Recovery from a caesarean section 

In most cases, it takes longer to recover from a caesarean section than it does after a vaginal delivery.

You should be able to get out of bed fairly soon after the operation, and your wound dressing may be removed after 24 hours. Women generally stay in hospital for two to four days after a caesarean section. However, if you and your baby are well and want to go home earlier, you should be able to leave after 24 hours and have your follow-up care at home.

In the first few weeks after giving birth, try to get as much rest as possible. Avoid walking up and down stairs too often, as your tummy may be sore. However, you should take gentle daily walks to reduce your risk of blood clots.

You should be given regular painkillers to take at home, for as long as you need them. Your midwife should also advise you on how to look after your wound to prevent infection, such as wearing loose comfortable clothing and cotton underwear, and gently cleaning and drying the wound daily.

Getting back to normal

In general, it will take about six weeks for all your tissues to heal completely. Before this time, basic activities, such as caring for your new baby and looking after yourself, should be possible.

However, you may not be able to do some activities straight away, such as driving a car, exercising, carrying heavy things and having sex. Only start to do these things when you feel able to do so. Ask your midwife for advice if you're unsure.

If you drive, check your insurance cover for any restrictions about driving after an operation. Some companies require your GP to certify that you are fit to drive. Most women do not feel fit to drive for a few weeks after a caesarean and many wait until after their six-week postnatal check. 

Future pregnancies

If you have had a delivery by caesarean section, it does not necessarily mean you will have to have a caesarean again in the future. You can discuss future pregnancy options with your obstetrician or midwife in the hospital or community, or with your GP, who should take account of:

  • the reason for your first caesarean
  • your preferences and priorities
  • the overall risks and benefits of a caesarean section
  • the risk of tearing the wall of your womb (uterine rupture) along the scar from your previous caesarean section
  • the risk to your own and your baby’s life and health at the time of birth

If the caesarean was carried out for a health reason that will not change in your next pregnancy (for instance, if you have a very narrow birth canal), it is likely that a caesarean section will be necessary for each birth.

If you want to have a vaginal birth, your healthcare team should support your decision. However, make sure you are aware of the serious complications you may be at risk of, including your scar tearing.

During your labour, you should be offered electronic foetal heart rate monitoring to keep a constant check on your baby. You should also be cared for in a maternity unit that has blood transfusion services and the facilities to do a caesarean section very quickly, if necessary.

Symptoms to watch out for

After having a caesarean section, contact your midwife or GP straight away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • severe pain
  • leaking urine
  • excessive vaginal bleeding
  • your wound becomes more red, painful and swollen
  • a cough or shortness of breath
  • swelling or pain in your calf

These symptoms may be the sign of an infection or blood clot, which should be treated as soon as possible.

Page last reviewed: 17/07/2014

Next review due: 17/07/2016