Recovery after a C-section: Answers to the most common questions

If you're preparing for birth or have just given birth, you will have LOTS of questions.

Many of them will not be about birth at all like, "when will baby sleep through the night?" (this one will always be a mystery), but if you've given birth via C-section, you'll want to learn the recovery timeline for a C-section.

We've come up with answers to some of the most common C-section recovery questions.


What are my chances of having an emergency C-section? 

Almost 2 out of every 5 women who gave birth in Australia in 2020 did so via C-section. Many of those were not planned. This can leave mums in a state of shock about her recovery.


How long does a C-section take? 

It will depend on the situation. In the case of an emergency C-section, where the mother or the baby's health might be at risk, it takes about 2 minutes to go from incision to delivery. An emergency C-section is usually called for when the mother has been in labour for an extended period of time and the doctor has seen any number of possible issues like problems with the placenta or umbilical cord or maybe the baby is too large to fit through the birth canal.

A planned C-section birth usually takes between 10-15 minutes. Both types of C-sections will include about 45 minutes of delivering the placenta and suturing of the incisions.


What is a gentle C-section? 

A gentle C-section has been growing in popularity lately due to its family-centred approach. Caesareans are the most common surgery performed on women in many developed countries (the Australia rate being above average) and a gentle C-section, while still surgery, aims to still give women the birth experience they want through mindsets. The mindset of the attending OB/GYN, the nurses and anaesthesiologists is to provide as similar an experience to traditional labour and delivery as possible.

If you want to learn more, our friends at Fit Pregnancy have written a great in-depth and helpful article about gentle C-sections here.


When can I drive after a C-section?

Are you getting restless and online shopping isn't quite cutting it anymore? After having 7 layers of tissue cut open, including your abs, you may want to heed the common advice to avoid driving for at least 5-6 weeks. This is both for your sake while your muscles heal, but also for the safety of other drivers. If you are still unstable in your core, you can risk losing control. Most mums play this one by ear so listen to your body as it heals.

It's one of the most surreal feelings to try and sit up on your own after having a C-section because your muscles simply won't work. They'll need time to heal as well as proper compression and support from the postpartum clothes you choose.


How do I best take care of my incision after C-section?

 You've just had major surgery and your incision is likely going to be sore for a while. You will be prescribed pain medications – it's strongly suggested that you take it. Along with the pain relief, you'll want to keep the incision site clean and dry. You'll benefit from buying the C-Panty, a pair of postpartum panties that offer medical-grade compression and a patented silicone panel for improved scar healing. Below is a new mum before putting on the C-Panty and after putting it on. The compression immediately helps swelling and helps correct the 'shelf' that often occurs after a C-section.


C-section bulge before and after

 Pain and soreness are to be expected after a major surgery like a C-section, but here are a few things you'll want to be sure and call your doctor about:

  • Swelling, redness or oozing at the incision site
  • Fever higher than 38
  • Odorous discharge
  • Pain at the incision
  • Redness or puffy legs
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Trouble breathing or chest/breast pains

If you experience any of the above symptoms, this can indicate you have an infection or other complications. Please contact your doctor immediately if you have questions or concerns.


When can I have sex after a C-section?

Even though your baby did not enter the world via the birth canal, the key here is giving your cervix enough time to close. This typically takes 6 weeks, but some women feel confident sooner. If you experience burning or other pain, please consult your doctor as it may indicate you're not healing as you should.

After giving birth, your body will need a lot of time to heal. Please remember that it took you 9+ months to grow this little miracle. Give yourself just as much, if not more time to "bounce back" after a C-section. Expect that you'll have 'good' and 'bad' days (sometimes within the same day), especially in those first few weeks after delivery as your hormones fluctuate and your newborn is adjusting to life on the outside.

Be sure to surround yourself with supportive people like your partner, friends, and family. If you really want to speed up recovery after birth, be patient with your body but vigilant about using proper compression and postpartum clothes to reduce swelling and improve healing.