C-Section Scar Care
Caring for our section scars must go beyond the basics of avoiding soaking the incision and keeping it clean and dry.
There's so much that gets cut below the surface and scar tissue to be tended to in order to really heal, inside and out.
I talk more about the specifics of this in my recent blogs here and here, but now I want to go into how to care for our bodies after this major surgery.
This is in no way and exhaustive list, but it's a list of some of the things I've tried that I actually found very helpful in my own healing after Cesarean.
The first two weeks:
Support Clothing and Compression
So you had a C-Section. First things first, time to get a belly binder or other supportive clothing. Sometimes the hospitals give these out, but sometimes new mama you will be responsible for this part.
When looking for support clothing though, aim for binders that aren't too tight and offer bottom to top support - avoid a binder that squeezes your ribs and diaphragm making it hard to take a deep breath.
Bottom to top support means the binder hits low and doesn't restrict normal physiological function of the diaphragm - it just gives you enough hug to fix that "my organs are falling out" feeling.
Keep that belly binder on for car rides and when moving about, otherwise, just some light supportive clothing should be enough.
You can find some good basic velcro binders that allow you to adjust the tightness on Amazon, but I love the Bao Bei Body brand belly binder and their postpartum bloomers!
I personally didn't love the feeling of tights until around week 4, so the bloomers were my go to, and I used the belly band for an extra layer when needed.
Another thing you'll want to start practicing and focusing on right away is diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is calming, regulating, and decreases stress in the body. It also aids in proper blood flow, and you'll want all of this after surgery.
When the lower abdomen is cut open, moving around and even just sitting can be quite painful. The instinct can sometimes be to stiffen up or tighten the area that is affected. This isn't ideal for recovery, and can actually make the pain worse.
Instead try breathing deeply and slowly to promote rest and recovery.
Exhale with Exertion
When you do need to move, the best rule to follow is blow before you and exhale with exertion.
Again, when we are in pain, we can have the tendency to hold our breath in an effort to brace. This won't feel good, trust me.
Instead, inhale deeply, then begin exhale just prior to movement and continue that exhale.
Pairing our breath with movement can take a little practice. The good news is you won't be hoping up out of bed quickly so you'll have plenty of time to master that exhale!
So by this point, you've like had your first bath and should be feeling less sore.
If you incision site is healing nicely (not open, oozing, red, etc.), you can begin desensitization and massage of the areas surrounding the scar.
Scar massage has been shown to aid in healing, break down scar tissue and fascial adhesions (check out my latest blog post for more), and decrease pain from your scar. The earlier you do this the better, but not harm in holding off.
Personally, I had a lot of scar aversion until around 5 months postpartum. So I didn't do anything with my scar - touching/massaging - until I felt comfortable.
The cutaneous nerve endings will be all fired up after being cut. Start with light touch around your scar (above and below) at around 2 weeks postpartum. Use light pressure and items like q-tips, washcloths, and makeup brushes to get use to touch and calm down your nerves. After the scar is totally healed you can use the same light pressure and tools to trace over the scar (10-12 weeks postpartum).
After you are comfortable with the light pressure of different textures on your scar, you can begin mobilizing the tissue by massaging the area above, below, and around the scar (about 4-6 weeks postpartum). Press in, pull away, side to side, and circles in the tissue. Work gently and firm, but without causing pain. Once the scar is totally healed (around 10-12 weeks postpartum), you can massage over the scar. Physically lift the scar, roll it between fingers, move the tissue diagonally, bending, and holding/stretching in areas that feel more restricted.
Perform regular desensitization and massage for about 3-5 minutes each day for 3-6 months. Then you can phase out, checking in with your tissue as needed.
Always use clean hands/tools, allow scar to fully heal before attempting any pressure or touch over the scar, and do not cause yourself pain - be gentle with yourself.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
I also always recommend reaching out to a pelvic floor therapist for some hands on assessment of your scar, pelvic floor, breathing and core after baby.
Find a pelvic floor PT near you!
Once you are officially cleared to return to and your scar has healed, it's time to start implementing some gentle movement and fascial stretching to further break down scar tissue, improve your posture, and promote healing.
It's so important to ease back into movement after birth, and especially after Cesarean.
Focus your efforts on movements like walking, deep breathing, gentle core training, and myofasical stretching.
Shameless plug - email or message me for a personalized program!
I'll toss in two more modalities of care that I personally do, but consider these your bonus items!
Rest, deep breathing, a good diet, and eventual massage is much more powerful and typically more attainable when juggling motherhood and healing.