One-third of moms in the United States give birth via a cesarean section. This means each one has gone through the rigorous surgery of being cut open (usually in the lower abdomen), leaving them with the journey of caring for an incision and healing.
Most women’s concerns are not only how to care for the incision, but also how to minimize the c-section scar. In this post, we’ll look at a variety of practical tips and options for doing just that.
Types Of C-Section Incisions
In some cases there is a need to deliver the baby by c-section, and it is still just as much of a miracle as if the baby was delivered vaginally.
Depending on your doctor and their medical practices, this determines what kind of c-section incision they may perform.
Two Main Types Of C-Section Incisions:
- Horizontal. This is the incision most commonly practiced today. Doctors agree that by cutting the abdomen horizontally, it can be done much lower and the skin is much thinner, resulting in less bleeding. This low-transverse incision also increases a woman’s chances of having a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section).
- Vertical. Known as the “old school” or classical c-section, this is done by cutting vertically down the abdomen, typically right beneath the belly button down to the public hairline. These incisions are known to be more painful and take longer to heal.
Since this is rarely practiced today, the only chances of you having this procedure is if the baby is positioned awkwardly, if you already have a previous scar there, or if it is an emergency.
How Is A C-Section Closed?
Since the uterus is also cut, it is closed with dissolvable stitches (to prevent from having to be recut open to remove them).
The abdomen, however, is typically closed one of three ways:
- Staples. Although they look much like staples you’d use to staple papers together, the ones used for closing a c-section incision are made for the skin.
It is one of the most popular choices because it is quick and easy. If you get staples, they will most likely be removed 3 to 4 days after the procedure. If you receive a vertical scar, it will be an upwards of 7 to 10 days before they are removed.
- Stitches. A less go-to option because of the time it takes (roughly 30 minutes) is the needle and thread option. However, studies show that women who have stitches experience less complications than those who received staples.
- Glue. Surgical glue can be applied then topped with a transparent dressing depending on how your c-section surgery went.
The other factors are the type of incision and the consistency of your skin and fat. Most women say this option leaves the least visible scar.
What Kind Of C-Section Scars Are There?
Most women are not familiar with the various types of c-section scar, nor the factors involved in different scarring outcomes.
One of the biggest contributing factors of scarring is your body’s personal healing process.
A few other factors are age and skin type (darker skinned women usually scar worse).
A keloid scar will occur when the scar tissue extends beyond the boundaries of the original incision. This can result in lumps of scar tissue around the incision area.
A hypertrophic scar will be firmer and thicker with the possibility of being more raised than a normal scar. This type of scar does stay within the borders of the incision line.
How To Help A C-Section Scar Heal
While scars can definitely make for a good storytime, most women are not excited about having a c-section scar.
There are practical ways to help you c-section scar heal and (hopefully) leave one minimal in appearance.
For starters, make sure you keep the area clean. It’s best to not scrub the area; however, you can let soapy water run down to and around the incision area.
Gently pat the area dry once you’re done showering.
Another healing tactic is to use an ointment. Some doctors may suggest or even prescribe a topical antibiotic or petroleum cream to apply throughout the day.
Related: See how postnatal vitamins can help you heal and help your postpartum body, mind and new baby’s health.
Although you may apply an ointment, it is still best to keep the area uncovered as much as possible so it can get air.
Be sure to keep all your postpartum appointments so your doctor (or midwife) can monitor your healing progress as well.
Strenuous movements for the few weeks is highly advised against, but as soon as you’re in the clear (and you feel up to it), begin low-impact exercise such as taking a walk around your neighborhood. This is something you can bring the baby along with!
Have you tried some comfortable postpartum leggings?
How Do I Know If My C-Section Scar Is Infected?
As with any surgery, there is the possibility of infection setting in; however, there are a few key things to look for in the event your c-section scar seems to not be healing properly:
- Swelling or redness on or around the incision.
- A fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Drainage or oozing from the incision site.
- Odor or foul smell coming from the incision area.
- Increasing pain or tenderness.
- The incision splits open.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
How To Minimize C-Section Scarring
Beyond the care of ointments and rest, there are several other things to consider doing (or using) to aid in minimizing your c-section scar.
Along the silicone line are also gels and creams that have been known to help minimize scarring. These are normally applied twice a day for a certain amount of time. There are also nonsurgical options that include laser therapy and steroid injections.
Overall, having a c-section is a serious surgery that will typically leave a scar. However, using the practical tips in this post will help you become familiar with the procedure, as well as prepare for taking the best healing route for you and your body.