We won't get into the gory details, but have you ever wondered what happens to your body, specifically your skin, when you undergo a caesarean section?
Caesareans are becoming more common, with 1 in 4 UK mums giving birth via caesarean. And like any postpartum body, there is a natural healing process on the other side. In this feature we’re going to talk you through some of the ways in which you can aid your c-section scar recovery, as well as learn a bit more about what your body goes through.
We're passionate about empowering mums to have the best recovery. You can click here to download our free C-section Recovery Guide with advice from a range of healthcare professionals.
What happens to your skin during a c-section?
Once the mother is anesthetised and fully numbed up, the team get to work. An incision of 10-20cm is made along your lower tummy (the abdomen) and another across the womb – commonly referred to as the bikini line since it sits low down. In some cases, a vertical incision is made, but this is usually for an emergency. During the process, your skin and layers are moved to make way for the baby. Yes, there’s tugging, stretching and pulling, but you won’t feel any pain or discomfort.
After being presented with your bouncing baby boy or girl, the placenta is removed and your reproductive organs are given a once over, before being stitched up using dissolvable stitches. Welcome to the world little baby and hello impressive c-section scar. Don't worry, it won't look the same forever and it's totally normal if you feel weird about looking at your scar at this early stage.
After all that pulling and tugging, you’d have thought that more due diligence would be given to recovery. However, findings from a poll we undertook discovered that 90% of women receive no support in managing their c-section scar. This didn't sit right with us. With our healthcare partners, we've been working hard to produce helpful guides to fill the gap in c-section aftercare.
The stages of scar recovery
Those early weeks post-partum are made for rest and recovery, and rightly so. After a c-section, your body can take up to a year to fully heal, which is why it’s often advised not to have another baby immediately afterwards.
Here’s what happens to your c-section scar during its recovery process:
First few days post-surgery
As your body heals, white blood cells gather to prevent infection and stop the bleeding, known as the inflammatory stage.
This is when your c-section scar is at its brightest – usually red or pink and swollen.
During the first three to four weeks your skin will go through the ‘proliferative’ stage of healing. This is where collagen gathers at the incision, helping to bring it together and strengthen it.
You may notice your c-section scar gets thicker in these weeks and the colour changes, which is perfectly normal.
A month and beyond
The final stage of your c-section scar recovery can take up to a year.
You will notice that your scar stars to fade in colour and the swelling flattens too.
Early recovery in the hospital
Now you understand the stages of c-section scar recovery, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can aid personal recovery, at hospital and home.
After the operation in hospital, you’ll be taken to a recovery room for rest and observation. Painkillers will be offered to help with the pain, but you won’t see the wound, which will be covered for at least 24 hours. Don’t worry – a catheter will remain for half a day, so there’s no need for trips to the toilet.
You should receive 1:1 advice from your midwife, who will tell you to gently clean and dry the wound every day. It’s also advisable to take painkillers, wear loose clothing and stay alert to signs of infection. After a few days in hospital you’ll finally be released to the world (just wait for that nerve-wrecking drive home with baby in car!), only returning if you need staples or stitches removed.
The most important part of recovery in this stage is self-care.
Recovery at home
In the weeks following your caesarean, there’s a number of ways you can help promote healing, minimise scarring and pain.
Keeping the wound clean, but allowing lots of air to it is important, as this helpful video shows:
This is also a good time to start using a soothing product to aid recovery, such as Scar Saviour, which has been formulated to hydrate and restore the skin, helping to minimise the appearance of scars.
And finally, many women find that c-section massage has numerous benefits…
Benefits of c-section massage
We get it, you’re living in your pyjamas, covered in baby goo, and you’re knackered. The thought of taking time out to give yourself a massage seems a step too far. However, this is an important part of c-section scar recovery, and even just five-minutes a day can be beneficial.
When scar tissue forms, it lays down fibers in different directions. Some of these can adhere to tissues (colon, ovary, bladder, uterus), leading to ‘adhesions’ – where scar tissue has connected with parts of the body it usually wouldn’t. This can have a few implications, notably frequency to urinate.
So, loosening up the surrounding tissues will help prevent this, as well as reduce pain and numbness, and improve sensation around your c-section scar. Plus, it may reduce muscle restriction, and help manage swelling. Really, the benefits are endless.
How to begin C-section massage
Before you get the massage balm out, there’s a few points to note. First of all, you need to wait until your scar has healed. Usually this is about six-weeks after delivery, when the wound has no scab or raised appearance.
The other important point is to only use c-section scar products that have been designed for this use, like Scar Saviour, which uses completely natural anti-inflammatory ingredients and is fragrance free.
Physiotherapist, Clare Bourne explains how to perform scar massage techniques to support scar healing.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about c-section scar recovery and healing.
If you're looking for more advice on C-section aftercare, movement, nutrition and wellbeing advice, check out our free Recovery Guide, created with a range of healthcare professionals.
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