Dr Zoe Williams offers her expert advice on C-section scar healing, recovery, massage, and when to seek medical advice.
If you’re booked in for a caesarean section or you’ve recently undergone the procedure, as well as the excitement over the arrival of your little one (congratulations!) you may also be concerned about your C-section scar. First things first: you grew a tiny human and this makes you officially amazing! But while the arrival of a new baby is a magical and special time, it’s still perfectly normal to worry about the recovery of your new C-section scar.
To ensure your C-section scar recovers quickly, GP, media medic and Elastoplast’s 2021 brand ambassador Dr Zoe Williams offers her expert advice on C-section scar healing, recovery, massage, and when to seek medical advice:
What is a C-section?
In a caesarean birth, the baby is delivered through a surgical cut made in the woman’s abdomen and womb.
What are the types of C-section?
A caesarean birth is sometimes planned in advance, a so called ‘elective c-section’ either because the woman chooses it or because it is the best option for the woman or her baby.
A caesarean birth may also be done at short notice (an emergency caesarean) if the woman has a complication in her pregnancy or during labour. There are benefits and risks with each type of birth and these are different for each woman.
How are C-section incisions closed?
The womb is closed with dissolvable stitches, and the cut in the abdomen is closed either with dissolvable stitches, or stitches or staples that need to be removed after a few days.
C-section scar types
In most cases a C-section leaves behind a horizontal scar about 10 to 20cm long, just below your bikini line. In rare cases, you may have a vertical scar just below your bellybutton. The scar will probably be red and obvious at first, but most scars heal well and fade with time.
But sometimes your body’s healing process goes into overdrive, which can lead to problems with scarring — especially if you’re younger (under 30) and have darker skin. The issues that could crop up include:
- Keloid scar
A keloid scar occurs when scar tissue extends beyond the original boundaries of the wound, possibly resulting in lumps of scar tissue around the incision.
- Hypertrophic scar
A hypertrophic scar is thicker, firmer and usually more raised than a normal scar — but unlike a keloid, it stays within the borders of its original incision line.
C-section scar recovery
Your midwife will check your wound and remove your dressing, if you still have one. They will also remove the stitches or clips after about five days, unless you have dissolvable stitches. Once your dressing has been removed, clean and dry your wound carefully every day. You may find it more comfortable to wear cotton high-waisted pants and loose clothes.
When it comes to treating scars, it can be hard to know if you’re doing the right thing, especially for hypertrophic or keloid scars which may be more challenging to treat. Once the wound is fully healed you can consider using a polyurethane patch, such as Elastoplast Scar Reducer XL to cover the scar for 12 hours each day.
When it comes to treating scars, it can be hard to know if you’re doing the right thing, especially for hypertrophic or keloid scars.
The water resistant and skin friendly Scar Reducer patches are designed to build a semi-permeable barrier, which improves hydration of and increases the temperature in the scar tissue, to help activate the skin’s own regeneration process and support the remodelling of the scar. The scars therefore become flatter, lighter, and softer, showing noticeable results within 3-4 weeks, with clinical trials proving an overall better performance from these patches than silicone alternatives.
C-section scar healing tips and advice
Recent research by wound care expert Elastoplast reveals that while a rising number of mums were proud of their caesarean scars (32%), three in four felt that they didn’t have the advice they needed for post-operative recovery.
- Eat protein
In order to support good wound healing you should aim to eat some protein every day as this helps the body recover. Lean meat, eggs, beans, tofu and pulses are all good sources of protein.
- Quit smoking
Do not smoke, or allow anyone to smoke near to you as this hinders wound healing and increases the risk of infection.
- Take gentle exercise
Gentle exercise, such as walking, will help you recover from your c-section. But avoid anything more active until you have no pain and you feel ready.
- Avoid heavy lifting
Avoid driving, carrying anything heavy, doing heavy housework, such as vacuuming, or having sex until you feel able to.
- Get help
You will need help with carrying your baby in their car seat and with lifting their pram.
- Use SPF
Always protect scars from sunlight by keeping them covered or using high factor SPF.
C-section scar treatment options
Sometimes keloid scarring is treated with steroid injections, or surgery, where the scar tissue is cut away, leaving a new scar behind. If you think you have keloid scarring and it is causing discomfort, itch or catching on clothing for example, you should see your GP about it.
C-section signs of infection
Tell your midwife or GP straight away if any of the following occurs, as these can all be signs of infection:
- You have a high temperature
- You feel generally unwell – for example, an upset stomach
- Your wound becomes red, swollen, painful or has a discharge
- Your wound is smelly
Is it normal for your C-section scar to itch?
It is quite common for the skin in and around the scar to itch, be very sensitive or feel numb, this is because the nerves that supply that area of skin have been disrupted. It will often recover with time.
C-section scar massage tips
Your midwife may advise you to massage your scar to break up the scar tissue and stop any itching, or desensitise the area. There isn’t much evidence to show how well this works, but some women find it helpful. Only do this once your wound has fully healed. To massage your C-section scar try the following:
- Lie on your back using a non-perfumed cream or oil
- Make 20-30 small circular motions with your fingertips over your scar
- Repeat two or three times a day