Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 6th December 2021

There’s a lot we’re not told about post-birth, (errrr, why did no one ever mention the first postpartum poo?) and arguably even less we’re told about post-C-section. Around one in four women in the UK have a C-section, but it’s not discussed as much as it needs to be. Having a C-section is major surgery – so you can anticipate a longer recovery time compared with having a vaginal birth, but the information about what to expect is a bit sparse. So we’ve come up with a sort of C-section cheat sheet to give you a comprehensive overview of the things you can expect from your recovery. 

It’s going to be so exciting (not to mention terrifying) bringing a baby into the world, but it’s important to listen to your body and give yourself the time to heal. 

What to expect from your C-section scar? 

A C-section scar is usually a horizontal line just below your bikini line, roughly 10-20cm in length. Some women may also have a vertical line from the belly button, depending on how the procedure is carried out. The C-section scar will be red at first and will fade over time. After roughly six weeks you can start to gently massage your scar with something like bio-oil which will increase blood flow to the area and reduce the coloring. 

How long will my C-section scar take to heal?

Your C-section scar will usually take roughly six to eight weeks to heal. Although, problems during recovery, however small or big can sometimes slow this down, so don’t take it as gospel. Also, don’t feel disappointed if you don’t spring out of bed on the first day of week seven and feel like a new woman either. This is just a guideline and you might take shorter or longer to recover. 

Usually, you will have a check-up with your health visitor, midwife, or GP around the 6-8 week mark and they’ll see how you’re getting on. 

Let’s talk C-section recovery

Looking after the wound

Your midwife will recommend, gentle daily cleaning of the wound with mild soap, keeping an eye out for infection. Don’t take a bath or go swimming, or rub it dry. A quick pat will do. 

Take pain relief

There’s nothing wrong with using pain relief, even when you’re breastfeeding, but just check with your doctor first what pain relief is safe. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are normally fine but Aspirin and Codeine are not recommended. You could also try applying a heat pad to the area if you’re experiencing discomfort. 

Don’t push yourself

You should avoid driving or having sex for at least six weeks after a C-section to allow your scar to properly heal without complications and hopefully lead to a faster recovery.

Get some rest

Telling a new mama to get some rest might sound mad, but you really need to try. Make sure your partner or a loved one is doing any heavy lifting for you and try and keep everything you need within easy reach. You’re going to be camping out on the sofa or in bed for a few weeks, so get used to putting your feet up and just focus on getting better and bonding with your little one. 

Gentle exercise

When you’re feeling up to it and when your doctor says it’s safe to do so, start taking some short walks and gentle exercise. This will help to prevent blood clots and constipation (which is a common problem after a C-section) and generally be good for your mental wellbeing. 

Look after yourself mama

As well as C-section-specific recovery, all mamas need to make sure they’re looking after themselves. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and eat healthy meals 3 times a day. It will be good for you, and good for your baby too if you’re breastfeeding. 

What medical care to expect

  • You should expect to stay in hospital for about four days after a C-section, and during this time you’ll receive specialist after-care advice from the hospital about how to recover from your C-section

  • Any non-dissolvable stitches or staples will be taken out after about six days if the health professionals are satisfied that you’re healing correctly. 

  • You will likely have a few home visits scheduled where a health visitor will come to your house and check on how you’re getting on. 

  • It’s normal to have a post-natal check between six and eight weeks after a C-Section with a health professional to check your scar has healed properly. 

When to seek urgent medical advice

If you experience any of the following, don’t delay contacting your doctor. It will hopefully be nothing to worry about, but the faster you get it checked, the more likely it is to be fine. 

  • A high temperature above 38 degrees C.

  • Pus, bad smell, discharge, or severe pain in the area of the C-section scar.

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding.

  • Difficulty breathing and/or chest pain.

  • Redness or swelling in either of your legs.

  • Any sort of unusual pain in your breasts.

Give yourself a break

We mentioned at the beginning of this blog that a C-section is major surgery, and the effects of that shouldn’t be underestimated. Try and see this period of healing as a good thing, as it means you have no pressure to get out and about and can spend the time bonding with your baby. There will be plenty of time for catch-ups and coffees outside the house once you’re fully healed, so just take it easy for now, and focus on getting your strength back.