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Recovering from a caesarean

Home from hospital? If you've had a caesarean there are some important things you need to know for a speedy recovery.

Looking after a new baby can be challenging for all new mothers and it can be even more challenging after you’ve had a caesarian section because you’ll be limited in what you can do.

Usually, new mothers who have had a caesarean will stay in the hospital a bit longer, typically 3-5 days. But when you do go home, there are some important things you need to know to ensure a speedy recovery.

Know the warning signs

Caesareans are common and a relatively safe procedure, but a ceasarean is still major surgery and complications can happen. Some warning signs to look out for include:

  • The pain in your abdomen or wound is getting worse and doesn’t go away after you take pain-relieving medication
  • New back pain or back pain that doesn’t improve, especially if it’s where you had the epidural or spinal injection
  • Pain or burning when you pass urine or an inability to pass urine
  • Leaking urine
  • Constipation
  • Inability to pass wind or bowel motions
  • Increased vaginal blood loss or bad-smelling discharge
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Swelling or pain in your calf (lower leg)
  • Wound edges pulling apart or looking infected.

If you do experience these warning signs, contact your doctor or nurse.

Look after your wound

  • Keep your wound clean and dry.
  • Try a wheat bag or hot water bottle to soothe the wound.
  • Report any redness, pain, swelling, bad-smelling discharge or a temperature to your doctor or nurse, as these may be signs of an infection.

Manage your pain

  • Stay on top of pain and take pain relief in line with your doctor’s advice. It’s easier to manage pain before it starts.
  • Firm, high-waisted compression underwear or control briefs may offer abdominal support post-surgery. This can reduce pain and be worn for comfort for the first six weeks.

Look after your body

  • Get as much rest as you can to aid healing and to take pressure off the wound.
  • Many new mothers experience constipation after a caesarean birth. To avoid it, eat a healthy, high-fibre diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t do any heavy lifting. The rule of thumb is not to lift anything heavier than your baby for six weeks.
  • Do your pelvic floor exercises. Regardless of the type of birth you have had, your lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles will have weakened after pregnancy, and need strengthening

Look after your wellbeing

  • Be patient and kind to yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – whether it’s a cooked meal from family and friends, help with the baby or around the house. Talk with your doctor, midwife or maternal and child health nurse if you think you need additional help.
  • Join a new mothers’ group. Talking with other mums who have had a similar experience to you can be very helpful.
  • A gentle walk each day is a simple way to get out of the house, and is good for your mental and physical health.
  • Many women feel teary, anxious or moody in the days immediately after childbirth – it is sometimes referred to as the baby blues. If these feelings last beyond the early days and continue to get worse it may be a sign of developing depression. If you’re feeling this way, speak to your doctor, midwife or call a mental health service like beyondblue or PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia).

Get back to normal

  • Avoid driving a car for six weeks. And check your car insurance policy. You may not be covered for an accident if you do decide to drive.
  • Avoid sex until you feel comfortable. It is quite normal for it to take weeks, even months, before you are ready.
  • Numbness or itching around the scar is normal. This can last a long time for some women.

Read more about why you might need a caesarean and what’s involved.

Recovering from a caesarean
Recovering from a caesarean
Pelvic floor exercises

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