What You Should and Shouldn’t Do When Recovering from a C-Section

Are you about to have your first c-section? Or perhaps you’ve just been through it. Either way, this post is for you!

I know because I’ve had 2 babies this way. It was painful to recover from, but what I learned after having my first c-section helped me recover more efficiently from my second one.

No doubt your doctor will go over all the basics of aftercare with you. If you haven’t had your baby yet and are planning a vaginal delivery, I strongly urge you to read this through.

Why?

Because I had planned to have a vaginal delivery. You can read about my birthing experience and see it went pretty differently than I had planned.

An emergency c-section is more taxing on the body than one that is planned too. So please, even if you plan on that vaginal birth, bookmark this page, so you have these tips handy in case things don’t go the way you planned.

And now, onto the most pressing questions, I am always asked about c-section recovery. You’ll find out what to do, what not to do, and how to get through this recovery period.

How long does it take for a c-section to heal?

On average, it takes about 6 weeks for you to heal from that c-section. You may feel better by the 4th week, but if you have a c-section, your doctor will most likely schedule you for your postpartum checkup at 6 weeks.

You can heal a lot faster by following the tips you’ll see below, but please do not push yourself to do things you’re not supposed to do (more on that in a sec) because you feel better. Let your doctor check you out first and give you the all-clear.

How long does C-section pain last?

That pain, though. Oh, man! It was excruciating. After my first c-section, my husband had the joy of changing the first diaper for our firstborn. It was so disgusting he was making gagging noises, and it was horribly comical.

bowl of spinach for diet

Naturally, I started laughing from my post in the bed where I was still tethered to the catheter. My incision started hurting so badly I rang for the nurse, who assured me I hadn’t ripped it at the seams from my laughter.

I was in such pain I remember thinking to myself, I’m never ever doing this again. Funny how that works out.

Anyway, you can expect the worst of it for about 7 to 10 days. It will still hurt after that, but you will notice it getting better.

I had trouble sitting up for nearly 4 weeks for my second child. To get out of bed, I’d have to roll out on my side. When I finally could sit up and get out of the bed like I was used to, I was so happy; I can’t even describe it.

Can I take something for the pain?

Yes! Please take something. I will leave it to your doctor to tell you what is suitable for you to take. Some may give you a prescription, while others will recommend OTC relief. Definitely discuss it with your doctor.

You shouldn’t suffer in pain. It can get to the point where you can’t sleep and need sleep to recover and care for your baby.

What can you not do while recovering from C-section?

Now, there may be some things that pertain just to you that you should absolutely ask your doctor about if you don’t see it here. The following things shouldn’t be done by any woman recovering from a c-section, though, not before you get the go-ahead from your doctor at your postpartum checkup.

So what should you not do while you recover?

  • No heavy lifting

You should never lift a thing that weighs more than your baby, period. And let me just tell you, that was fine for me because it was a struggle to lift the baby in the first week.

  • No chores

If you want to wipe up the table after eating gently, go for it. But all those other chores like sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, laundry, and whatnot should not be done by you. Have your husband do it or set up help from family and friends. You’ll be able to do these things soon enough.

menstrual pad vs tampon
  • No tampons or douche

Douching isn’t usually recommended for most women, whether they have a baby or not anyway. But tampons need to stay out of there until you speak with your doctor at the postpartum checkup. To sop up any blood discharge post-surgery, use pads.

  • No baths or swimming

Submerging yourself in any kind of water is a no-no at this point. You will likely be told it’s OK to do after you come out clear from that checkup. So for now, no baths, no swimming, and no hot tubs.

  • No rigorous exercise or activity

No sports, no exercise, no lifting weights, no sex. Sorry, ladies. You need to heal first. Before you leave the hospital, confirm with your doctor if it is ok for you to do light walking. In most cases, they will tell you this is safe to do but don’t overexert yourself.

In China, we lived in a building that had no elevators. It’s very common there for buildings not to have them if they are under 10 stories in height. I realize it’s pretty different in the US, but you may have a set of stairs in your home or stairs that lead up to your entrance.

Obviously, you’ll need to get up them so have someone help you. If you have stairs in your home, avoid going up and down them too often.

What do you put on an incision after C-section?

On your c-section incision, as it heals, you should not put anything on it without your doctor’s permission. Please do not ignore this advice!

After your checkup, your c-section scar will begin to fade, but you can use silicone sheeting though I urge you to ask your doctor about it to make sure it is right for you. It can soften and flatten scars and usually should not be used until 3 or 4 weeks post-surgery.

A silicone gel or even a cream can also help. But do not use this without first speaking to your doctor.

How do I moisturize my c-section scar?

Right after your c-section, you do not want moisture on the incision. You want to keep it clean and dry for as long as the doctor instructs you to do so. This prevents infection. Also, protect that area from sweat.

applying cream on incision area

After that time is up, you can ask about applying different products on to your c-section scar. While I mentioned silicone above, you can also use vitamin E or honey. I’d recommend vitamin E more than honey since less is known about how honey can help. But even with that, I’d ask the doctor about using anything on the scar.

Can I put ointment on my C-section incision?

NOOOOOO! Not on the incision! Your task here is to keep it clean and dry. You should not put anything on it – no lotions, creams, or antibiotic ointments until that scar heals.

If you’re scratching your scar because it’s itchy, you should cover it with something that keeps it dry and free of moisture. And if you seem to be scratching it in your sleep, you can use manicure gloves to keep your fingers, which may harbor bacteria, from bringing it into the incision.

How can I make my C-section incision heal faster?

We all want to get back to our everyday lives, which seems like it will never happen after a c-section. But it will, I promise!

If you want to recover in the best way possible and have your incision heal up nicely, I recommend the following tips…

  • Eat to nourish

This is even more important if you’re breastfeeding. But even if you’re bottle-feeding with formula, nourish your body. Eat healthy, nutritious, and fresh foods. Make your plate full of fruits and vegetables. You’ll want to eat lean proteins plus healthy whole grains and good fats (go for that guac!). Your body will use these nutrients to help restore healthy tissues in your body, making your recovery go more smoothly.

That doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself a bit, though. Just make sure 95% of what you’re eating is healthy.

Also, don’t forget to add lactogenic foods to your diet in order to produce adequate milk if you’re breastfeeding.

  • Try a massage

Massages may help reduce that scar tissue formation. You should wait 4 to 6 weeks after your surgery, though, and make sure your doctor is on board with it first.

Once you have that approval, you can use a rubbing motion from side to side, then up and down, and then diagonal. When you do this a few times a day for about 5 to 10 minutes at a time, it keeps the scar soft and pliable. It can also help keep chronic pelvic pain away.

  • Stay out of the sun

When you recover enough to return to your favorite activities, avoid sun exposure. While most of you will have a scar that your swimsuit can hide, that doesn’t mean UV rays aren’t getting to it.

Consider a swimsuit with UV protection. You can also get protective clothing with UV protection for outdoor excursions. And if you have the scar exposed in the sunlight, make sure you use a quality sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher (ideally SPF 50) to prevent the scar from looking darker or lighter than the skin that surrounds it.

  • Be kind to your body

You did a fantastic thing. While you’re busy nurturing this tiny human, don’t forget to nurture yourself. Take the time to relax and destress and if it feels like there’s no time, ASK FOR IT. If your husband can’t help with that, ask family and friends. You will be no good to anyone if you run yourself ragged. Plus, your body and scar won’t heal properly if you don’t do what you should.

  • Don’t ignore your mental health

One of my friends was suicidal after having her first and only child. It took such a toll on her. I’m so glad she reached out and got the help she needed. This is a person who was always happy and in a good mood.

Please tell your doctor if you don’t feel more like yourself after 3 weeks postpartum. They can help you. This is stressful, and you are not a superhero, nor do you need to be. Taking care of your mental health can absolutely help your body heal too, and that includes your incision, so be good to yourself inside and out.

  • Don’t ignore the pain

After a month, you likely won’t feel pain anymore in the incision area. Don’t try to soldier through it. They make medication for a reason, so ask your doctor what you can take that is safe while breastfeeding to help your incision recover.

worried mom

Remember, it’s not just the physical part but the mental part as well. Pain hurts, and it can keep you from recovering well. You won’t sleep well, and it’s hard enough to sleep with a baby in the house, believe me. Pain medications can help relieve things and let you recover. And that will help your incision heal too.

Usually, Tylenol, Advil, and Motrin are acceptable, but please do not take any of them without first asking your doctor.

A final word about c-section incision healing…

It hurts. And it will take longer to heal if you ignore the advice of your doctor and what I’ve laid out here. In our quick-paced Veruca Salt “I want it now” world, step back and enjoy the moment with that sweet baby.

Let someone else do those chores. Who cares if the house is a mess? Hire someone to clean it or let your loved ones help out. They won’t be doing it all the time.

This recovery is temporary. But it will take much longer if you push yourself too hard. Instead, focus on your whole wellness, and everything will fall into place.

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