With 1 in 3 Australian mums bringing their little ones into the world through a caesarean birth, C-sections are quite a common procedure.
If you’ve had one, we’re sure you just want to feel normal again. But the reality is that you underwent pretty major surgery and there are a few things that can affect your recovery process and that you want to be mindful of as your body heals.
One of them is driving. When is it safe to get back behind the wheel? And what precautionary measures should you take? Read as we answer these questions with the help of Dr Kirsty Wallace-Hor, a GP at Kin Fertility.
How long should you wait before you start driving again?
“The recovery time after a c-section – whether it is planned or not – can vary greatly,” Dr Wallace-Hor explains. “Despite it being a very common procedure, it’s still abdominal surgery which usually requires a longer hospital stay than a vaginal delivery.”
“As a GP, I do a lot of post-natal reviews and I commonly get asked about when it’s safe to resume driving,” she adds. “This usually varies from 1 to 6 weeks after delivery. However, for each person, this requires consideration of two issues: the effect that someone’s recovery has on their driving ability, and the impact of driving on their recovery. For some people, particularly if they’ve had complications, it will be longer than 6 weeks before they can safely drive again.”
“Interestingly, a small Australian study found no difference in women’s ability to drive earlier (2-3 weeks) or later (5-6 weeks) after a C-section, and no difference in driving capability if the women had a vaginal delivery or a C-section. Despite this, clearance to drive should be based on the individual.”
Regardless of how long you’re advised to wait, there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t rush back behind the wheel.
One is the pain and discomfort you may experience if you brake the car suddenly. Another is the fact that you may not be able to make certain movements that are crucial to driving safely: “You want to make sure you can sit comfortably wearing a seatbelt, reach and work all the controls, look over your shoulder and make an emergency stop.”
Plus, “Guidelines from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also recommend that you have recovered enough to have minimal or no pain, and no longer require any pain relief medication that may cause sedation,” she adds. “Fatigue (and sleep deprivation from looking after a newborn), as well as distractions whilst driving, are also important factors to consider.”
For all the reasons above, Dr Kirsty Wallace-Hor recommends you check in with your doctor before you start driving again. “This is not only important for your safety, but also for insurance purposes, as driving commercial vehicles may also have stricter requirements.”
How to drive safely after a C-section
Once you have the green light from your doctor and feel comfortable to resume driving, there are a few things you want to check before you actually hit the road.
- Make sure you’re not in any pain and your wound area has healed properly.
- Don’t take sedating medications, like painkillers, before driving.
- Wear soft and breathable undies and clothing to avoid causing pain or discomfort to the incision area.
- Drive shorter distances and at a slower speed than you normally would, slowly building up your routes over time.
Remember, recovery looks different for everyone and what works for one new mum may not work for another. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s always best to talk to your doctor.