No matter how or why you came to have a c-section delivery, you will be dealing with your new baby, breastfeeding etc while you are in c-section recovery. While the focus is ultimately on baby, cesarean delivery is major surgery and your incision is a wound and you will also be dealing with some degree of pain.
All wounds take time to heal, and care must be taken as they are healing. Like most wounds, there are varying degrees of pain and times it takes to heal for a c-section incision. The degree of pain varies from woman to woman, a lucky few feel little pain and others still feel pain years later. The c-section incision healing time is also personal and we will go into several reasons why.
The pain from c-section delivery is strongest in the days immediately after delivery, after all the incision goes through multiple body layers. In the hospital you will be given systemic pain killers, either administered every few hours, or from an IV that you control yourself. Being systemic and narcotic, they can leave you feeling a bit ‘out of it’, which can hinder connecting with your newborn. These strong painkillers can also lead to you doing more than you should straight after surgery when your wound is the most vulnerable.
One of the best things you can do to help with both pain relief and supporting c-section recovery of your incision is wear a binder. We specifically designed our c-section recovery belt for use immediately after delivery. It is highly adjustable so you can find just the right degree of pressure for you, and for this reason it doesn’t contain elastic so you have complete control.
After the initial pain of the operation lessens and the incisions begins to heal, the pain becomes more like heat and itching. It is really important to not try and relieve this by scratching. Again there is no definitive time that these sensations will last, some women report heat, itching and small electrical like sensations years after their c-section. The electric like sensations are most likely nerves that were cut healing and growing again.
In these first weeks of c-section recovery, it is important to contact your doctor if there is any kind of bleeding or weeping from the incision, or if there is swelling, sudden onset of pain or fever.
Remember that the scar is much bigger than is visible on the surface, so many sensation will be on the inside. As the scar tissue forms inside it can create adhesions. Adhesions can lead to a multitude of post c-section problems , many of which can be avoided with appropriate care of your c-section scar.
A poll we have been running on the blog for some time has revealed that the vast majority of women don’t touch their scar, either because they thought they shouldn’t, it is numb or it hurts to touch, with just 6% saying they massage it to make it softer. In fact self massage of your c-section scar is one of the best things you can do to avoid complications from adhesions and make your scar soft and smooth.
This will be of particular benefit if you have more children. Many women report pain and discomfort in their c-section scar in later pregnancies as the belly grows. This is because untreated scar tissue is not flexible like skin and muscle and can make small tears inside as it is stretched by the growing baby.
Many women report occasional c-section scar pain during periods and usually this is associated with changes in hormonal levels and nothing to worry about
If you do experience c-section scar pain please read the adhesions article linked above to see if this may be the cause, especially if you feel pain with a pull between the scar (inside) and another part of the pelvis or lower back. And remember, it’s never too late to work on an old scar!