Having a C-section is major abdominal surgery, so it’s normal to experience pain and soreness in your stomach area for several weeks after the procedure. Here’s a look at what to expect and how long the soreness typically lasts.
What causes stomach soreness after a C-section?
There are several reasons you may have pain or soreness in your stomach area after a C-section:
- The incision site – Your stomach muscles and tissue have to be cut during the surgery which can cause pain as you heal.
- Internal healing – Your uterus has to heal internally from where it was separated from the placenta. This can cause cramping and achiness.
- Gas and bloating – Anesthesia and pain meds can slow down your digestive system leading to gas, constipation and bloating that can cause discomfort.
- Scar tissue – As the incision heals, scar tissue forms which can feel tight and sore, especially when stretching or moving.
How long does the soreness last?
It’s normal to have pain and soreness for 4-6 weeks after a C-section. Here’s a general timeline:
- Week 1 – The most intense pain and soreness near the incision site as it is still very fresh.
- Week 2 – Noticeable improvement in pain levels but still very sore, especially when moving or coughing.
- Weeks 3-4 – Moderate soreness remains but is more manageable with medication. Starting to move easier.
- Weeks 5-6 – Residual soreness may come and go. Incision is less painful and scar tissue is softening up.
- 2 months+ – Lingering soreness around the incision continues to fade. Scar tissue continues to remodel.
Every woman heals differently, so your own timeline may be shorter or longer. Let your doctor know if the pain seems excessive or gets worse instead of better over time.
Factors that affect recovery time
Some things that can impact how long you stay sore after a C-section include:
- Surgery complications – Issues like infections or hematomas can lengthen recovery time.
- Baby’s size – Larger babies require a larger incision which may hurt longer.
- Labor before surgery – Laboring first can make the uterus and stomach muscles more inflamed.
- Multiple C-sections – Each surgery causes additional scar tissue that can hurt.
- Extent of scar tissue – Some women develop more scar tissue than others.
- Chronic pain conditions – Pre-existing issues may increase pain after surgery.
- Physical activity – Doing too much too soon can aggravate the healing incision.
- Coughing – Chronic coughing puts pressure on the incision area.
How to manage post-C-section stomach soreness
While a certain level of pain is normal, here are some ways to help manage soreness in your stomach area after a C-section:
- Use medication – Take the prescription painkillers or over-the-counter meds as directed by your doctor.
- Try a belly binder – Wearing an abdominal binder can offer gentle compression and support.
- Use ice packs – Icing the area can help reduce swelling and pain.
- Watch your movements – Get in and out of bed slowly, avoid twisting, and don’t lift anything heavy.
- Change positions – Alternate between lying down, sitting, and walking to avoid putting pressure on one area too long.
- Do gentle stretches – Stretching can help relieve gas buildup and keep scar tissue from getting too tight.
- Consider physical therapy – Working with a PT can help strengthen your core safely and speed healing.
Talk to your doctor if pain persists longer than 6-8 weeks or gets worse instead of better over time. This may indicate a complication that needs further treatment.
When to call your doctor
Contact your doctor right away if you have:
- Fever over 100.4°F
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Heavy bleeding from the incision
- Severe or worsening pain
- Burning urination
- Incision that opens up
These may be signs of an infection or other complication that needs medical care.
Expect to have soreness in your stomach area for at least 4-6 weeks after a C-section. The soreness should gradually improve each week as you heal. Use medication as directed, avoid overdoing activity, and call your doctor if you have any concerning symptoms. With time the soreness will dissipate, leaving you to enjoy life with your new baby.