New Health Guide

C-section Scar

Jan 13, 2014

It is not always possible to go through a normal delivery when giving birth. Due to complications, induced labor or personal preferences, some women may have to go through a C-section. Some women prefer C-sections, as they believe they will not have to go through the pain of natural labor.

The one thing that bothers most women is the possibility of being left with a C-section scar. Women who face the possibility of a C-section are perturbed by questions such as, “will the scar ever go away?”, “how uncomfortable will it be?” and “will I be able to breastfeed my baby?” it is important to understand the consequences of a C-section and learn how to care for yourself and your baby afterwards.

What does a C-section Scar Look Like?

A healed C-section can be about four to six inches in length. However, depending on the size and position of the baby and the area of the incision, the length of the scar can vary.

1. Horizontal Incision

The horizontal incision is the most common type of incision used during a C-section. The incision is made just above the pubic hairline. This positioning makes the scar camouflage into the hairline and is much more cosmetically appealing to women.

A Horizontal Incision Four days after giving birth looks like the following:


In the above image, two C-section scars are visible. The raw scar is from the most recent C-section, which has been stapled shut. The faint line, which is also visible, is from a C-section performed two years earlier.

A Horizontal Incision Not long after delivery looks like the following:


C-sections are prone to infection. If not well cared for, they can easily become infected which can delay the healing of the incision. An example of an infected incision is seen above.

2. Vertical Incision

Vertical incisions are rarely used during C-sections. This type of incision was traditionally used when C-sections were first performed. Due to the significantly apparent scarring left by a vertical incision, it is not commonly used. Vertical incisions are only used as a last resort

Vertical Incision seven weeks after third C-section looks like the following:


The above image is of a woman who has had three C-sections. You can see her new scar from the vertical incision made during the recent C-section. There are also two horizontal scars visible, which are from incisions made during her normal C-sections performed seven and eight years ago.

The image below is of a women who is pregnant with her third baby. The vertical incision scar is from her previous pregnancy. Vertical incision still apparent after more than a year:


How to Take Care of C-section Scars

1. Incision Wound Care

It is important that you take care of your incision site after the C-section. It will take over a month for your C-section incision to heal; during this time, you will experience bouts of discomfort, pain and fatigue. To stimulate the healing process there are a few steps you can follow:

Rest it

Rest as much as you can. Try not to do any unnecessary work. Sleep downstairs for the first month. Keep necessities for you and your baby close by. Do not lift anything heavier than your baby.

Hold your abdomen

It is important that you maintain a proper posture when walking and standing. You must also support your abdomen where the incision was made when you make sudden movements or when coughing and laughing.

Relieve the pain

The doctor will have prescribed some form of pain medication for you. Most pain medications are safe to take during breastfeeding. Take the medication as required. It will help ease the pain and allow you to give time to your baby.

Stay hydrated

You must drink many fluids to replenish the supplies that were depleted during delivery and while you are breastfeeding. This will help with the constipation many feel after childbirth. Urinate often to prevent any urinary tract infections.

Get moving

Walking around can help alleviate some of the pain from the C-section and can promote the healing of the incision. Staying active (to a degree) can help prevent and relieve constipation, and reduce the risk of blood clots which are prone to forming after delivery. By staying active, you also improve your immune system, which can reduce the risk of ailments such as the flu and more serious infections such as pneumonia.

Support yourself

If you are breastfeeding, use a support pillow to hold your baby while you are nursing. Do not place the baby directly on your abdomen, as this can strain the abdomen and increase the risk of the incision opening.

Keep it clean

It is vital that you keep the incision area clean. If it is still dressed, change the dressing regularly. Wash the incision with warm soapy water and pat dry with a clean towel. The incision should only be touched with clean hands and only when changing the dressing.

Wear comfortable clothing

Tight fitted pants must be avoided as well as tight shirts and underwear. Loose clothing will allow air to access the incision. Loose clothing will also prevent the incision from getting caught in the clothing or from being irritated by rubbing against the clothing.

Use warm and cold treatments

If an attempt at vaginal delivery was first tried before the C-section, the perineum may be swollen. An ice bag held to the area immediately after delivery works best. A warm compress should be used to relieve the pain of the abdomen incision. The warmth will also increase blood circulation, which can promote healing.

Eat properly

After delivery, it is vital that you eat meals that contain whole grains, leafy greens and protein. These will help promote healing of the C-section and will prevent constipation.

2. Massage the Scar

  • Benefits. Once you have visited the doctor for your six-week postpartum checkup and you have the okay that the scar is healed, you can begin to massage your abdomen occasionally. This will increase the blood circulation to the incision site. This technique works similar to a warm compress and promotes healing. Massage of the lower back and lower legs can also help relieve pain. Do not begin to massage your surgical scar if the doctor has not advised you to. This can delay your healing process and may even increase the risk of infection.
  • Tips. Once your scar has healed completely, you can begin to massage it to reduce its appearance and heal the surrounding tissues. Work above and below the scar. You want to work the tissues up and down, from side to side. Move your fingers around in circles and ensure that you are targeting pieces of tissue that do not want to move. Massage those areas until you feel them relax and loosen.

Once your scar is less tender, you can begin to massage the actual scar. Pick up the scar between your fingers and just roll the skin within your fingers.

The following video gives you tips and a step-by-step guide about how to massage your scar and the surrounding muscle tissue:

In this video, Heather Porter gives you tips on how to promote your C-section recovery. You are encouraged to reduce toxins and drink more water. She says to increase your vitamin C intake, which will heal wounds and boost your immunity. She gives you tips on how to reduce the appearance of scars. Oils containing specific vitamins can help soothe muscles and help heal scars.

What Are the Signs of Infection?

If you notice that the incision site is red and puffy, contact your health care provider immediately. Other symptoms of infection are discharge from the incision site, a fever of higher than 38 C and any severe pain around the incision.

How to Find a Breastfeeding Position to Reduce Discomfort?

After a C-section, breastfeeding can seem like quite the task. To reduce discomfort, it is best to position a pillow over the incision site to hold the baby. You do not want to put any weight directly on the incision site.

Some breast feeding techniques take the weight off the abdomen and might work better during C-section recovery.

  • The football hold. Hold your baby on the side of your breast, while bending your elbows, similar to holding a football. Hold your baby’s head close to your breast with the hand of the arm that is supporting the baby. With your free hand, cup your breast from the bottom. Position a pillow beneath the arm holding your baby to make yourself more comfortable.
  • Side-lying hold. You can lie down on your side and bring your baby to face the breast that is resting on the bed. Bring your breast close to your baby’s mouth and allow the baby to latch on. Then use one arm to hold up your head and the other to hold your baby.

There are many resources available for breastfeeding mothers. If you are having any difficulties breastfeeding during your C-section recovery, it is best to contact a lactation consultant for more help.