How long it takes to recover from a C-section before you can drive a car, take a bath, have sex, and more

You can start on your road to recovery right then and there in the hospital. Steve Debenport/Getty Images
  • A C-section is major surgery. You will need at least 4 to 6 weeks to recover to the point where you can start doing routine tasks again like driving a car, exercising, and having sex.
  • Vaginal bleeding is a symptom of giving birth, even if you had a C-section. You will probably bleed for up to 6 weeks.
  • Short, frequent walks are one of the best ways to help your body start to recover from a C-section.
  • This article was reviewed by Julia Simon, MD, who is an assistant professor with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UChicago Medicine.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A C-section is major surgery. And like with any other surgery, you’re going to need to take time to rest and let your body recover.

It takes 4 to 6 weeks to recover from a C-section

“The uterus, abdominal wall, and skin need to heal after a C-section. The initial healing occurs within 4 to 6 weeks postpartum,” says Dr. Malavika Prabhu, a specialist of maternal-fetal medicine at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

After those 4 to 6 weeks, you can start to get back to many of the activities you were told to avoid, like:

  • Take a bath: “You should wait until 4 weeks postpartum, as long as you are having an uncomplicated recovery,” says Prabhu
  • Exercise routine: “After 4 weeks, if your recovery is uncomplicated, you can talk to your doctor to see if you can do other exercises, especially if you exercise in daily life,” Prabhu says.
  • Drive a car: Doctors say you can start driving again once your pain is no longer a problem and it won’t distract you from the road. Also, if you’re taking opioids for the pain, don’t drive until you’re off them.
  • Have sex: “You should wait until your postpartum visit to ensure you have healed well before having sex. The postpartum visit is typically 6 weeks after the birth of your baby,” Prabhu says.
  • Heavy lifting: “You should not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds or your baby for the first 6 weeks postpartum.”

You’ll bleed for up to 6 weeks after a C-section

Even though you’ve had a C-section, you’ll still experience some vaginal discharge called “Lochia.” Lochia is a mixture of uterine tissue, mucus, and blood.

“Bleeding is different for everyone after a C-section. Typically most women have bleeding for the first 1-2 weeks before it significantly decreases,” says Prabhu. After the worst of the bleeding subsides, you might still experience light bleeding for up to 6 weeks.

To control the bleeding, use extra absorbent menstrual pads. Avoid tampons since they can increase the risk of infection while you heal.

How to recover from a C-section

You can start on your road to recovery right then and there in the hospital. One of the most simple and effective first steps is – well – just that: walking.

“Getting out of bed early and walking while in the hospital can help to speed the initial recovery,” says Prabhu. Take it slow and steady, though. Don’t push yourself too hard.

Walking is important because it’s non-strenuous and can help prevent blood clots post-delivery and relieve constipation.

“Once you are home, walking is beneficial for the first 4 weeks,” she adds. Doctors recommend about 15 minutes of walking each day. If you have a pedometer, that’s equivalent to about 1,500 steps.

And be careful not to overdo it while you’re still recovering. For example, avoid too much housework and don’t go up and down stairs too much.

Aside from lifting, if you want to get back into a fitness routine, get in touch with your OB-GYN to make sure you’re in the clear. “To regain your abdominal wall strength, once your doctor clears you, doing a ‘plank’ can be helpful.”

Your body will mostly heal within the first 4 to 6 weeks, but you’ll still need more time to recover completely. “After that, the body does continue to heal for a full year after major surgery,” Prabhu says.

For any other activities you might be curious about, or any concerns at all during recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor with any questions. And don’t forget to enjoy time with your baby and embrace your new “normal.”

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