C-section ….. the impact of that scar

According to statistics over a quarter of women in the UK have their babies by C-section and the rate is increasing year by year. There are many reasons why a woman would need to have one including: a poorly progressing labour, medical issues that affect mum or baby, emergency intervention to save the life of mom and baby and so on…

Although C-sections are seen to be a very safe surgery it is by no means superficial. An incision is made through the abdominal wall and then through the uterus, cutting through at least 5 different layers of tissue. When these tissues heal, like any other surgery or scar, there is the possibility of several things including: a non–healing wound, infection, keloids, scar tissue, decreased sensitivity to the area or even hypersensitivity or increased sensitivity and impact on surrounding tissues including pelvic floor.

Not many women are told about the impacts of a C-section scar and the effects it can have on your body long after the wound has healed. We see many women in the clinic who have suffered with both local and further reaching pain following a C-section and it is something that can easily be treated with physical therapy. Symptoms include pelvic pain, pelvic floor weakness and lower back pain.

Seeking help from a qualified physical therapist is key to your recovery but what can you do to help yourself in the mean time?

  1. Once given the all clear at 6-8 weeks by your doctor and once the incision has healed where there are no openings, you can go ahead and start some gentle massage to the area. Start firstly with light touch above and below the incision along its length, followed by actually touching on the incision. For some women, there is a huge disconnect as there is trauma, both emotional and physical, associated with a C-section. For some women they have to come to terms with feelings of inadequacy because this was not the way they intended birth to be. As such, some women have a hard time touching or connecting with that scar. So it is truly more than just “a scar”. For some women this could be the beginning of some serious emotionally healing and self love.
  2. Once you have reached the point where you can touch the incision, above and below with minimal discomfort, then start making small circles first above the incision, along its length, then below, then on the incision itself.
  3. If that works well then progress to gentle mobilization of the incision and surrounding tissue. Hold below the incision with one finger and then gently pull on the opposite side of the incision with another finger (using opposite hand). For example: take the right thumb and place it under the right side of the end of the incision. Using the left thumb or index finger, place it on the tissue on the opposite side of the incision relative to the right thumb and give a GENTLE pull or stretch in the opposite direction. Move along the length of the incision.

Try these techniques daily. Most women find it easiest to do in the shower as the warmth will help to relax the tissues. As always if you need help, then please do get in touch – we are always happy to answer any questions you have and provide any further guidance.