Having a c-section is hard enough at the time. But the healing process afterwards, including the c section scar, can be just as challenging. It takes time to recover physically and emotionally, coupled with the upheaval a newborn brings into your life.
A c-section is a surgical procedure that allows your baby to be born through an incision in your lower abdomen.
The skin incision is about the length of your middle finger just above your pubic hairline. The surgeon must go through several layers, separating muscle to reach the uterus. A cut is made into the uterus and the baby is brought out through this incision.
Once the procedure is finished, the surgeon will close the incision, using absorbent stitches on the uterus and either stitches or staples on the external incision.
Be sure to read our article C-Section Birth – What To Expect During a C-Section for more information about c -sections.
C section scar
Your care providers will give you instructions about caring for your c section scar as you recover. This will help to reduce any complications that may occur. Find out what to expect and what you can do to avoid irritating your c-section scar.
How long does it take for a C section scar to heal?
There are several layers to heal after having a c-section. The surgeon will cut through skin tissue, move aside muscles, and then make an incision through three layers of the uterus: the inner lining (endometrium); the middle muscular layer (myometrium); and the outer layer (perimetrium).
The skin or external incision will usually heal within the first two weeks of birth. The incision that was made into the uterus takes between 6 to 12 weeks to heal completely.
It’s important to follow the instructions of your care provider to ensure your incision heals properly and minimise the chance of any complications.
How do you know if the c section scar is healing?
It’s not uncommon to feel some soreness and bruising in the weeks following a c-section. You should take appropriate pain medication as needed.
As the incision heals, good care management will promote healing and lessen any complications. It’s not uncommon to lose some feeling at the incision site but this should come back over time.
You should gently wash your incision with warm water (soap may irritate) ad then gently pat the area dry with a clean towel. Allowing the wound site to air-dry after washing. Avoid wearing clothes that will rub against the incision site and irritate the area. You should also not do any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise until your care provider gives you the go ahead.
How do you know if your C section scar is infected?
Infection usually occurs due to a bacterial infection in the incision site.
Warning signs that your incision isn’t healing and maybe infected include:
- Redness or swelling around the incision
- Pain at the incision site that worsens or becomes extreme
- Oozing or weeping from the incision
- Severe abdominal pain
- Pain when urinating
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Excessive vaginal bleeding (more than one pad an hour)
- Large clots.
If you experience any of these symptoms after a c-section contact your care provider immediately.
What to do if my C section scar opens?
Having your C section scar start to re-open sounds incredibly alarming. In some cases, this is only mild or it can be severe. If you suspect your incision is opening, please contact your care provider immediately.
The incision site is at greatest risk for separation (dehiscence) in the first two weeks after the surgery. This is when the wound is still fragile as the new tissue forming isn’t as strong as the normal tissue.
Separation can be mild, such as when a stitch or staple has come loose due to pressure or stress on the incision (lifting heavy objects, exercise or even violent coughing). This might leave a small gap between the two edges of the wound.
In severe cases, the wound incision may open from one side to another and reveals tissue underneath. This is a medical emergency. Cover the area with a sterile bandage and seek immediate assistance.
Even when mild, a wound separation can cause infections in the area. Likewise, an infection in the incision site can increase the risk of uterine dehiscence.
Why is my C section scar itching?
It’s very common for your C section scar to be itching as it heals. This happens for a number of reasons. The nerves at the incision site were damaged and as a result, become very sensitive.
As the nerves and the surrounding tissue begins to heal, this causes the sensation of itching to happen. If you had any pubic hair shaved at the time of the c-section, the hair regrowth can also cause itching.
However, it’s important to resist itching your c-section scar, as you can cause damage or even infection. If you are also experiencing numbness around the incision, you may scratch too hard and hurt yourself.
What can I put on my C section scar to stop itching?
Itching is often a part of the healing process after a c-section but you can try and minimise the severity of the itchiness. Promote health skin healing by keeping to a nutrient-dense diet and drink plenty of water too.
Keep the incision site clean to reduce the chance of inflammation and infection. Avoid wearing clothes that may irritate the area such as nylon or polyester.
If the area does become itchy some women finding holding an ice pack over the area for 5-10 minutes calm the sensation.
There are mixed thoughts on whether you should use topical creams or gels on c-section incisions for itching. Some medical professionals think it doesn’t hurt, others firmly believe it’s better to leave the wound alone. Always check with your care provider before using anything directly on your healing incision.
Can I put cream on my C section scar?
As the scar tissue forms, you will notice the incision looks pink, red or shiny. Over time, the scar will fade to a silver-white colour. Most women are keen to reduce the appearance of their C section scar but there are several things that impact wound healing, such as:
- How long your incision took to heal
- How old you are
- Your genetics (how you scar is something you inherit from your family).
There are many products and home remedies that promise scar reduction and very few have evidence to show they actually work. Dressings that help to keep moisture over the wound as it heals are the most likely to minimise scarring. There are dressings called silicone gels or sheets that may help, or some doctors suggest using petroleum jelly with a bandage.
Should you massage your C section scar?
Post C section scar massage can help prevent scar tissue from becoming too thick and also reduces the risk of adhesions.
Adhesions are a type of scar tissue that form in the pelvis or abdomen and are a common complication of c-section surgery. This causes muscle, connective tissues and internal organs to stick together. Adhesions prevent tissues from gliding passed one another when moving and during digestion, causing pain.
Many care providers are only interested in the surface level of a C section scar, checking it hasn’t become infected or opened. Very few really acknowledge the importance of helping the scar to heal properly at a deeper level. Adhesions can cause problems such as:
- Pelvic, abdominal, and back pain, or pain during sex
- Bowel obstruction, involving severe nausea, vomiting and pain
- Bladder problems, involving loss of bladder control and needing to urinate frequently
- Infertility, such as blocked fallopian tubes.
The main aim of massaging of the c-section scar is to increase blood flow circulation and promote collagen to align. This helps to speed healing and prevent excessive scarring, which reduces the likelihood of adhesions.
Once you’ve received the go ahead from your care provider, simply massaging the incision scar a few minutes twice a day can help. Or seek the support of a women’s health therapist.
Why does my C section scar itch 2 years later?
Some women report their scar is itchy years after they have a c-section. This can happen for a number of reasons.
Sometimes the scar can make the skin feel very tight, which increase the sensation of itching. Changes in your weight or skin can also make your scar itch more, especially if you have dry skin.
Keloid scars can be the cause of an itchy C section scar years after surgery. The body produces more collagen after a cut or damage to build up and help the wound seal and heal. The scar usually fades and becomes smoother after time.
In about 10-15% of wounds, keloid scars occur. This is caused by excess scar tissue that keeps growing and become bigger than the original wound. A common problem with keloids is that they can be itchy.
While your c-section scar might be something you prefer to keep under wraps, remember your scar is unique to you. If you have any concerns or questions, check-in with your care provider.