How can you have the best recovery from a C-section?
Caesarean births are so common the world over but I would argue it is the one and only major surgery that has little to no advice or follow up given afterwards. Break your leg or your wrist and it is likely you will be offered follow up doctor and physio appointments. Have a baby however and most women say they are told nothing about how to care for their wound let alone what to do if their scar is permanently painful and numb after a couple of months.
So how can you have the best recovery from a C-section birth and what should you do about things like numbness, pain and restriction? Or that ‘overhang’ or pouchy tummy that won’t seem to shift?
I am passionate about making C-section recovery better for all women and I’m a huge advocate of scar massage and movement being the missing link in the healing process.
What happens in our body after a C-section?
When we experience trauma to the body, it’s natural defence and healing mechanism is to lay down a strong, sticky, thick tissue called scar tissue. Scar tissue is like the body’s cement so it’s aim is basically to stick you back together and protect you. It wants to make sure that your wound is as strong as it can be so it doesn’t open back up and make you vulnerable to infection. This is great for healing your wound but it is sticky and it spreads.
Now if you also visualise that your scar isn’t just what you see on the surface of your tummy. That scar and scar tissue runs all the way down to your uterus creating something called adhesions. Adhesions are basically scar tissue that forms on the inside of our bodies. Adhesions can build up in the body and also spread and stick to other tissues, muscles and organs.
This is the most common cause of pain, discomfort, pulling, numbness etc you are feeling around your C-section scar. The sticky tissue prevents our bodies and other tissues from moving as easily as normal.
Why do I have an ‘Overhang’ above my scar?
The area above your scar can often be a tricky area to deal with and is often referred to as an ‘overhang’. There is a misconception that it is fat or you need to lose weight but often scar tissue has a bigger role to play than anything else. Let’s think about what’s going on in this area…
✔️ There has been lots of trauma to the tissues in that area (think about how the layers of tissue had to be opened and pulled up towards your chest in order to get the baby out)
✔️ Numbness in the area
✔️ Lack of connection (either physically finding it hard to get your brain to connect with that area or emotionally not wanting to think about it/touch it)
✔️ Scar tissue (remember it goes beyond the line of your scar)
✔️ Change in core strength and how your lower abdominals are working.
So what can we do?
- Eat well. Make sure you are eating protein with every meal and snack. Protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks for tissue repair and regeneration so don’t skip it!
- Breathe. Place your hand on your scar or just above and practice breathing deeply into your tummy. Visualise sending your breath as far down to your scar as you can. Focus on the feel of your hand rising and falling with your tummy, this is great for starting to reconnect with your tummy. A massive part of C-section recovery is building connection back with your tummy and scar.
- Massage. Using a small amount of coconut oil massage your whole abdomen in a clockwise direction (avoiding your scar until it is fully healed). Re-establishing connection with your core is so important after birth. If you don’t like the idea of touching your tummy directly, try some circular massage through your clothes or through a sheet to start with.
- Scar massage. As soon as your scar is fully healed and completely dry you can start to massage your scar (always check with your GP if you’re not sure). Scar massage is great for preventing the build up of scar tissue but also for helping with pain, numbness and feelings of restriction. Start slowly and gently, it may feel tender but it shouldn’t be painful. If it is stop. Try placing your fingers above your scar, push down gently and then move your fingers up and down and side to side. If you are happy to and your scar is healed you can do this directly on your scar too.
- Move your body. Gentle walking is fab for supporting C-section recovery. Also remembering to gently stretch – opening up your shoulders and torso- as we can be so hunched in the post-natal period from feeding and looking after toddlers. Inner core and pelvic floor exercises are so important for strengthening and supporting your healing body. They will help draw everything in from the inside, really supporting your scar and the tissues around it.