When I was recovering from my first cesarean birth I spent a lot of time on the internet looking up “how to recover from a c section quickly”. I wanted a comprehensive c section recovery timeline that was going to tell me exactly what to expect.
My cesarean delivery had been a complete shock and I was miserable. I wanted my c section recovery time to go as quickly as possible, and I was completely desperate for any tip or piece of advice that could help me recover.
I wanted to get back to life as normal. To feel alert again, instead of floating around in a pain-killer induced haze. I wanted to do abdominal exercises again……ok not really.
But I wanted to know that I could do abdominal exercises if I wanted to, ya know? A girl needs her options.
I am not a doctor or a medical professional. I am a mom who has recovered successfully twice from a cesarean delivery. This advice is based solely on my personal experience after a c section and should not replace advice given to you by your doctor or care provider.
Not to mention that I had experienced a plethora of c section delivery side effects, including nerve pain and a pretty bad infection that landed me back in the hospital at just ten days post c section surgery.
After my second cesarean birth, I had some idea of what to expect in those early postpartum weeks. Having a vague recollection of a c section recovery timeline made a world of difference for me.
Instead of being surprised by the level of pain 48 hours post c section operation, I knew to anticipate the heightened pain and ask for help from the nurse.
I knew how to take care of myself better, I knew what to avoid and what c section essentials to keep on hand.
I’m not saying that recovering from two cesarean births was a good thing, but holy smokes did it help to know what to expect during my second c section recovery.
A C SECTION RECOVERY TIMELINE is Born….
Shortly after my second c section delivery I jotted down a few notes for myself about the recovery. I wanted to remember the hardest days and when I would start to feel better. Just in case I needed another cesarean delivery down the road.
Eventually those personal notes turned into this very post. A complete c section recovery timeline outlining what to expect and when during the first two months of c section recovery.
And when I wrote this post I had you in mind.
Maybe you’re nearing your due date and you’re collecting information about postpartum recovery. And you’ve decided to skim a c section recovery timeline just in case.
Perhaps you are an expectant mother who just got word that despite her best efforts and all of her hopes, she will need to have a scheduled c section delivery.
And the brand new Mama, who unexpectedly (and maybe a little traumatically) had an emergency c section. And while you’re so grateful that the operation saved you and the baby, you’re in pain and your postpartum journey is not what you expected.
So during one of your many late night nursing sessions, during which you wince in pain as the baby lays across your sore and healing c section scar, you turn to the internet.
You start searching for things like “c section recovery” & “when will I feel normal after c section surgery” “how to recover from a c section quickly”.
You’re desperately searching for any ounce of hope, any article that might tell you when you will feel normal again.
I have been there, Mama.
Twice I have spent many, many nights trying to process the fact that I needed major surgery in order to give birth.
Two times I have spent weeks in a pain-killer induced haze, unsure of the time of day or how to truly care for myself. Relying on my husband for my every need.
I have spent countless hours crying in pain or frantically searching for a pillow to press against my c section incision because I’m about to cough. Or sneeze. Or giggle.
For many of us, c section recovery is often unexpected and filled with challenges that many of our friends and family can’t relate to. Healing from a cesarean section comes with it’s own set of challenges.
And you can only fully understand those challenges, and the needs of a c section Mama, if you’ve been there.
I wrote this post for you, my fellow c section, Mama. Hopefully this c section recovery timeline gives you encouragement!
I want you to know that the pain and the tenderness doesn’t last forever, you will feel normal again!
You will be able to walk standing straight up again, and laugh without holding a pillow against your c section scar.
There will come a day when you can do crunches again, if you so desire. When you can pick up your toddler, a large box, or anything that weighs more than ten pounds!
One day, in the not-so-distant future, you will come to the end of your c section recovery and all of this misery will be a distant memory. It does get better, just hang in there!
This c section recovery timeline is written from my perspective about what I remember. This should give you a general idea of what to expect. 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 Cesarean Section Operation
Immediately after the c-section, let’s say the first 4-6 hours, you’ll probably be feeling pretty good!! The epidural will still be in effect (but wearing off) and by now you will have received pain medication.
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Plus, you’ll be on a high from snuggling your sweet newborn!
What You Might Notice Immediately After Your C Section:
You might be drowsy, especially if they 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.”
By the time I made it out of surgery I was realllllllly 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. This is normal, but if you’re alarmed or worried say something to one of the nurses or doctors.
The First 24 Hours after the C Section Delivery
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.)
During the first 24 hours post c section operation you’ll likely be more focused on the precious baby in your arms than anything else. It can take this long for the epidural to fully wear off and the rush of hormones will help to keep the pain at bay.
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 You Might Notice 24 Hours Post Cesarean Delivery:
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.
During my first c section recovery I dreaded walking because I knew it would hurt so I avoided it at all costs. And that was a huge mistake.
Like those saleswomen refusing to sell to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman because she looked like a hooker huge.
And I had a very difficult c section recovery as a result.
After my second cesarean birth I knew better. I was up pacing the halls less than 6 hours after surgery was finished. And I my c section recovery time was much easier and faster.
Take the laxatives. Just trust me on this, you’re going to want to take the laxatives. There are few things in life that are more terrifying than getting constipated postpartum.
And getting backed up during c section recovery……nope. Just nope. 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 in my c section scar after my first c section 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!! (Don’t worry, that kind of problem after a c section isn’t common, no need to panic! But pay attention to how to properly care for your c section incision and talk to your medical care team about signs of infection.)
After my second cesarean delivery 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.
48 Hours Post Cesarean Birth
Ok, I’m going to get super real here, the second 24 hours (so 48 hours post c section delivery) were the hardest for me. And I’ve heard the same for other women.
These hours can be incredibly painful. All of that initial oxytocin has faded, the epidural is completely worn off, you’re been up and walking, and what you’re left with is sleep deprivation and pain.
During both of my c section recoveries the second 24 hours after surgery were the most difficult. 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 You Might Notice 48 Hours After Your C Section:
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 c section delivery 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 me the medication like all of the other nurses. 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 the regular dose of pain 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.
My best advice is to prepare for this to be the worst part of your c section recovery time. Prepare yourself mentally, ask visitors not to come on this day, communicate with your spouse and medical team.
And if you’re planning to breastfeed, have a plan in place in case you’re in too much pain to nurse during this time.
Stay on top of your pain management. I cannot stress this enough, it’s so important to stay on top of pain management. Make sure you’re getting your medications when you need them, even if you have to set reminders on your phone.
And communicate clearly and kindly with the nursing staff in the hospital if you’re feeling intolerable pain.
Once you go home from the hospital make sure you stay on top of your pain management as well. Good pain management will be key in helping you recover quickly and easily from your cesarean birth.
One Week Post C Section
As your c section recovery timeline continues into the first week you might realize that you are sore and tender. But these days most likely won’t be as terrible as you might imagine.
Once I went home from the hospital after my cesarean births I was much happier because I was in my own home with my own stuff. Hopefully you’ll find that being in the comfort of your peaceful and quiet home will help you to rest and recover from the c section more quickly.
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 prescribed pain medications.
Something that really helped me recover was wearing the c section underwear from Unsparing. Essentially these are compression underwear meant specifically for women who are recovering from a c section.
After my first c section I didn’t wear these because I was skeptical; but after my second cesarean delivery I wore the c section underwear regularly and I found they made a HUGE difference in my c section recovery time!
I was able to much more sooner because the c section underwear helped to stabilize my week core muscles.
I highly, highly recommend one. This c section underwear is probably my number one item for c section recovery essentials.
Once you have made it to the one week mark you’ve made it through the most difficult part of recovery!
What You Might Notice One Week Post C Section:
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. But slow movement can help. If you sit all the time and let your incision (and the muscles around it) get stiff it will probably take you longer to recover.
Ask your provider about stairs post c section. My doctors never advised me against them but you’ll want to also be aware of your limitations. Even if your surgeon gives you a thumbs up for stairs you probably don’t want to climb your staircase more than a couple times each day.
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.
During my first c section recovery I was still heavily reliant on my prescription pain medication at one week post-op. This was the first red flag that I had an infection. Don’t ignore this, don’t convince yourself you have a low pain tolerance. Call your doctor if you’re still in unmanageable pain!
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.
This article from What to Expect is a great resource if you want more information on caring for your c section incision.
C section recovery Timeline: 2 Weeks post C Section
By two weeks out you will likely be feeling back to normal-ish. When you’re home healing just keep telling yourself “Just get to the two week mark!”
By two weeks after a cesarean delivery I had completely weaned off of my prescription pain medications and most of the over the counter pain relievers (except for maybe some Tylenol on days I walked or was on my feet 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 You Might Notice Two Weeks Post C Section Delivery:
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.
I 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 major surgery. Give your body the rest it needs to recover.
Be on the lookout for signs of a yeast infection. I got a yeast infection after both of my c section surgeries.
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 that pesky yeast infection- who knew?!!
One Month Post C Section
After the two week mark c section 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 You Might Notice One Month After Your C Section Surgery
Again, don’t overdo it. There is no medal for the fastest c-section recovery. Take your time with resuming your normal activities, give your body plenty of rest and space to heal properly
You might notice some lingering nerve pain in your leg. This isn’t necessarily alarming, and it isn’t exactly painful, just a little uncomfortable. From my understanding, this can be pretty common after a c section delivery but if you are experiencing this be sure to mention it to your doctor during your six week postpartum check-up.
Two Months Post Cesarean Birth
Once you’ve hit the two month mark it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there!
In fact, you’ll likely be feeling stronger by your 6-week postpartum check-up. 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, Mama!! You did it! You have birthed a child AND healed from a c section!!
If you’re looking for more great information on c section recovery you can read more of my posts about c section recovery here. I also really loved this article from Upspring, that discusses the three phases of c section recovery.