A c-section scar is a monument to the incredible feat that has taken place in your body. 🏆
It’s also yet another aspect of motherhood that we don’t talk about nearly enough.
Some mamas opt for a cesarean birth for a variety of reasons, from reducing problems later on to having more control over where and when baby makes their debut.
And sometimes, it’s simply not a choice.
An emergency, such as a breech birth, may mean that a c-section incision is the safest way to go to ensure the health of both mama and baby.
Either way, a c-section is surgery—and surgery can be traumatic.
Couple that with all the feels that come along with childbirth anyway, and you have a perfect storm of big emotions. 🌪
As a result, you may feel a c-section scar on the inside even more than you see it on the outside.
It’s a lot to deal with.
So how about we normalize conversations about the c-section incision and the cesarean scar that comes with it? Deal?
In this article: 📝
- What actually happens with a c-section?
- What does a c-section scar look like?
- How long does it take for a C-section scar to fully close?
- What are the signs and types of c-section infection?
- Tips for c-section scar healing
- Do c-section scars go away?
- What are the complications of C-section scars?
What actually happens with a c-section?
The aim of a cesarean is to get your baby into the big wide world.
The exit route? Your abdomen.
The operation is performed by making two incisions, one through your lower abdomen and the other through your uterus.
Your doc will then close up each c-section incision with a choice of medical adhesives: sutures, staples, medical tape, medical glue, or a combo of these.
Types of c-section incision
So, we know that a cesarean involves two incisions, but no two incisions are the same.
The types of c-section incisions you can expect depend on a number of factors:
- Whether it’s your abdomen or uterus
- Whether your cesarean is planned or an emergency
- The position and size of your baby
- Where the placenta is located
The look of your c-section scar all comes down to the type of c-section incision you receive.
So, let’s take a look at the three types of incisions and the ‘whys’ of each one:
1. Low transverse incision,
Also known as the “bikini cut” because it sorta-kinda follows the horizontal line of a low-cut bikini bottom. 👙
The low transverse incision is the most common type of cesarean incision and is performed across the lowest part of the abdomen (hence its on-the-nose name).
The bikini cut tends to be the least painful abdominal incision with the least visible scar—all while giving your healthcare provider the best view of your lower uterus.
This is also the most common type of uterine incision.
2. Classic abdominal incision
This is a type of vertical incision made down the middle of your abdomen, from below the navel to just above the pubic bone.
The classic cesarean section is often the incision of choice for an emergency c-section because it allows faster access to your baby.
It’s especially important if your baby is positioned feet or bottom first or sideways.
The downside? The classic cut tends to be more painful with a more prominent scar.
3. High vertical incision
Last on our list—and on the roster of common c-section incisions—the high vertical is only used in cases of early preterm deliveries (think micro preemies).
Similar to the classic incision, the high vertical is made higher on your abdomen (across your tummy).
What does a c-section scar look like?
As invasive as they sound, most c-section scars are smaller than you might think.
Really, the fact that a whole baby exited through the area is remarkable. 🤯
As we mentioned above, how your c-section scar looks will depend on the type of c-section you have: horizontal or vertical.
Horizontal c-section scar
The transverse cesarean scar is usually the less obvious kind and can be concealed easily if you’re not in the mood to show it off.
Many mamas prefer this incision type, as it can result in less bleeding.
Also, if you’re looking to have a vaginal birth sometime in the future—what would then be called a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean or VBAC—a horizontal c-section incision decreases the chance of the scar splitting open during labor.
Here’s an idea of what a horizontal c-section scar can look like on different body types and skin tones:
Vertical c-section scar
Rather than go across your belly, this type of c-section scar travels along the line of longitude.
While there are some variations to this norm, a vertical c-section incision will start below your belly button and end above your panty line.
Although this used to be the standard method, the classic cut is usually kept for specific circumstances.
Most often, this c-section incision type occurs when your doc needs to get to your baby fast or when your baby is in a position that requires the kind of exit route that the horizontal incision just can’t provide.
A vertical incision can be more painful and take longer to heal, so exercise patience with your body—it’s done one heck of a job.
Here’s an idea of what a vertical c-section scar can look like on different skin tones:
How long does it take for a C-section scar to fully close?
Okay, here’s the lowdown: a c-section is a big operation.
You’ve birthed a baby from your womb. You’re going to need some recovery time.
In most cases, you’ll need to stay in the hospital for about three days after you’ve had a c-section and longer if they need to monitor you for any reason.
You’ll then need another six weeks or so to heal completely.
Now, this can be really tough—because the thing that’s so often left out in this discussion is that you also have a newborn on your hands.
Be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Don’t try to do too much too soon.
You’ve already performed a miracle.
Let’s keep that new mom to-do list for the month light. 🪶
Why does my c-section scar itch?
This is an interesting one—in many cases, it itches because it’s healing.
When surgery takes place, nerve endings around the site can get damaged.
If you’ve been wondering why it all wasn’t more painful at the time, this could be the reason.
However, those nerve endings, like you, are resilient, and they’re bound to make their comeback. 💪
As a result, your c-section scar can start itching not at the time of your surgery but a little while after.
So, although a little irritating, itching is usually a good sign that all is happening as it should.
Why does my c-section scar hurt?
While rare, there are some concerning reasons why your c-section scar may be hurting.
In what is known as incisional endometriosis, endometrial tissue (the tissue that gets the lining of your uterus ready for an embryo to implant) can spring up around the c-section incision.
This causes endometriosis—and if you’ve had any experience with this in the past, you know that it can be a source of a lot of pain.
Give your doc a call if you’re at all worried about the pain you’re experiencing.
What are the signs and types of c-section infection?
If there’s one major complication associated with the c-section, it’s the risk of a c-section incision infection.
A cesarean scar infection can develop in up to 15% of women, usually developing due to bacterial infections within the surgical incision. 😬
Common signs of c-section infection include:
- Wound tenderness
A study in 2012 also showed that women who receive nylon sutures are more likely to develop a post-cesarean infection.
As for the types of infections, these include:
- Cellulitis: When the tissue becomes infected with either staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria.
- Abscess: This is usually caused by the same bacteria as cellulitis except if often localizes to the site of the incision and collects pus.
- Thrush: Usually caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida and often doesn’t require medication.
- Urinary or bladder infections: These are often due to the bacteria E.coli and is usually associated with catheter use.
Mind drifting to prevention? We’ve got you covered just below. 👇
Tips for c-section scar healing
How long does it take for a cesarean to heal internally is largely out of your hands, but there are steps you can take to help it along:
- Keep the incision clean: You’ll feel tender for a little while but make time daily to keep the area clean. Avoid scrubbing and stick with letting warm soapy water run down your incision as you shower. 🚿
- Keep clothes loose: It’s all about loose-fitting, baggy clothes as you recover, mama. So, hold off on those skinny, high-rise jeans for a while longer. Any excuse for wearing a dressing gown all day.
- Keep exercise at bay: You may be itching to get started on postpartum exercise—especially if you’re an energetic soul—but now is the time for rest and recovery. That means no twists, bends, or snaps. And definitely no sudden movements. Think of that dressing gown. 🧘♀️
- Keep pain managed: C-sections can be painful—even in recovery. If you are breastfeeding, most over-the-counter pain medications are OK. To be safe, stick with pain relievers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol.
- Keep to your doctor’s appointments: Usually, you’ll have a postnatal check-up around six to eight weeks after you’ve given birth. But this could be earlier after a c-section—especially if you have stitches to be removed. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is now recommending that doctors hold check-ins as soon as three weeks postpartum. Postpartum complications are very real, so if you need extra care, don’t hesitate to ask. 👩⚕️
Do c-section scars go away?
Our bodies are pretty impressive healing machines. 🦸♀️
After about two weeks, your scar should be well-healed and will get fainter over time.
While you may always have a light line where the c-section incision took place, it should be hardly noticeable.
There are also c-section scar tissue removal procedures that you can have done a few months after your baby has been born—like cesarean scar revision—but these are not that common and can be expensive.
What should a C-section scar look like?
Honestly, there’s no real standard answer to this question.
A look through the Peanut community, and you’ll see no c-section scar looks the same—and there’s beauty in that.
At best, we can say that a typical c-section scar sits small at a cute four to six inches and can go from faded pink to barely there.
That being said, scars do heal differently, and some women may develop what’s called a keloid scar.
This is basically when the scar tissue forms beyond the original incision or wound and can look like a lump above your c-section scar.
Other times, your c-section scar may appear raised (a hypertrophic scar).
As jarring as it may feel in the mirror, keloid and hypertrophic scars are essentially your body
But if you are struggling to embrace them, you can always talk to your doctor about treatments for c-section scar removal.
They can guide you through a number of options, including silicone gels, creams, or sheeting, or non-surgical options like laser therapy.
Can a c-section scar reopen after years?
The short answer is: yes. A cesarean scar can reopen years after the operation (dehiscence in med-speak.)
This is, however, highly unlikely.
It can happen for a range of reasons, stemming from having to undergo other surgery, giving birth vaginally, or simply experiencing stress and strain.
If you suspect that this is happening, it’s important that you talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to avoid any further complications.
And speaking of.
What are the complications of C-section scars?
C-section scar complications are rare, but they can happen.
The most common ones being cesarean scar pregnancy (CSP) and cesarean scar dehiscence (CSD).
We’ve mentioned CSD above—that’s the reopening of a c-section scar years after the operation—but what about CSP?
And if left untreated, it carries a high risk of pregnancy complications, including hemorrhage, preterm delivery, or potential fertility loss.
Now, when we say rare, we mean it happens in about 0.15% of pregnancies (with a previous c-section), but the sooner it’s spotted, the better.
This can mean having your uterine incision evaluated early in your pregnancy.
Another rare complication is an isthmocele (cesarean scar defect)—where a fluid pouch forms in the lining of your uterus after a c-section.
This is down to a c-section incision not healing completely, which can lead to future pregnancy complications or even infertility.
Symptoms include pelvic pain, painful periods, abnormal menstruation, and vaginal bleeding between periods.
Postpartum recovery is a highly vulnerable time for women, so if you have any suspicions or concerns about what you’re physically feeling (emotionally, too), jump on that appointment.
You need extra care, mama. 🫂
You’re not alone. ❤️