You are going home after a C-section. You should expect to need help caring for yourself and your newborn. Talk to your partner, parents, in-laws, or friends.
What to Expect
You may have bleeding from your vagina for up to 6 weeks. It will slowly become less red, then pink, and then will have more of a yellow or white color. Bleeding and discharge after delivery is called lochia.
At first, your incision will be raised slightly and pinker than the rest of your skin. It will likely appear somewhat puffy.
- Any pain should decrease after 2 or 3 days, but your incision will remain tender for up to 3 weeks or more.
- Most women need pain medicine for the first few days to 2 weeks.
- Over time, your scar will become thinner and flatter and will turn either white or the color of your skin.
You will need a follow-up appointment with your health care provider in 4 to 6 weeks.
If you go home with a dressing (bandage), change the dressing over your incision once a day, or sooner if it gets dirty or wet.
- Your provider will tell you when to stop keeping your wound covered.
- Keep the wound area clean by washing it with mild soap and water. You don't need to scrub it. Often, just letting the water run over your wound in the shower is enough.
- You may remove your wound dressing and take showers if stitches, staples, or glue were used to close your skin.
- DO NOT soak in a bathtub or hot tub, or go swimming, until your provider tells you it is ok, usually not until 3 weeks after surgery.
If strips (Steri-Strips) were used to close your incision:
- DO NOT try to wash off the Steri-Strips or glue. It is ok to shower and pat your incision dry with a clean towel.
- They should fall off in about a week. If they are still there after 10 days, you can remove them, unless your provider tells you not to.
Getting up and walking around once you are home will help you heal faster and can help prevent blood clots.
You should be able to do most of your regular activities in 4 to 8 weeks. Before then:
- DO NOT lift anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 to 8 weeks.
- Short walks are okay. Light housework is ok. Slowly increase how much you do.
- Avoid heavy housecleaning, jogging, most exercises, and any activities that make you breathe hard or strain your muscles. DO NOT do sit-ups.
DO NOT drive a car for at least 2 weeks. It is ok to ride in a car, but make sure you wear your seat belt. DO NOT drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicine or if you feel weak or unsafe driving.
Try eating smaller meals than normal and have healthy snacks in between. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drink 8 cups of water a day to keep from getting constipated.
Any hemorrhoids you develop should slowly decrease in size. Some may go away. Methods that may help the symptoms include:
- Warm tub baths (shallow enough to keep your incision above the water level)
- Cold compresses over the area
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Over-the-counter hemorrhoid ointments or suppositories
Sex can begin any time after 6 weeks. Also, be sure to talk with your provider about contraception after pregnancy.
After C-sections that follow a difficult labor, some moms feel relieved. But others feel sad, disappointed, or even guilty about needing a C-section.
- Many of these feelings are normal, even for women who had a vaginal birth.
- Try talking with your partner, family, or friends about your feelings.
- Seek help from your health care provider if these feelings do not go away or become worse.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have vaginal bleeding that:
- Is still very heavy (like your menstrual period flow) after more than 4 days
- Is light but lasts beyond 4 weeks
- Involves the passing of large clots
- Occurs 7 to 14 days after delivery from a scab forming at the site where the placenta is shed
Also call your provider if you have:
- Swelling in one of your legs (it will be red and warmer than the other leg)
- Pain in your calf
- Redness, warmth, swelling, or drainage from your incision site, or your incision breaks open
- Increased pain in your belly
- Discharge from your vagina that becomes heavier or develops a foul odor
- Become very sad, depressed, or withdrawn, are having feelings of harming yourself or your baby, or are having trouble caring for yourself or your baby
- A tender, reddened, or warm area on one breast (this may be a sign of infection)
Beghella V, Landon MB. Cesarean delivery. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 20.
Update Date 11/19/2014
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.