How Long Does It Take to Stop Hurting After a C-Section?

A C-section is major abdominal surgery, and recovery takes far longer than after a vaginal delivery. While the pain might seem unbearable shortly after your surgery, it typically subsides gradually over the course of a few days and weeks. How long it takes for you to stop hurting after a C-section depends on both your own body's limitations and the methods you take to ease the pain and speed recovery after the birth.

A mother in a hospital bed with her newborn baby. (Image: joruba/iStock/Getty Images)

C-Section Healing

After a C-section, you typically spend about three days in the hospital and about six weeks healing at home before you're considered fully recovered. Different women experience the pain from their C-sections differently, so the time it takes to stop hurting varies among mothers. Most women notice a significant reduction in pain a few days after surgery and feel mostly healed by six weeks postpartum. However, everyone is different: some women continue to feel severe pain a week after surgery, while others feel perfectly fine within days. Soreness and tenderness may last up to eight weeks postpartum and some women continue to feel occasional twinges of pain at their scar site for months afterward.

Pain Relief Medication

If you have an epidural or spinal for your C-section, your anesthesiologist may add morphine or other narcotics, which can relieve postpartum pain relief for up to 24 hours. Some anesthesiologists leave the epidural in place for up to 24 hours after surgery so you can get more medication through it. Afterward, you'll typically be given pills containing a narcotic and possibly acetaminophen as well. If you have general anesthesia for your surgery or you don't get a dose of pain medication through your spinal or epidural, you'll receive narcotics for immediate postpartum pain relief. Your doctor will also send you home with pain relief medication after you are released from the hospital, but not all women need this additional pain relief. If you do, you typically can transition from prescription-strength painkillers to over-the-counter relief by about a week after the birth.

Alternative Solutions

In addition to pain medication, getting up out of bed and walking around can help speed recovery and lessen the overall time you are in pain, even though it might hurt initially to move around. This is because walking around reduces bloating and pressure in your intestines and abdomen that make the pain worse. In many cultures, abdominal binding is used to relieve pain and promote healing after a C-section. Abdominal binding involves wrapping a stretchy material tightly around the midsection. While no studies exist looking specifically at the use of abdominal binding after a C-section, binding was shown to improve the ability to walk after other types of major abdominal surgery and prevent severe pain in postoperative patients when compared to patients without abdominal binding, according to a study published in the July 2010 issue of "Physiotherapy Canada."

Considerations

Trying to do too much after your C-section can lengthen your recovery time and cause pain to linger longer than it otherwise would. You should wait until your doctor gives the okay to resume sexual activity and exercise, which for most women occurs around six weeks postpartum. Also avoid lifting heavy objects and doing heavy household work for at least eight weeks after delivery -- or according to your doctor's instructions. If the pain persists or seems to be getting worse, let your doctor know.

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