Healing C-Section scars: Minimizing risks and promoting undisturbed healing

| Last updated on July 3, 2023

C-section scars shouldn’t leave a lasting mark beyond a faint line. 

Yet, many C-section incisions lead to infections, prolonged trauma and unwanted scarring that goes beyond the initial incision line. 

A C-section is a major surgery of the abdomen performed to deliver a baby. 

During a C-section, the skin of the abdomen – and all the layers of tissue, muscle, nerve and uterus beneath – are cut open to draw a baby from the womb. 

Regardless of why a C-section is performed, the physical and mental toll that a major surgery has on recovering parents can be tremendous. 

Many C-section patients hope to move beyond their surgery and focus on healing: 

  • Without the incision reopening
  • Without infection 
  • With minimal scarring

Yet incision complications, infections and atypical scarring can bring patients right back to the hospital and prolong the recovery process both physically and emotionally. 

With the proper post-operative care guidelines and dressings designed to prevent infection and reduce scarring, patients recovering from a c-section can do so with undisturbed healing. 

In this article, explore:

  1. What C-sections are
  2. Why it’s important to care for C-section incisions 
  3. How to prevent excess skin damage around C-section incisions
  4. C-section scar care

What is a C-section

A Cesarean section – sometimes spelled caesarean section - and more commonly known as a C-section – is the surgical delivery of a baby. 

According to the CDC as of 2020, 31.8% of births annual are C-sections deliveries — that’s over 1 million babies delivered via surgery.  

C-sections are performed when:

 A patient’s personal preference is for surgical delivery rather than vaginal delivery,

  • Health concerns for the mother or baby require scheduled C-section, 
  • Urgent medical concerns before or during vaginal delivery require surgical intervention to save the mother and/or the baby. 

There are three incisions that can be made in order to complete a C-section, and they are: 

  • Low transverse
  • Low vertical
  • High vertical

3 ways to make a c-section incision - Low Transverse, Low Vertical, High Vertical. Image Source: Pampers.

Image source: Pampers

 

Each incision comes with its own potential complications post-operation and requires special care in order to heal successfully. 

The most important similarity between any incision made for surgical purposes is the need to protect the surgical site from infections

Why it’s important to care for C-section incisions 

It is vitally important to protect surgical sites like C-section incisions from infections, in order to avoid complications.  

Common complications can include: 

SSIs occur in approximately 3-15% of C-section patients, and they’re associated with a maternal mortality rate of up to 3%. 

An infection in the tissues around the C-section incision can cause greater scarring to occur, and long-term discomfort in the tissues at or below the incision site. 

There is also a great risk of emotional and mental trauma following emergency C-sections, which can be heightened following an infection of the surgical site. 

Managing a C-section incision complication with a new infant to care for can be incredibly challenging. 

A note on the emotional toll of C-sections

Any major surgery takes a physical toll on the body, and often an emotional toll as well. 

When a C-section is performed unexpectedly, especially under traumatic or urgent circumstances - the emotional impact on the mother is great. 

Medical studies have shown that there is a difference in the risk of postpartum depression at 6 weeks following delivery between women who had a C-section compared to those who had a vaginal delivery.  

  • 3.79% of women who had a C-section experienced depression compared to 2.35% of women who had a vaginal birth 

The heightened risk of postpartum depression was evident in women who had experienced emergency, rather than planned, C-section deliveries. 

Women who have had an emergency C-section were 6 times more likely to develop postnatal depression at three months postpartum than mothers who had a planned, non traumatic vaginal birth.

Any patient acquiring an infection following surgery is at risk of experiencing depressive symptoms as a result of the body’s immune system fighting against itself. 

In the case of women recovering from C-sections, these depressive symptoms, linked with a risk of post-traumatic stress disorder following a traumatic birth experience, can leave them at risk of heavy emotional suffering due to developing a Healthcare Associated Infection like an SSI.

Fortunately, there are some medical tools that can help protect patients from the risk of infection, and improve patient outcomes. 

Protecting C-section incisions from infection

Transparent dressings should be a standard of care in obstetrics and surgical units.

Many women who have experienced a C-section - planned or emergency - experience soreness, tenderness, and discomfort around the incision site for several weeks following delivery. 

A transparent dressing that allows healthcare providers to monitor the incision site, without requiring multiple dressing changes, will streamline care workflows as well as improve patient wellbeing and decrease patient discomfort and stress.

Sticky, non-transparent dressings that are removed and reapplied to tender incision sites can cause trauma and pain in recovering mothers, especially as there are a number of nerves that need to be cut during a C-section procedure which can cause extreme discomfort around the incision site for months following a delivery. 

Covalon’s clear silicone SurgiClear dressing provides dual antimicrobial protection against infection, using both silver and chlorhexidine to guard patient wounds from harmful bacteria, while maintaining complete visibility of the healing site.. 

SurgiClear provides optimal protection over the entire incision site, and is also gentle to use, reducing trauma to the incision site. It is possible to monitor without dressing removal, keeping the wound covered and protected with two broad spectrum antimicrobials. 

C-section scar care

Millions of parents have c-section scars, yet there can be a significant difference in how they’ve healed and what they look like today. 

The best C-section scar care ideally begins before the surgery even happens. The more knowledge and tools a patient has at their fingertips starting day one of healing, the more likely they will be able to prevent scarring and care for their incision. 

Below are tips and steps C-section patients can take to ensure optimal healing:

  • Use a transparent, antimicrobial dressing with silver to protect the incision from bacteria and promote undisturbed healing
  • Keep the incision area clean, but avoid vigorous scrubbing
  • After washing the incision, ensure it is dry (gently pat it with a clean towel)
  • Try to avoid strenuous bending or twisting to prevent the incision from re-opening
  • Keep all follow-up appointments and monitor your incision for new signs of redness, swelling, bleeding and oozing from the site

    • If you have the signs above or have a fever call your doctor right away as you may have an infection
  • Eat well as proper nutrition will help your body heal 

It takes approximately six weeks to heal the incision line so that you may resume your usual daily activities (with your doctor’s advice), however it can take approximately six months or more for your incision scar to fade into a less noticeable line.