C-Section: What to Expect from Recovery

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on November 12, 2022
2 min read

When it’s time to deliver your baby, if there is a chance of a problem for either you or the baby, your doctor may advise a C-section. It’s a surgery that allows your baby to be delivered through a small cut in your abdomen and uterus. They’re becoming more common in the United States -- almost 32% of babies were born by C-section in 2020.

While some C-sections are planned, some aren’t. So it’s helpful to understand what recovery will be like even if a C-section isn’t part of your birth plan.

A C-section is a major surgery that requires anesthesia. Unless you need an emergency C-section, the form of anesthesia you’ll get usually makes it possible for you to be awake for the birth. You may need to stay in bed for a full day afterward. You should expect to stay in the hospital for 2 to 4 days. Total recovery time can last up to 6 weeks.

Immediately after the surgery, you may not feel any discomfort. But as your anesthesia wears off, you may begin to feel pain, especially around the cut (incision). Expect to be tired, and you may need help lifting your newborn.

Other side effects of the surgery include:

Rest helps you recover from any type of surgery. So, when your baby is sleeping, you should be, too. Drink plenty of fluids to help restore what you lost during the surgery and through breastfeeding.

If you have pain, talk to your doctor. You may be able to take pain medicine, even if you’re breastfeeding. And as soon as your doctor gives you the OK, get up and walk around. If you’re constipated, walking may help get things moving. It will also help prevent blood clots and related problems.

Most important is to listen to your doctor. Avoid doing the things you’re used to doing until your doctor says it’s OK. Don’t lift anything heavy or do anything that could put stress on your incision. And hold your belly when you sneeze or cough.

Other precautions you need to take after a C-section will help prevent infection. You should avoid sex or putting anything in your vagina, even a tampon, for several weeks. Check with your doctor if you have:

  • A fever higher than 100.4 F
  • Pain worsening at your incision
  • Redness, swelling, or a discharge at your incision area
  • Discomfort when you pee
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or a foul-smelling discharge
  • Leg pain or swelling

It is normal to feel disappointed if having a C-section was not your first choice. Try to focus on your and your baby’s health instead of the delivery method. If you’re feeling depressed or experiencing sadness for more than 2 weeks, speak with your doctor.