Having a c-section, like any surgery, is a big deal, and recovery can take time! Even the best laid plans for a vaginal delivery can end up being a c-section delivery. There are many circumstances where they are necessary for the health of both baby & Mama. Since every birth is a potential C-section birth it is important for expectant parents to be prepared for it. Power is Knowledge and knowing what to expect can be very comforting when you are faced with having a c-section. Recovery can take time, and it is important to take care of your incision so it can heal. Read on for what to expect with your incision and how to help it heal.
The most common incision is the “bikini” or transverse incision. This incision is just above the pubic hair line and generally about 4-6 in length. Rarely the physician will do a Vertical or “classical” incision where it goes approximately 4-5 inches up and down. This type of incision is sometimes necessary in emergency situations or preterm deliveries.
Initial Incision Care
After your c-section it will be important to keep your incision clean & dry. Follow the discharge instructions given to you by your healthcare provider. Generally this means that showering is okay, but avoiding bathing until your incision is fully healed. When showering let the soapy water trickle over the incision, but do not scrub or rub it, then rinse thoroughly and pat to dry. This works whether your incision is closed with glue, sutures or staples. If you have steri-strips on your incision leave them in place until they fall off on their own, or your health care provider has given you direction.
It is not recommended to use any products on your incision until it is completely healed. Using hydrogen peroxide is contraindicated, as it can damage the new cells that are forming. So remember to keep it simple, and just use water, and mild soap, and always rinse really well.
You will need to monitor your incision for signs and symptoms of infection. An infected incision can look red/angry, have discharge- to varying degrees. If it is painful, inflamed, and warm to touch this could indicate infection. You may also experience fever, chills, nausea or vomiting. Be sure to have your incision looked at by your doctor sooner rather than later, as we want to get the infection under control quickly.
How to promote healing
- You have just had major surgery, you need to rest!
- Lean on your support system as needed and try to get as much rest as you can. I know, this can be so challenging for Mamas, but it truly is important in the long run!
- Take your pain meds!
- Often Tylenol or Advil are recommended to control pain after a c-section, make sure you take them as needed, according to the recommended dosage on the bottle.
- Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 weeks or as directed by your doctor.
- If you lift too much too soon, it can impact how your incision heals
- Try to plan ahead, and be mindful of the weights of the baby stroller or car seat, diaper bag, etc
- Keep your incision Clean and Dry
- Let your incision air out
- Unless you have been instructed to have a dressing on it, be sure to wear loose clothing, and consider opening your clothes at night
- Eat a healthy, well- balanced diet
- Follow Canada’s Food Guide To Healthy Eating
Once your Incision is Fully Healed
Once your incision is fully healed and you have spoken with your doctor, some have found it helpful to do light massage over the incision site. Using an oil or scent free lotion, lightly rub the scar once a day. This can be helpful in fading the pigmentation of the scar, and can help keep the scar soft, and soothe itchiness.
If you find you have numbness to the incision site, this is considered normal and sensation to the area will often return, but it can take some time. If you are concerned please talk to your doctor.
Being prepared for your birth is so important, and honestly it is so empowering. If you are looking for education and support on your journey to parenthood, check out our Prenatal classes. We have Virtual and In-person, private and group classes available. Reach out to the Mama Coach in your community. We will work with you to reach your goals. You Got This!