Recovery after Caesarean Birth
How you will feel after a caesarean birth depends on what your expectations on the birth of your baby were as well as on what happened before and during the birth.
The caesarean rate in England is close to 25% (Birth Choice UK, 2011), therefore there is always a chance you may have a caesarean birth. You may feel happy that your baby is finally born but you may feel disappointed that you had a caesarean birth if a vaginal birth is what you were hoping for. If possible, prior to giving birth, try to accept all possibilities for your birth. Births very rarely go exactly as you plan them. Attending an antenatal course will help you to find out more about different options help to prepare you for possible birth outcomes.
Talking over your caesarean birth with a health professional, soon after may help your emotional recovery. You should get a chance to talk to your midwife or obstetrician before you leave the hospital.
If you do not get the chance to talk to any health professional prior to leaving the hospital arrange an appointment as soon as possible. You may then be able to discuss how the caesarean may affect future pregnancies.
The physical recovery after caesarean birth usually takes about 6 weeks. You will not be insured to drive a car for 6 weeks after your caesarean. However, if you do feel ready to drive, talk to your insurance company, they may insure you if your GP has signed you off. A caesarean is a major operation and you will experience some pain and discomfort. Even when laughing, coughing or other small movements will make your scar hurt. Supporting your wound with your hands or a pillow will help.
Tips to aid your recovery and ease discomfort
- Drink plenty and eat and drink as soon as you feel hungry or thirsty. Eat foods that are high on fibre to help prevent constipation.
- Keep your wound clean by washing and drying it daily. You can use a freshly washed flannel to clean your wound. If you do use soap make sure you rinse the wound thoroughly. To dry, pad rather than rub the wound with a clean towel. Change your towel and flannel daily.
- Go to the loo hourly to reduce pressure from your bladder on scar.
- Wear loose clothes and soft cotton underwear. Your knickers should be one or two sizes bigger or wear a pair of your partner’s 🙂 There are special knickers which fit over your scar.
- Tell your midwife if you notice any signs of infection of the scar, e.g. redness, extra soreness or discharge. Also tell your midwife if you are having a temperature.
You will be encouraged to start exercising gently the day after your operation to help speed up your recovery. You may be able to see a physiotherapist but should at least be given a leaflet by your midwife. Take it slowly and do not start any more strenuous exercise until at least 10 weeks after the operation.
There will be pain relief available in hospital and your doctor will give you something to take at home, too. Depending on how much pain you are in, the options may vary. Most pain killers are safe to take when breastfeeding. Please discuss your options with your midwife, obstetrician or other health professional.
Scar – if you would like to know what your scar will / should look like please visit the Caesarean Birth and VBAC Information. In the menu on the left hand side there is a link to Caesarean scar pictures. Caesarean Birth and VBAC Information has a wealth of information on Caesarean Birth, recovery as well as VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).
You can start breastfeeding straight after the caesarean. Additional skin-to-skin as well as extra support may help. Because of the wound, breastfeeding can be more challenging during the early days. Please ask for help when needed. Most pain relief is safe to use when breastfeeding. Please mention that you are breastfeeding to your health professional.
If you have your baby by Caesarean it does not necessarily mean that you will have to have your subsequent babies by Caesarean. You can discuss future pregnancies with your GP and whether or not you will have another Caesarean will depend on
- risks and benefits of caesarean for you and your baby
- your personal preferences and priorities
However, if the reason for your first caesarean was a condition that will not change for future pregnancies e.g. shape of your pelvis / birth canal, it is very likely that a caesarean will be necessary for all births.