comfy while you sleep.
C-section recovery tips
Follow these top tips to aid recovery after having a c-section...
Move about (go gently!) as soon as you can. This is good for your circulation and will also mean your bladder catheter can be removed earlier.
Alter breastfeeding positions
Try different positions for breastfeeding, which may be uncomfortable to start with because of your stitches. Your midwife will be able to help you get into the best position.
Cotton all the way
Wear loose clothes and roomy cotton underwear to help you feel comfortable.
Fluids and fibre-rich foods
Drink plenty of fluids and eat fibre-rich foods like fruit, vegetables and oats, to help prevent constipation.
Wash your wound
Wash and dry your wound carefully. The dressing will normally be taken off the day after surgery, and after that, it’s important to keep the area clean. It’s okay to use soap if you rinse well, and be sure to pat rather than rub the skin.
Have people on standby
Arrange help with other children. If you have other little ones, the weeks after a c-section can be tough, as you won’t be able to carry them and play with them as usual. Have people on standby to help out, if possible.
Keep an eye out for infection
Watch out for signs of infection in the week or so after your c-section. If you feel feverish, your wound becomes more painful, looks angry or inflamed or leaks pus, you have smelly discharge or heavy bleeding, or you notice pain or discomfort when you pee, you should contact your doctor.
Take a painkiller
You’ll be given painkillers, so take them. ‘You will need these for at least the first few days after the c-section,’ says Elizabeth.
Enlist help at home. ‘You can hold and breastfeed your baby but you’ll need help with picking her up,’ says Elizabeth. ‘You won’t be able to pick up toddlers or anything heavy, such as shopping bags. So get help around the home from friends or relatives.’
Real mum tips
The mums from Mother&Baby's Facebook group #mumtribe have given their expert advice on ways to cope post-C-section and how to feel 'human' again.
From tying a scarf to the end of the bed, to sleeping with ten pillows underneath you, this is all the advice you will need. These mums have been there themselves and their advice is invaluable.
1. Lisa Thompson
"My biggest bit of advice is rest! Forget housework, forget visitors and just stay in your bubble with your baby, everything else can wait. Your body has been through a lot and it needs time to recoup. Take it slow and listen to your body."