C-section scar care – your guide to recovery

Cesarean delivery is a common inpatient surgery in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In fact, c-section deliveries now account for about one third of all births in Canada! Although common, don’t be fooled, Cesarean birth is a major surgery and postpartum recovery following a Cesarean birth can last anywhere from six to eight weeks, depending on the extent of the operation. Plus, after this major inpatient surgery, new mothers are expected to take care of their babies while healing!

You’re not on your own though, and knowing what to expect after your Cesarean birth experience can help you recover faster.

What should I expect after my C-section?

Expect some pain for the first week! Then, most women feel more mobile by the second week. During this time, you should continue taking pain medications as instructed by your surgeon. Make sure you get plenty of rest! Let your partner or family members help you with taking care of your newborn baby. 

You can use compression shorts to help support your abdominal area and decrease pain. Some women find wearing a belly band is also beneficial in providing back and abdominal support. But, always double check with your provider first if you have a wound infection or delivery complications.

By your third week, you will start feeling better but remember: don’t push it! You want to make sure that your scar is completely healed. The worst thing that can happen is that you push yourself too much and the scar reopens. Reopening your c-section scar will slow healing and also thicken your scar.

Is there anything I should avoid doing once I've arrived home?

It really depends on your surgeon so make sure to ask them. Some general guidelines are:

  • Don’t lift any weight that is more than your newborn baby’s weight
  • No running or high impact exercise for up to 6 weeks
  • No bathing or swimming for 6 weeks or until the surgery wound is completely healed
  • Only light housework for 6 weeks, no vacuum or heavy lifting of groceries

What should I do if I have pain in my C-section scar?

Scar pain is most common during the first three months after surgery, but sometimes it can last for months. You should contact your doctor if your scar area looks red, swollen or is leaking yellowish fluid. Other symptoms to watch out for include:

  • nausea, 
  • vomiting, 
  • dizziness, 
  • chest pain, 
  • shortness of breath, 
  • heavy vaginal bleeding with clots bigger than a toonie, 
  • pain or swelling and 
  • redness in one or both legs, 
  • headache associated with a change in position.

Generally, the pain is located in the lower half of the abdomen, at the ends of the scar, and along the scar. Pain is usually described as a sharp, throbbing pain, or a sensitivity to clothing. Numbness and tingling are also present. Some people experience itching along the scar.

Can C-section scar pain be treated?

Scar pain and sensitivity can be reduced in several ways. Start by gently stroking the area of pain with a velvet/silk cloth and then gradually move on to rougher materials, such as a cotton cloth, linen, and jeans. Additionally, scar massage using different pressures and applied in various directions helps stimulate nerves, mobilize scar tissue, and decrease nerve sensitivity. With InvigoPhysio, a pelvic floor physiotherapist can support you with C-section scar release therapy as another safe and effective way to treat scar pain. Learn more about cesarean scar release therapy.

Is swelling above the C-section scar normal?

Immediately after a C-section, you are likely to have edema (swelling) above the scar. To promote blood circulation, it’s crucial to start with simple exercises such as walking. A gentle abdominal massage with light pressure on the area about 2-3 inches above the scar also helps in the return of fluids. InvigoPhysio’s C-section scar release therapy also helps reduce swelling above the scar. You can begin the postpartum physiotherapy treatment as early as 4-6 weeks after giving birth.

Mother holding baby - Pelvic floor physiotherapy can support your c-section postpartum care for mothers in Toronto.

Why is there a hard lump under my scar?

Certain areas of your scar might have an overgrowth of scar tissue or an increase in scar adhesion, this results in a hard lump under your scar. This can also cause scar hypersensitivity. Scar mobilization after the incision is fully closed can help increase mobility of the scar. 

Can scar tissue from C-section cause abdominal pain?

Restricted scar mobility and scar pain can contribute to what is called “fascia tension” and interfere with good ab muscle activation. Less core strength and more muscle tension can cause abdominal and hip pain that last for months after delivery. 

That’s why at InvigoPhysio’s Toronto clinic we holistically treat Cesarean scars. During our physiotherapy treatments we support you by: 

  • restoring your scar mobility, 
  • reducing scar pain, 
  • releasing fascial and muscular tension, and 
  • improving your core strength.

I've been feeling pelvic pain during sex after Cesarean delivery, is this normal?

While it is not normal, pain during sex can occur with C-section births because of your weakened abdominals and more tension of your pelvic floor muscles. 

Fortunately, pelvic floor pain can be easily treated by learning how to strengthen your abdominals and relax your pelvic floor.

Mother holding her infant baby- c-section-Toronto mom

When can I start exercising after a Cesarean birth?

It depends! The first two weeks should be devoted to rest and avoiding “overdoing it”. Start with gentle movements such as heel slides and mini bridges, gentle pelvic floor exercises, and short distance walking. Be mindful of your nursing and carrying postures! You don’t want to make your pain even worse.

After two weeks, you can go for longer walks and start doing body weight strengthening exercises like bridges and squats.

At six weeks postpartum, you should see a pelvic physiotherapist to discuss your exercise program and check the status of your diastasis recti (abs separation). If you experience pelvic pain or bladder leaks, you should also talk to your pelvic physiotherapist about it. Here’s 7 things you need to know about diastasis recti (or “mummy tummy”).

When can I return to running after a Cesarean birth?

The general rule is that you can begin running again after 12 weeks if you have been focusing on building your overall muscle strength. It is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you and avoid rushing back too quickly, as this could cause new injuries. 

C-section births have become more common, and while they are often safe, there are also risks involved. If you experience pain or discomfort around your scar, remember that there is treatment available to help you feel better. 

At InvigoPhysio, our extensive experience and knowledge of movement therapy can help you get started safely, whether you are looking for advice on how to return to exercise postpartum or if you are just trying to get stronger. Get back on track faster and learn more about our C-section scar release therapy program.

As always, our Toronto-based InvigoPhysio team is here for you! If you have any questions about C-section healing, please contact us at trang@invigophysio.com.

If you’re ready, we’d love to see you at our Toronto clinic or through a virtual appointment. Book your physiotherapy appointment today!

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