When I was considering whether or not to have an elective c-section, I didn’t really give much thought to the recovery process.

I mean, I knew it would be painful, obviously. It is, after all, abdominal surgery, and in the run-up to mine I’d read/been told so much about the procedure that I couldn’t NOT be aware that the c section recovery process is one of the major downsides to having a baby in this particular way. While I definitely knew what I was getting into, however, the fact is, throughout my pregnancy, I was just so focused on getting the baby out – and both of us being alive afterwards – that the recovery side of things just didn’t seem that important in comparison. In fact, any time I DID think about it, I think I just assumed that by the time it became an issue, I’d have my precious baby to distract me, and nothing else would matter.

Well, as it turns out, I was partly right about that: a new baby IS a wonderful distraction, that’s for sure! That, however, is part of the issue with c section recovery: or, at least, it was for me. The fact is, with any other kind of surgery, you’d probably come out of hospital and spend the next couple of weeks recovering – in bed, ideally. When you have a new baby to look after, however, one thing you’re definitely NOT going to be doing much of is resting. Even in my case, with a super-supportive partner, plus my parents visiting every day, and more than willing to help out, I got out of hospital and more or less hit the ground running – even more so when Terry ended up unable to walk at the end of our first week at home, leaving me (albeit briefly) as the only person in the house who was physically able to go up and down the stairs all day, fetching and carrying things for the baby and ourselves.  (I’ve always loved the fact that our house has three storeys, but immediately after my surgery, I was just all, “WHY DID WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? WHY COULDN’T WE HAVE BOUGHT A NICE BUNGALOW INSTEAD?!”)

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. My c section recovery story has a few different parts to it, but I really wanted to write it all down, for the benefit of anyone who’s facing this procedure, and wondering what it’s like. Before I go any further here, though, I should stress that obviously everyone’s recovery will be different: I had an elective c section, which is generally considered much easier to recover from than an emergency one, and I was also really lucky in that my surgery was totally straightforward, with less than average blood loss. This was actually really interesting to me, because throughout my life, I’ve repeatedly had people tell me that redheads lose more blood than most other people. I asked numerous different doctors and nurses about this during my pregnancy, and didn’t get a definitive answer: some people told me that, yup, it was totally true, while others – including my own doctor – were just all, “Nope, urban myth!”

Well, I can only speak for myself obviously, but I suspect there’s a bit of confirmation bias going on with this one: I was actually really worried that I’d haemorrhage on the table, and need a transfusion or something, but, as I said, I lost less than the average amount of blood during the operation and – TMI alert – my bleeding afterwards was also very light. So while I can’t say for sure that the whole, “Redheads lose more blood,” thing is definitely false, I CAN say that wasn’t the case for me, so if you’re a redhead who’s worried about this, just know that it’s definitely not true for everyone!

Anyway, both of these facts (planned c section and low blood loss) were in my favour when it came to my c section recovery: here’s how it was for me…

My c section recovery story

My C Section Recovery: Immediately Post Op

I’ve already shared the story of the c section itself, so, jumping in right after the procedure, I was wheeled back to my hospital room, with my legs still somewhat numb from the spinal block: it was only another 30 minutes or so, though, until I started to be able to move them normally again, which was a relief to me, because, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I actually found it pretty freaky being paralysed from the chest down, and was getting just a little bit panicky when the sensation didn’t come back as quickly as I’d expected it to.

Immediately after the operation, the pain from the incision is obviously at its worse, although I was only really aware of it if I tried to change position in bed, or if I coughed or sneezed. Unfortunately for me, being the clumsy oaf I am, around an hour after my operation, I choked on some water I was trying to drink, and was in complete agony from my scar area – I was MUCH more careful after that, needless to say!

After a c section, the aim is to get you moving around again as quickly as possible, as the more you move, the faster you’ll recover – or so I’m told, anyway. I, however, felt really nauseous for a good few hours post-op, so the first time the nurses came to try to help me out of bed (This was maybe around 4-5 hours or so after the surgery, although I wouldn’t swear to it, as I’d  lost track of time by that stage!), I asked them if we could wait a while – partly because of the nausea, but also because I knew from that coughing fit that standing up was going to be painful, and, at that point, it felt like it would be pretty much impossible, to be totally honest.

When the nurses came back, an hour or so later, I was STILL feeling quite nauseous, but I decided I’d try to get up anyway: our hospital aims to discharge elective c section patients the day after the surgery where possible, but I knew that was dependent on me being able to move around by then, so I figured I might as well give it a go. Now, I won’t lie: getting out of bed for the first time was pretty painful, but once I was up, and sitting in the chair next to the bed, I felt so much better – the nausea almost instantly disappeared, and I just felt much more like myself, so I guess my main piece of advice to anyone having a c section is to try to get up as soon as you can, even if it seems like an impossible task at first.

Once I was up, I started to experiment with moving slowly around the room. I still had a catheter in at that point, so it was slow going (and I had to carry a bag of pee around with me:  SO. GLAMOROUS.), but, again, while it was sore, it was a manageable level of pain, so, by the time I went to bed that night, I was feeling not too bad. Things did get worse during the night, and I had to buzz the nurse and ask for some painkillers, but the pain was similar to moderately bad period pain: not fun, but not totally unbearable, either.

C Section Recovery: The Next Day

The next morning, my catheter was removed at around 6am. The nurses had wanted to do this the previous night, at midnight (Hospital time is totally different from “normal” time, I discovered!), but they’d told me that, once the catheter was removed, I’d have 4 hours to pass a certain amount of urine (I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but one of the nurses mentioned it was something like a Coke can’s worth…), and if I didn’t manage this, the catheter would have to be re-inserted, and I’d be less likely to get home that day. I was obviously REALLY keen to avoid having to be re-catheterised, and I was planning on sleeping between midnight – 4am, rather than sitting up drinking water in order to pee it back out again (Er, I should probably have mentioned that this post would contain TMI, shouldn’t I? Oh well…), so I asked if they could  do it in the morning instead, to give me a better chance of passing what I thought of as The Pee Challenge.

So, the catheter came out at 6am (I’d been really worried about this, but it was totally painless…), and I spent the next couple of hours frantically guzzling water. My challenge was actually harder than you might think, purely because the hospital was SO damn hot that I felt really quite dehydrated, but I managed it (YAY!), and was also managing to walk around the room a fair bit at this point, just gathering up all of my stuff, checking on the baby, etc. Terry – who’s had abdominal surgery himself, and therefore knows a bit about recovering from it – did warn me that he felt I was trying to do too much, but I hadn’t even left the (tiny) room, and I was absolutely determined to go home ASAP, so I kept moving around, and, after a few hours, my doctor appeared and told me she was happy to discharge me, as soon as Max had had his final checks.

That was all done by around 2pm, by which stage I’d had to take some more painkillers, and was also feeling quite sick again. I was given a package of medication, consisting of extra-strength Ibuprofen, regular paracetamol and coedine – the first two to be taken every four hours, with the coedine whenever I felt I needed it. In addition to that, I was also given 10 syringes filled with some kind of medication (I totally forget what it was called now) to thin the blood and help prevent blood clots, which are one of the risks of having a c-section, and something I’d been really worried about. I’d been told in advance that I’d have to administer these myself for the next ten days, but I knew there was absolutely no way I’d be able to inject myself (I’m not scared of needles, but the thought of  having to plunge one into my own flesh makes me feel a bit ill…), so one of the nurses showed Terry how to do it instead, and for the next ten days, he got to stick a needle into my thigh on a regular basis. (Those injections were a bit painful, to be honest, but my health anxiety had made me really worried about blood clots, so I just gritted my teeth and got on with it!)

Finally, just over 24 hours after my surgery, I was allowed to go home.

Both Terry and my parents (Who’d turned up to visit us, only to find that we were just about to leave!) suggested I use a wheelchair to get down to the car park, but I REALLY wanted to leave hospital pushing the baby in his pram (Well, in his car-seat-attached-to-wheels…), so I walked out of hospital – realising only as I did it that, wow, that was actually a REALLY long walk! In retrospect, I’d done far too much at this point, with the result that I went home clutching a sick bag, and had to go straight to bed for a few hours – at Terry’s insistence – as soon as I got there: D’OH!

At home, I quickly realised that my biggest problem was going to be getting in and out of bed. I could manage the stairs OK, but our bed is quite a high one, and getting in and out was AGONY: I had to kind of roll onto my side first, to manage it, and, even then, there were a few times when I needed Terry’s help to pull myself up – not fun. I was home, though, and, as I said, I had my perfect little baby to distract me, so I didn’t mind too much.

C Section Recovery: The first 10 days

Those first few days at home were the toughest ones physically, for obvious reasons. At first, I was taking my painkillers every few hours, and having quite a bit of difficulty getting in and out of bed, but by the time the midwife turned up to give Max and I a checkup on day three (I think), things were already getting easier.

There were, however, a couple of things troubling me. One of them – and this is totally frivolous, so apologies in advance – was the white surgical stockings I’d been given on the morning of the operation. I’d assumed I’d only have to wear these during the surgery itself, but I was actually told to wear them for THREE weeks, removing them only to wash them. Now, these were bright white knee socks, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find that all of my outfits for the next three weeks were going to have to have a bit of an Alice in Wonderland theme, huh?

The only way I could make this work was by sticking to trousers/leggings the whole time, and wearing regular socks over the white ones any time I left the house or had visitors. (Yeah, I know I’m vain, but SERIOUSLY, people: WHITE KNEE SOCKS. GOD.) This wasn’t, however, very comfortable, and I found I’d get really hot at night (I obviously didn’t wear anything over them at night, but I absolutely hate having anything on my feet when I’m in bed), so I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I only put up with the socks for two weeks, rather than three. In my defence, the doctor had told me to wear them for three weeks OR until I was mobile again, and by the end of week 2, I felt like I was hardly getting a chance to sit down, I was so busy running (Well, walking…) around the house, so I didn’t really feel I needed them.

(Also in my defence, from what I’ve read, most people don’t even last two weeks with the dreaded white socks, so while I’d always advocate following medical advice – don’t be like me, folks! – I don’t think I did too badly…)

The other thing bothering me at this point was my belly… which was still HUGE. I knew my bump wouldn’t disappear as soon as the baby was out – in fact, everything I’d read told me I’d probably leave the hospital looking around 6 months pregnant, so I was totally prepared for that.

I, however, looked about NINE months pregnant.

Seriously, I don’t think I looked all that different on my way out of the hospital than I did on the way in. I still had a gigantic bump, and although the midwife told me a lot of it was gas (One of the other fun side-effects of abdominal surgery!), by the end of week 1, I was seriously starting to worry that it would never go away, and I’d just look pregnant FOREVER.

Peppermint tea helped with the gas, though (This is one of those remedies I assumed would be like the ginger biscuits everyone told me would ease my morning sickness: I was so sure it wouldn’t work that it was a few days before I even bothered to try it. It DID really help, though, so if you know you’re going to be having a c section, stick some peppermint tea in your hospital bag – you’ll thank me for this later!), and by the time my regular midwife turned up to remove my stitches, 10 days after the operation, it had definitely started to go down a little. I still looked around 6 months pregnant, though, and  it took at least another week for me to go from still looking pregnant, so just looking a bit – or, OK, a LOT – flabby round the middle, so I was glad I’d kept hold of my maternity clothes, because I still needed them!

C Section Recovery: 4 weeks later

And that’s pretty much where I’m at right now. It’ll be four weeks on Friday since my c-section (!), and I’d say I feel more or less back to normal. I don’t LOOK “back to normal,” needless to say (That’s another post, for another time!), but although the area around my scar is still a little tender, and the skin itself feels quite numb to the touch (I’m told this can last for years), I’m not in any pain, and have been able to move around normally for a couple of weeks now. I haven’t attempted to do any exercise yet (I mean, AS IF I’d have time for exercise, even if I wanted to!), and I’m finding that if I try to do too much walking up and down those stairs, the incision will get a bit sore again, but, all things considered, I think my c section recovery has been pretty straightforward – physically at least.

Psychologically, on the other hand, it’s been a little bit harder, purely because of my health anxiety, which does its best to convince me that every little change is a symptom of something super-serious, and that I’m probably going to drop dead at any second. Obviously there are lots changes happening to your body after having a baby, and I feel like every day has brought something else to worry about recently. I’ll just say here that none of those changes have been remotely out of the ordinary – it’s just my anxiety that makes it tough, but I guess that would’ve been the case however Max had ended up coming into the world, !

Anyway! This post is another one that ended up being much longer than I intended it to be, but I’ve had a few people who’re facing c-sections of their own tell me they’ve been finding these posts helpful, and I know I couldn’t get enough information about it in the run-up to mine, so I figured I’d write this all down while it’s still fresh in my memory. If you do have questions, though, feel free to ask – I’m obviously no expert, having only gone through this once, but I’m happy to help if I can!

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30 Comments
  1. About driving post elective section – my hospital told me that it was an insurance issue and to ring my car insurance company and check their requirements. I did so and was told that I could drive whenever I wanted as long as my GP agreed it was OK. Quick call to my surgery and the GP confirmed they were happy for me to drive when I felt able. So if you haven’t then it maybe worth checking with your insurance and see what they say.

  2. I’ve had two C-sections, and never had driving restrictions for for as long as you’re having them. I’m glad that you’re feeling better.

  3. I’m in the middle of infertility treatment and needed (TMI warning) a uterine septum resection and endo scrape. The gas left me seriously bloated and the shoulder pain it caused was worse then the actual post op pain. I too was sceptical on the peppermint tea front but it worked miracles.

  4. It’s really interesting reading about your C-Sec recovery. My little girl is 3 weeks older than Max and I had an elective so it’s quite fun comparing our experiences. I did the same as you RE: the walk to the car.. ended up crying almost haha. Although I never got given any sexy socks that must be a Scottish perk ha! Xx

  5. The hospital discharge timings are interesting to me. In Italy, you stay in a minimum of 4 days after a c-section and usually 3 days after a relatively straightforward vaginal birth. Only if you are lucky and you give birth in the morning vaginally and with no complicaions you can be sent home a VERY minimum of 48 hours after the birth. I think this is because the law requires hospitals to keep the babies under observation for a minimum of 48 hours after birth, or something.

  6. I don’t know how do you do this but I enjoyed every single word read abut the c section when I’m not even close to having a baby etc. I just love the way you write, really. I hope you’ll get back to full of your health very very soon and going to be able to enjoy every single moment of the time with little Max. Also you changed my vision of the c section completely (for better) and it’s always goo to learn something new! Thank you and wishing you all best <3

    With kindness

  7. It always amazes me that after being cut open new moms just get on with their lives. And so it goes <3 Good to hear that you are doing well! It's odd, but I feel proud (no clue why, since I have nothing to do with it) of how well you have done with everything.

  8. Reading about your recovery is so interesting. I thought it would take much longer, but for your sake, I’m glad it isn’t.

  9. this is so very helpful. I’m currently trying to decide if I’m having another baby and I’ve been told I’d get an elective c-section (because of how traumatic my first birth was). I’d very much love another baby but practically I’m not sure it’s possible. Wishing you well with the rest of your recovery xxx

    1. If it’s any help, the support I got from the NHS while I was trying to decide about the birth was absolutely amazing: the labour ward at St John’s were particularly helpful, and really spent a lot of time going over all the options etc, so I’m sure they’d be happy to talk things over with you! Always here if you fancy a chat, too 🙂

  10. Hi Amber, I have read that you can’t exercise for 6 weeks after a C section, so that’s perfectly normal!
    Just curious, did you exercise during the pregnancy, though? Everyone seems to have different opinions on the subject.

  11. This gives me hope that an elective c-section will be a much easier recovery than an emergency one like I had for my first.

    I’ll never forget the pain that first time I tried to get up post surgery. My stomach muscles tightened and then wouldn’t relax. I was so upset I couldn’t get up as I couldn’t go see my little one in special care until I did.

    I also ditched the white socks early. So uncomfortable.

    I’m so glad everything is going so well for you xo

    1. Oh no! From what I’ve been told, planned sections tend to be easier: it’s actually one of the reasons I decided to have an elective – I knew there was a good chance I’d need a section anyway, and I really didn’t want it to be an emergency one!

  12. I’m so glad your elective c-section went well and was a positive experience for you, I remember your blog post where you were stuck deciding between whether to go for an elective or to wait and go into labour naturally. Love and best wishes to you, Terry and baby Max 🙂 x

  13. After the birth of our second baby (natural birth no c-section) I had to face the Pee-Challenge, too or the nurse threatened me to insert a catheter. Funny thing was, it was not that I could not pee, but with the hormones and a sweet little baby I just forgot I had to go to the toilet. So after the nurse was out of the door, of course I had the urge to visit the bath room. At least I passed the Pee-Test fine. Hospitals are sometimes strange places with all these rules.

  14. Hi Amber! Have loved following along on your adventures. Has anyone recommended an abdominal binder to you? Though I haven’t had a C-section, I was required to have a laparotomy last year. I think It was about 5 to 6 weeks post surgery that my doctor recommended I could use an abdominal binder if I wanted to. It was awesome! Just helped me feel more secure and felt better all around (no pun intended).

  15. It’s interesting how health systems around the world differ – after my first C-Section (which was an emergency C-Section) I was in hospital for five nights, after the second (elective) C-Section they allowed me to go home after four nights because my recovery was going well. That’s pretty much the standard here in NZ. Congratulations on your wee boy, he is just beautiful!

  16. elected C-sections were heaven to me: 4 day stay at the hospital, nurses taking care of me and my baby, great food, my only job was to breastfeed my baby and pump milk if I needed to; I could sleep all night and i would call the nurses to bring my baby to the room or to take him out, babies do not sleep in the same room as the mom, and the latest hour that they would be in the room would be at 9 pm, the earliest at 9 am. Nurses assisted with everyting (mom and baby) it was great

  17. This is very interesting to read. I’ve had two csections in the US and the experience was quite different. I was in the hospital for 4 nights for the first one and 2 for the second one (bc I was anxious to leave). But no catheter, no blood thinners, no socks and although they offered it I didn’t need any pain medication. don’t get me wrong getting up to walk that first time was painful but for me more stiffness than searing pain. And I found with the second one it was much easier. Maybe bc I knew what to expect. I also knew the sooner I was up and about the sooner they’d let me go home. The first time I was happy to stay as long as they’d let me but the second time I couldn’t wait to go home.

  18. Hi Amber, congratulations! I’d love to know how you’re getting on with breastfeeding/how the delay in your milk coming in worked. I’m not pregnant and don’t have kids, largely to anxiety putting me off. I have generalised anxiety disorder and my mum was hospitalised for the full 9 months of her pregnancy with hyperemesis gradivarum, which 30 years ago was not met with the correct treatment/mental health support at all. It’s put me off! But it’s great to see how you’ve managed with your anxiety – and opted for the elective c sec as it’s the least unknowns. Women are so stigmatised into having a natural birth. There’s always horror stories about how you can’t event lift/feed your baby for days etc if you have a c sec. It’s like, eh, better that than I lose my marbles for good? You’ve given me hope. ❤️

    1. I’m not actually breastfeeding, so I can’t speak to that, but I had no problem picking up the baby after the c-section, and I believe milk takes a few days to come in for everyone, regardless of how you give birth!

  19. That’s great to hear you could pick him up fine! Loads of women complain that’s its another big reason not to have one. I guess they were all emergency c’s! Will you be posting about breastfeeding choice? I’m interested in that too – again so many Mums out there who find it horrendous and push themselves for months. I’m all about the me, myself and I so I’d love to hear another perspective! X

  20. Hi Amber I am one week after elected c-section due to my (first baby) being breech. I too was out of hospital within 24 hrs my choice was it was so hot and uncomfortable I couldn’t wait to get out of there. My recovery is going well, I am not one to rest so probably do too much at times! But the one thing that I was not expecting and that I can’t find any mention of in any of the recovery blogs I have read is the pain when passing wee, has anyone else experienced this? It’s like a pressure pain in my bladder and a slight sting at the end of my wee. I am wondering if anyone else has experienced this. I plan to speak to my midwife about this when I see her in a couple of days. But if meantime wondered if it was normal. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jemma, congratulations! Bladder pain wasn’t something I experienced personally, so I’m not sure if it’s common or not, but I’d definitely speak to your midwife about it – maybe a UTI or something from the catheter?

  21. Thanks for your response Amber, yes I think it is something that I need to address with the midwife, just wondered if it was a common complaint. Your blog was a great read probably the most useful one I have come across.

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