If you’ve never experienced cesarean, then cesarean recovery process can be somewhat of a shock. Cesarean is major surgery; you’ll need at least 4-6 weeks for your incision and body to heal—and that’s while taking care of your newborn!

During cesarean recovery, your body won’t be up to full strength, and you’ll be feeding and caring for your newborn pretty much around the clock. Support from your partner, family and friends is essential during this time, as is good self-care.

As you might imagine, vacuuming or cleaning bathrooms is off the list for you, and although we all wish for this every day, when such restriction happens you may begin to feel like you’re unable to maintain your home, and with that can come guilt or embarrassment. If you can afford to do so, hire someone to clean your home during your recovery, or ask family and friends to help with housekeeping tasks. Otherwise, simply disregard how messy your home gets; it’s okay, it can wait, and the people who care about you won’t judge you.

Great self-care begins with being patient with yourself; you’re healing. People will typically step up when you ask them for help; it’s as easy as saying, “Hey, can you help me with . . .” This really helps ease stress during recovery. Many people want to help but they don’t know what you need, or what would be helpful to you. This is where you can help others help you.

Restrictions Following Cesarean Birth

Did I mention you’re tired? All women who birth feel tired and get little—if any—sleep in those first few weeks after baby arrives. If you’ve had a cesarean, your body has the added burden of recovering from major surgery. Great self-care begins with accepting help as a sign of strength—you recognize that you need to put yourself first, and baby too, if you’re both going to recover well from birth:

  • Let someone else clean your house, do your laundry
  • Accept offers of meals from friends, family
  • Schedule others to care for your older children or pets
  • Ask those around you to hand you the baby, rather than you lifting baby, for the first couple of days
  • Use counter-pressure via a soft pillow against your incision site when getting up or down, coughing or using stairs
  • Take short, slow walks to improve circulation and your recovery; ask your partner or a friend to lend an arm for support as you grow stronger
  • Delay exercise and relations with your partner for 6-8 weeks; listen to your body and provide it the rest it needs

No Driving During Cesarean Recovery

After cesarean, you’re typically restricted from driving for two weeks, and as long as you are taking pain medication that can impair driving. Identify who will drive you to baby’s follow-up appointments, to the store for food and infant care supplies.

Limit Lifting

Your lifting is limited to 10 pounds’ during cesarean recovery. Too much stress or strain on your incision and you risk it opening. Do the math: If you have an 8lb baby, and put them in a 2lb car seat, plus shoulder the baby bag, you’re at the max weight you can lift, or maybe even more. Don’t try to lift everything at once. Ideas for modifying lifting during recovery include:

  • Prepare the car seat by snapping it into its base before bringing baby out to the car
  • Put your baby bag, purse, etc., into the car before bringing baby to the car
  • Break any lifting activity down into smaller, lighter steps, such as carrying handfuls of clothes to the laundry versus a full basket

Limit Stairs

You may be restricted from using stairs post-cesarean because such can put unnecessary pressure and strain on your incision. Then, there’s the added falling risk at a time when you’re not getting much sleep as a new parent. Pain medication can make you drowsy. Falling down the stairs is never good, and it’s especially dangerous after surgery. Tips to move around a home with stairs include:

  • Plan to recover on the main floor, or a part of your home where you have to use as few stairs as possible
  • Keep everything you need, and that baby needs, within arms’ reach in your room

Are You Planning a Cesarean Birth?

If you’re at risk for or planning a cesarean birth, prepare by asking your partner, family members and others in your life how they may be able to help you recover post-birth.

Learn if your partner is eligible for paternity leave, how much time that may include, or who else among your family and friends may be able to help as well. You’ll be recovering from major surgery while also caring for a newborn. Realistic expectations are that you can care for you and your new baby during this time, and little else, especially cooking, cleaning or parenting other children.

Alert Your Healthcare Provider

As you recover from cesarean, alert your care provider if you have any of the following:

  • Redness or swelling in your legs or around the incision
  • Fluid or pus from the incision site
  • Incision pain
  • Fever (more than 100.4ᵒ F)
  • Smelly vaginal discharge
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Sudden pain at your incision, or pain in your chest or breasts
  • Feelings of sadness, low mood, depression or hurting your baby

Further reading: Learn These Post-Birth Warning Signs


Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, BSRN is a nurse scientist at Johns Hopkins Health System and expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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