How Long Is C-Section Recovery? What to Expect   

How Long Is C-Section Recovery? What to Expect

Mom holds newborn baby to chest for skin to skin contact. Image concept for c-section recovery.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Monica Liriano, M.D.

Cesarean sections (C-sections) account for more than 32 percent of all deliveries in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just like with any surgery, your body needs time to heal and recover after a C-section delivery—more so than if you have a vaginal delivery.

Our expert, OB/GYN Monica Liriano, M.D., lays out what you can expect as you recover from a C-section delivery. “It will take your body a full six to eight weeks to fully recover from a C-section. So it’s important to be patient with yourself,” says Dr. Liriano.

What to Expect After a C-section 

Recovery Time: After a C-section, you can expect to stay in the hospital for approximately 2–4 days. It may take six to eight weeks to fully recover.

Pain Management: While in the hospital, your doctor can help with pain management. But after you are discharged home, they may advise you to take an over-the-counter pain reliever. This pain may be due to:

  • The incision. It will heal with time. It’s important for you to monitor it and make sure it isn’t red, swollen or leaking, as these could be a sign of infection.
  • Contractions or afterpains. These often resemble menstrual cramps and occur more commonly during breastfeeding.
  • Tender breasts. This might happen once your breasts begin making milk. Frequent feeding from both breasts can avoid and minimize this pain.

Vaginal Bleeding: You may experience vaginal bleeding for up to six weeks, though it shouldn’t be as heavy as with a vaginal delivery. 

Activity Limits: You should avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise during your recovery, but gentle walks will help you heal faster and help prevent blood clots. This small activity may also help lift your spirits.

Fatigue: During the first week and beyond, you will experience discomfort and fatigue, so rest when possible. Try to keep everything you might need for yourself and the baby within easy reach. This will help conserve energy and make life feel less chaotic.

Mood Changes: It is common to experience mood changes as hormones rapidly shift within the body. It’s not uncommon for people to feel down or anxious. Some may also experience crying spells and difficulty sleeping. These are often referred to as the baby blues and should resolve within two weeks. If you continue to feel these symptoms, you may be experiencing postpartum depression and should speak with your doctor.

Nutrition and Hydration Needs: Striving for good nutrition can help you heal and keep your baby healthy if you are nursing. Drinking plenty of water will also help boost milk supply and help you avoid constipation and boost overall health.

Other Postpartum Changes: As your body continues to recover, you may notice a series of changes such as:

  • Hair loss
  • Skin changes such as acne
  • Continued weight loss
  • Vaginal dryness: It’s usually OK to have sex again six weeks after delivery, but it’s best to wait until your doctor gives the green light. 

When to Call a Doctor After a C-section

“You won’t feel in tip top shape after a C-section. That’s normal,” says Dr. Liriano “However, if you experience any of the following at any time you should call your doctor.”

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Fever of 100 degrees or higher
  • Incision swelling, redness or drainage
  • Thoughts of causing harm to yourself or your baby
  • Pain in your calves or increased pain in your abdomen

“Remember to listen to your body and give yourself space and time to recover,” says Dr. Liriano.

Next Steps & Resources:


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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