Going home after caesarean birth
After your caesarean, you’ll probably stay in hospital for about 3-5 days. This can vary between hospitals. It depends on how you and your baby are doing.
In some hospitals you can choose to go home early (in the first 2-3 days) and have your follow-up care at home. Ask the midwife about what your hospital offers.
A caesarean is major surgery, so it’s important to focus on caring for your baby and giving your body the rest it needs to recover.
Some cultures have a tradition of birthing mothers staying at home in the first 6 weeks after birth. Whatever your situation, taking it easy as much as you can and being kind to yourself are really important in these weeks.
Your feelings after caesarean birth
Some birthing mothers feel fine about having a caesarean, whereas others feel disappointed or sad that they weren’t able to give birth vaginally.
For birthing mothers who have unplanned (emergency) caesareans, the change in plan can sometimes be a shock. Whatever your feelings, they’re OK. But it can really help to talk through those feelings with someone you trust.
You can also call the Pregnancy Birth and Baby Helpline on 1800 882 436 for advice and free counselling, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Adjusting to the big changes of early parenthood can be stressful. This is why parents are more likely to experience postnatal anxiety at this time. Signs of anxiety can include a racing heart, constant worry and restlessness.
Bleeding after caesarean
Even though you’ve had a caesarean, you’ll still have bleeding from your vagina after birth. This is normal bleeding from where the placenta was attached to your uterus.
To deal with the bleeding, you’ll need to have plenty of maternity sanitary pads handy, both in hospital and when you come home. Avoid using tampons in the first 6 weeks after birth because this could increase your chance of getting an infection.
The bleeding might be quite heavy in the first week, like a heavy period. It might also be heavy after exercise, when you first get up in the morning, and after breastfeeding. You might see some small blood clots on your pad.
If you’re soaking through a pad in one hour or seeing a lot of blood clots, immediately call your local maternity hospital, or your doctor, midwife or child and family health nurse.
After the first week, your bleeding should gradually get lighter and change from red to dark-red to brown to yellowish-white. You’ll probably be able to use regular sanitary pads around this time. You might have some bleeding for up to 6 weeks.
Check with your doctor, nurse or midwife if the bleeding gets heavier rather than lighter, you have a sudden heavy blood loss or large clots after the first few days, the blood smells bad, your uterus feels tender or sore, or you’re still bleeding after 6 weeks.
Pain relief after caesarean
In the early days, it’s OK to use pain relief. Talk with your doctor or midwife about which pain relief will be best for you, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Some women find that basic things like coughing, laughing and showering can hurt in the first weeks after a caesarean.
Our article on healthy lifestyle choices for new parents has information on medicines and breastfeeding.
Caesarean wound care
Your caesarean wound will usually be along or just below your bikini line. Very rarely it might be straight up and down your tummy. It will usually have dissolvable stitches or staples.
Keeping your wound clean and dry helps to prevent infection.
The wound will be covered by a waterproof dressing for several days, and you can usually shower with this on.
Once the dressing has been removed, you can gently wash your wound with water and dry around it with a towel. It’s best to leave it uncovered to ‘air dry’. It can be harder to keep your wound dry if it’s under a tummy fold, so you might need to place a soft clean pad under the fold to keep your wound as dry as possible.
Some bruising around the wound is common. Numbness or itching around the wound is common too. This can last a long time in some women.
Wear loose cotton clothing that doesn’t press on your wound.
It’ll take 6-10 weeks for your wound to heal completely.
If you see any signs of infection around your wound, see your doctor or midwife straight away. Signs of infection include pain, swelling, smelly discharge or the wound coming apart. The skin around the wound might also look red on lighter skin, or brown, purple or grey on darker skin.
Practical help after caesarean
It’s OK to ask for help at any time, especially in the first 6 weeks after caesarean. It can be a good idea to let friends and family know ahead of the birth that you’ll need their help during this time.
Family, friends and other people will also probably appreciate you telling them exactly what you need. For example, you could say, ‘Could you pick up some bread and milk on your way to visit today?’ Or ‘Thanks for offering to pick up some groceries, but I really just need someone to hang out the washing today’.
If you feel you need other support at home – for example, with breastfeeding – talk with your doctor, midwife or child and family health nurse.
Lifting, stretching and bending
You’ll definitely need some help with any jobs that involve stretching upwards, lifting or bending, because of the strain these activities put on your caesarean wound. This means you’ll need someone to hang washing on the line, do the vacuuming and help with any other strenuous household jobs.
Don’t lift any weight that’s heavier than your baby or anything that causes you pain – for example, a full basket of wet washing or a toddler.
If your other children are used to being picked up, there are other ways for you to be close. For example, your toddler could sit next to you on the couch while you have a cuddle and read a story together.
Doctors usually recommend that you avoid driving a car until your caesarean wound has healed and you can brake suddenly without feeling sharp pain. This is usually around 4-6 weeks. It’s best to talk with your doctor or midwife about when it’s safe to start driving again.
Check the policy of your car insurance company because some companies won’t cover you if your doctor hasn’t cleared you to drive.
Exercise, food and sleep after caesarean
A gentle walk each day can help your body and your mind feel better. You could start with 5 minutes walking around your home. You might like to ask a physiotherapist at the hospital to give you some other good exercise ideas as you start to recover.
Healthy eating and drinking can help you feel better too. And foods that are high in fibre are good for avoiding constipation. These foods include cereals, fruits and vegetables. Drinking plenty of water will also help you avoid constipation and stay hydrated.
Getting as much rest and sleep as you can is another top tip. Try to rest or sleep when your baby sleeps, and don’t feel guilty if the housework isn’t done – you and your baby are more important.
For comfortable sleep, it might help to use a pillow between or under your knees. Move slowly when you need to adjust your position in bed. Some discomfort is normal, and it will start to go away as you recover.
Relationships and friendships after birth
Your emotional and sexual relationship with your partner might feel different in the early weeks after your baby arrives. For example, it’s quite normal to take weeks, even months, before you feel like having sex again. It’s OK to wait to have sex until you feel ready.
New friendships can open up after you have a baby. For example, many women join a mothers group in the first couple of months.
It can be comforting and reassuring to talk in person or online with other mums who’ve had a similar experience to you.
Our article on services and support has a list of options for help and support after your baby arrives.
Breastfeeding after caesarean
You can try different positions for breastfeeding to find what’s most comfortable for you. Ask the midwives to show you different positions while you’re in hospital. You can organise a visit with a lactation consultant if you’d like extra support, or you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.
Positions you might find useful for breastfeeding after caesarean birth are:
- sitting with a pillow on your lap to support your baby and protect your wound
- lying down on your side
- holding baby underarm with baby’s feet towards your back – the ‘football’ position.
Check out our illustrated guide to breastfeeding positions to learn more about each of these positions.
Your 6-week check
Your health and your baby’s health will be reviewed at a 6-week check-up with your doctor, midwife or child and family health nurse.
This is a good time to ask any questions you still have – for example, why you had a caesarean or what your birth options are if you have another baby. After any birth, it’s good to leave time for your body to heal between births.
Your doctor, midwife or nurse can also give you information on topics like family planning and baby development.