After experiencing two c-sections I decided it was finally time to write down a c-section recovery timeline. This helped me to stay encouraged and focused in my recovery after my second c-section.
When I was recovering from my first c-section all I wanted to know is how long I was going to be recovering. When would I start feeling normal again? After my second I had a vague idea of what to expect but it had been more than three years and I couldn’t remember every little step. So I took some detailed notes and I finally decided to write down a c-section recovery timeline. That way if I ever have to have another c-section I know exactly what to expect.
Hopefully, this will encourage you in your c-section recovery. Because the pain and the tenderness doesn’t last forever, you will feel normal again!
As always, let’s take a quick minute to stop and note that I am not a doctor or a medical professional. I am a mom who has recovered successfully from two c-sections. This advice is based on my experience and should be not replace advice given to you by your doctor or care provider.
Also note, this is written from my perspective about what I remember. This should give you a general idea of what to expect. Especially since I’ve done this twice! This may not be reflective of your own experience but hopefully it gives you some encouragement. If you have any concerns or questions you should contact your doctor right away!
C-Section Recovery Timeline
Immediately after the c-section, let’s say the first 4-6 hours, I felt great!! My epidural was still in effect (although it was wearing off) and I had pain meds in my system. Plus, I had all the highs from just having a baby. Life was good!!
What to watch for:
- You might be drowsy, especially if the gave you a sedative. With my first I was so nervous the nurse asked me if I wanted a sedative once the baby was safely out and I was like “Ummm, if you have to ask you haven’t been watching me frantically shake like a leaf. Yes, I will have all the drugs, thank you.” So I was realllllllly tired and sleepy. Happy, but sleepy.
- Your legs will probably tingle a bit as the epidural wears off. It’s like the ultimate “my leg fell asleep” feeling.
The First 24 Hours
In my experience I expected the first 24 hours to be the worst. The epidural is wearing off so I figured that would equal major pain. But to my surprise it didn’t!! (That comes later) The first 24 hours went pretty seamlessly for me, both times. The nurses will push on your uterus to make sure it’s shrinking, which is uncomfortable to say the least, but that’s true whether you’ve had a c-section or not.
What to watch for:
- Start walking!!!! Obviously, the nurses and doctors will help you decide when is the right time for you to start walking, but the sooner you can get up and the move the easier your recovery will be. Trust me. With my first I dreaded walking because I knew it would hurt so I didn’t walk a ton. And I had a very difficult recovery. With my second I was up pacing the halls less than 6 hours after surgery was finished. And I bounced back much faster!
- Take the laxatives. Just trust me on this, you’re going to want to take the laxatives.
- The nurses will be checking your incision for you but if anything looks off or different SAY SOMETHING!! I was showing signs of an infection after my first and I didn’t say anything. So they sent me home and a week later I was back in the hospital, and it wasn’t pretty. I narrowly missed having a second surgery AND being left with an open would for 6 weeks to drain all of the puss. Yuck, yuck, yuck!! After my second I had no signs of infection but I knew to say something. Speak up!! Even if the scar is totally fine, if you’re worried show the nurse or a doctor BEFORE you go home.
The Second 24 Hours
Ok, I’m going to get super real here, the second 24 hours were the hardest for me. Incredibly painful. All of that initial oxytocin has faded and what you’re left with is sleep deprivation and pain. In both c-sections the second 24 hours after surgery were the most difficult for me. I struggled to stay on top of my pain, and believe me when it comes to pain management you do NOT want to get behind the 8-ball.
What to Watch For:
- Talk to your nurses about your pain!! Do NOT wait. Ask each nurse if they will just bring you the meds every few hours or if they will wait for you to request meds as needed. After my first I got stuck in a bad spot when I had a nurse who was waiting for me to ask for meds and I didn’t know. I thought she’d bring them. I went too long between doses and was in an immense amount of pain. Take it from me- just ask up front. Also, if you take meds and find you’re still in pain SAY SOMETHING!! There’s usually something they can do for you to help take the edge off.
- Stay on top of your pain management. I did a much better job of handling my pain management after second c-section and guess what, I went home a day earlier and recovered more quickly!
The One Week Mark
The next few days are tough — you’re definitely in the thick of it — but they aren’t as terrible as you might imagine. Once I went home from the hospital I was much happier because I was in my own home with my own stuff. I usually move pretty slowly those first few days home but I once I got past the first 48 hours I found that I was more sore than anything.
By one week into my c-section recovery I found that I was able to stand-up straight, walk around the house, hold the baby comfortably, and was (mostly) off my meds. Something that really helped me recover was a support band. After my first c-seciton I didn’t use one because I was skeptical, but after my second I used on regularly and it made a HUGE difference! I was able to much more sooner because it helped to stabilize my now week core muscles. I highly, highly recommend one. If you can make it to the one week mark you’ve probably made it through the most difficult part of recovery!
What to Watch For:
- To say that you are sore is probably an understatement. It’s going to hurt to laugh or cough so I highly recommend keeping a pillow nearby. Then when you cough or laugh you can press the pillow into your incision and kind of bend over it. It sounds weird but believe me it helps.
- Make sure you’re walking and moving and standing up straight, but don’t overdo it. You’re still healing from major surgery here so there’s no reason to go bananas and try to walk a mile.
- I never found stairs to be an issue but you’ll have to ask your provider about that.
- I also never had trouble holding the baby while standing up, but again, ask the provider. And know your limits, just because I was able to do that doesn’t mean you have to.
- If you’re still needing pain meds consistently after one week call your doctor!! This could be a sign that you aren’t healing properly. By one week out you should be doing ok with just over the counter pain meds (like Tylenol) and maybe the occasional pain killer after a strenuous day.
- Make sure you’re washing your incision. You should receive instructions on how to do this properly before you leave the hospital but keeping your incision clean is key! And make sure it dries after you clean it, I like to use a hair dryer on it instead of patting it dry with a towel since it’s still pretty tender.
The Two Week Mark
By two weeks out I was feeling great! Even after my first c-secion when I had an infection and was hospitalized for three days! When you’re home healing just keep telling yourself “Just get to the two week mark!” By this point I was totally off pain meds (maybe some Tylenol on days I walked more), I was able to make dinners and play with my kids. I wasn’t able to lift more than the baby or run 5 miles, but I was talking short walks around the block and feeling good.
What to Watch For:
- Don’t overdo it. It’s easy to start feeling pretty good and make the mistake of walking or standing too much. Take it easy and know your limits.
- Be sure you’re resting. Usually by two weeks postpartum women are getting restless and they want to get up and do all the things. But I would encourage you to rest! Nap with the baby or binge a show on Netflix, you don’t need to be doing 15 loads of laundry. Especially after a c-seciton, you need rest. Your body is trying to heal. Don’t forget that a c-section is surgery. Give your body the rest it needs to recover.
- Signs of a yeast infection. I got a yeast infection after both of my c-sections. I tried to avoid it by eating yogurt (I thought the probiotics would help) but no such luck. And since you can’t put anything in your hoo-ha, call your doctor right away. They can prescribe an oral medication for you- who knew!!
The One Month Mark
After the two week mark recovery just gets easier and easier. I found myself walking and standing more. I didn’t need to hold a pillow over my incision every time I laughed, and I wasn’t terrified of something rubbing against my scar. It was always easier to lift more (think a laundry basket NOT a toddler or weights during a workout) and I was feeling more and more normal every day.
What to Watch For:
- Again, don’t overdo it. There is no medal for the fastest c-section recovery.
The Two Month Mark
Once you’ve hit the two month mark it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there! In fact, I was feeling much stronger by my 6-week postpartum check. Make sure you talk to your doctor about starting any physical routines (like working out again) and always remember to listen to your body. Otherwise, congratulations momma!! You did it! You have birthed a child AND healed from a c-section!! Would you add anything to this timeline? Leave a comment below and let me know!