10 FAQs About C-Section Scars

Healing Stages, Complications, and More

Giving birth is an amazing feat, and a C-section scar can be a beautiful reminder of what you went through to bring a child into the world. That being said, it's also completely fine to do what you can to minimize your scar's appearance.

Scars are an unavoidable part of giving birth by C-section. During your surgery, your doctor will make an incision in your abdomen before removing the baby. Afterwards, the incision will be sewn up and it will need to heal.

Read on to find out more about what to expect from a healing c-section incision, how to care for your incision to reduce the risks of complications, and what your c-section scar might look and feel like.

What Type of Abdominal Incision Will Be Used?

Cesarean scar with staples and baby

Westend61/Getty Images

The type of abdominal incision used will determine the type of scar you'll have. The horizontal or bikini incision (Pfannenstiel incision) is the most common. It is made at the top of the pubic hair or just over the hairline. This incision provides a much more cosmetically appealing scar once it is healed. It also results in less bleeding and a lower risk of the scar splitting if you have a vaginal birth (VBAC) in a subsequent pregnancy.

Vertical incisions are very rare, but they were the original type of incision used and are thus sometimes called classical incisions. Medically, this type of incision is known as the vertical midline. It is only used in extreme circumstances.

What Type of Uterine Incision Will Be Used?

Inside, the scar on your uterus may look similar to the scar on your abdomen. It will go up and down (classical) or horizontal (bikini). It will also determine if you are a good candidate for vaginal birth in subsequent births.

The most common uterine incision is a horizontal incision on the lower segment of the uterus (low flap transverse incision). Having a preterm baby, a baby in an odd ​position or a medical emergency may necessitate a different type of incision.

What Materials Will Be Used to Close My Incision?

The materials used to close your incision may depend on several factors, including your body type and your doctor's preference. Your doctor may use:

  • Staples
  • Sutures (stitches)
  • Steri-strips (specialized tape)
  • Glue
  • A combination of these

Some closure materials, like staples, are used temporarily and will be removed after a certain period of time. This depends on the preference of your practitioner and how you are healing.

What Do I Do If I Have Pain in My Incision?

Pain is common in the early days after your surgery. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication when appropriate. There are some warning signs that indicate that you are having complications with your incision.

Warning Signs to Watch For

  • Redness or swelling around the incision
  • Extreme or worsening pain
  • Oozing from the incision
  • Fever

If you have any redness, swelling, extreme pain, or worsening pain, contact your doctor. You should also call right away if you have anything oozing out of the incision or if you have a fever. These can be signs of infection, which needs prompt care. Call your practitioner, no matter what the time of day.

Is It Normal for My C-Section Scar to Itch?

It is normal to experience itching during the healing process. Be careful about scratching because you want to avoid infection. If you have both itching and numbness, it is possible to hurt yourself from scratching. Some people find that holding something tightly over their scar (like a pillow) can help reduce the itching sensation. You can also use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to apply gentle pressure and relieve itching.

The itching can also be caused by the pubic hair growing back if it was shaved just before the surgery. If you still have itching after your pubic hair grows back, it may simply be from healing.

What Do I Do If My Incision Is Irritated?

Be sure to keep your C-section incision site clean and dry. If you are having trouble keeping the area dry due to the shelf of skin that can sometimes hang over the incision, ask your doctor about using something like cornstarch once the site is completely healed. You can also use gauze or cotton. Be sure to thoroughly dry the skin after bathing.

For a few months, try to avoid clothing that sits directly over your C-section scar. As the tissue heals, you can try wearing your old wardrobe and you may not have a problem with it.

How Long Does It Take for an Incision to Heal?

You will notice that the area of the C-section incision slowly changes, so slowly that you may not notice the difference on a daily basis. You can take pictures to see how the healing process looks through time. In the beginning, the healing process is fairly rapid, but after that, you may not find the subtle changes as noticeable.

The time it takes for a C-section incision to heal varies. Sometimes there are considerations that slow or impede your healing, like poor nutrition or infection. Staying healthy and eating well will help your body do its job.

Is It Normal to Have a Numb C-Section Scar?

Numbness around the incision is normal and not a complication, but it can be worrisome. Some people report that they feel nothing around or just on top of their C-section scar. For some it is a temporary lack of sensation; for others it is permanent. Mention this to your doctor if you have questions about it or if it concerns you.

What Will My C-Section Scar Look Like?

Once healed, a C-section scar is 4 to 6 inches long, though this length can vary due to the placement of the incision and the space required to birth your baby. Any redness will diminish over time.

Depending on how your body heals, your scar may be flat or raised. If your body kicks into overdrive during the healing process, you may have a thicker scar, known as a hypertrophic scar. This type of scar stays in the exact spot your surgeon originally cut, unlike a keloid scar, which can be thicker and extend beyond the original incision.

Are There Cosmetic Fixes Available for C-Section Scars?

Everyone who has an incision will have some sort of scar. How it looks after the surgery will depend on many factors, including:

  • How long ago you had your C-section
  • The type of incision made
  • How many incisions have been made in the same space
  • The type of repair your surgeon did
  • The materials used (steri-strips, sutures, glue, or staples)
  • How your body healed
  • Your skin integrity
  • Your body's tendency to scar

You can try to minimize the prominence of the scar by using over-the-counter products, like silicone strips, as long as they are recommended by your practitioner. Avoid sun exposure for at least a year to minimize damage to the scar tissue. Some practitioners also recommend massages by specially trained massage therapists.

Steroid injections around the scar can be started soon after the surgery to help prevent hypertrophic or keloid scarring. It may be covered by insurance, but that will depend on your coverage. The injections may need to be given monthly for up to six months, depending on your scar.

Long-Term Cosmetic Repairs

Once your scar has healed (and usually, once you are done adding to your family), you can look at cosmetic solutions. This might require consulting a plastic surgeon or dermatologist for prescription or medical options, such as steroid injections. In severe cases, you can have a revision to try to remove excess scar tissue, though this is not common. 

A scar revision is usually done at least a few months after your initial surgery. It is a surgical procedure that may or may not be covered by insurance. It involves cutting the scar tissue away and creating a new scar that is more aesthetically pleasing.

Laser therapy is another option, but it does not completely remove the scar. This takes multiple sessions and results in a scar that is less rigid and has less coloring. This treatment can be started shortly after the initial healing. It is not typically covered by insurance.

The most intense option would be an abdominal repair, often known as a tummy tuck. This cuts away the C-section scar, but also additional skin and fat in the area. The resulting scar from a tummy tuck can be larger, so be sure that you are well informed prior to choosing this procedure.

A Word From Verywell

If you are concerned or have questions about your c-section scar, bring them to your doctor. Call your doctor immediately if your scar is red, swollen, painful, or has discharge, or if you are running a fever. Work together with your doctor to get the healing results you want.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.