Almost every mother has some type of souvenir from their pregnancy; whether that be stretch marks, loose skin, or in some cases c-section scarring. Cesarean sections are more common than you may think, nearly one third of pregnant women will have to get a c-section. Here’s a little guide on what to expect after having a c-section, and how to minimize scars.
What is a C-Section?
A cesarean section is a type of surgery that is performed on pregnant women. The surgeon will create a small 4-6 inch incision and then reach into your stomach to remove the baby.
Types of Incisions
There are typically two types of incisions that a surgeon may use to open up your uterus. A vertical incision and a horizontal incision.
- Vertical Incision – Usually used in an emergency c-section delivery. This incision runs from the belly button area to the top of the pubic bone. Typically these incisions are more painful and more noticeable.
- Horizontal Incision – Also known as the bikini line incision, runs from one side of your abdomen to the other. It is usually around the top of the pubic bone and is generally considered less painful and less noticeable.
How they are Closed
There are two incisions the surgeon has to close, the one in your uterus and the one in your skin/muscle. The incision in your uterus is always closed with dissolvable stitches, but the one in your skin can be closed in a few different ways. Just like in all surgeries your surgeon may choose from a couple different options when closing the incision. There are usually three different methods for your doctor to choose from.
- Staples – considered the fastest way to close an incision and the easiest. The staples will need to be taken out by the doctor about a week after the surgery.
- Stiches – takes a longer time to close the incision, usually about 30 minutes, but is widely considered to be the least likely to cause complications. They also will have to be taken out by the doctor about a week after the surgery.
- Glue – surgical glue is applied to the skin and brings the two sections of skin together. It dissolves by itself and does not wash away. Some believe that this method leads to the least visible scar.
If you have a specific preference of how you would like the wound to be closed, please speak with your doctor before your surgery. Sometimes you may not have an option, but it never hurts to ask.
How to Heal to Reduce C-Section Scarring
The most effective way to reduce scarring is by making sure your incision heals properly. The best way to heal your incision effectively is to follow your doctor’s instructions. But in case you need some help, we put together a little guide.
Make sure you are cleaning the incision daily. You do not have to scrub or put soap directly onto the area, just letting soapy water run over the incision should do the job.
You can also apply some light antibiotic or a thin coat of petroleum jelly, but some women may not need ointment. Talk to your doctor for your specific regimen.
Air it Out
Make sure you are letting your incision breathe. You don’t need to walk around with it hanging out all day, but be sure to wear loose clothing and allow air flow to the area.
You don’t want to be performing rigorous exercise or stretching in any way, but make sure you are moving around. Keeping your blood pumping and moving in the affected area helps to stimulate healing. To help you move around without fear of stretching your incision, try wearing an abdominal binder. An abdominal binder holds the area together and makes it so that you aren’t able to do too much activity. So go ahead and take a walk, but make sure you talk to your doctor for when you can resume activity as normal.
Keep Out of the Sun
During the main healing period (first six weeks) you will want to avoid having any sort of sun exposure on your incision. If you are unable to avoid it for some reason wear an SPF so you reduce the amount of UV exposure.
Reduce C-Section Scarring (Non-Invasive)
If you are really worried about the appearance of your scars there are ways to reduce them. There are two ways that you can reduce your scars with non-invasive procedures and with invasive procedures. You will want to try all non-invasive ways before you try any of the invasive options.
No matter what type of scar it is, the best way to reduce the appearance is time. Yes, it sucks, but you really won’t know how well it heals until it has been a while. C-section scar in particular can take a while. And any sort of discoloration or raised areas will most likely take a year to completely disappear and heal.
If you really want to be proactive about treating your scars, you can try using silicone treatments such as silicone gel or silicone sheets. According to one study published in the Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery “Topical silicon gel is safe and effective treatment for hypertrophic and keloidal scars.” Check with your doctor to see if this could be an effective treatment for you.
According to one article in Parents, a scar massage is an effective way to help your scar heal. “Beginning four to six weeks post-surgery (get your doctor’s clearance first), massage the scar, working it with a rubbing motion—first side to side, then up and down; then diagonal. ‘You can also lift and roll the scar between your thumb and forefinger,’ [Leslie Lo, DPT] says. Doing this two to three times a day for five to 10 minutes at a time can keep the scar pliable, soft, and cosmetically appealing.”
Most people do not have any problems with their incisions healing properly. However, there are a couple different types of scarring that are incredibly difficult to heal on your own. These types of scars are keloid and hypertrophic scars. Both of these types of scars occur when the body goes into an “overdrive” healing mode and heals skin.
- Keloid Scarring – is characterized by Everyday Health as a “thick, irregular scar that rises above the skin level and extends beyond the original wound boundaries.”
- Hypertrophic Scarring – is characterized in a Clinics study as “visible and elevated scars that do not spread into surrounding tissues and that often regress spontaneously.”
The main difference between the two is that hypertrophic scarring will not extend outside of the incision area while keloid scarring will. Both keloids and hypertrophic scarring typically have to be reduced using more invasive procedures.
Reduce C-Section Scarring (Semi-Invasive/Invasive)
If you have run out of no-invasive options or you are dealing with problem scarring you may want to speak with your doctor about invasive procedure options.
Laser therapy treats discoloration and abnormal texture. The laser promotes healing and can help reduce the appearance of scars. According to an article on What to Expect, “You can begin once any stitches are removed from your C-section (and your doctor clears you) — and you’ll likely have a better outcome if you get laser therapy sooner rather than later.”
Another option to reduce your scars and promote healing is with steroid injections. The injections will reduce inflammation allowing your scar to flatten and become less painful. They are typically required monthly until the problem has subsided.
Surgery – Scar Revision
If your scars are significant and not decreasing you may want to talk to your doctor about scar revision surgery. As described by a Parents article, a scar-revision surgery “takes place under local anesthetic or sedation, [and] involves opening the scar (but not the underlying muscle) and re-closing it.”
No matter what type of scar reducing techniques you want to use, talk to your doctor to make sure it is the right choice for you.
Takeaways on C-Section Scarring
The best way to make sure you don’t form a scar is by following your doctor’s healing instructions. If you are looking for more proactive ways to reduce scarring, there are a variety of options available to you.
One way you can reduce c-section scarring is by limiting your stretching and protecting your scar while it is healing. A great way to do this is by using a postpartum girdle. We make our Bellefit postpartum girdles specifically with c-section incisions in mind.
- The light breathable fabric allows air flow, which is essential in the healing process.
- The light compression reduces the amount of pain in the incision area.
- The structure supports your abdomen and helps you heal faster.
- And finally, our postpartum girdles make sure to hold you in place so you can’t stretch your scars by accident.
We hope that you have found some helpful tips to reduce your c-section scarring.