C-Section Scars 101

What women want and need to know about the most common scar in America

There's no avoiding it. Pregnancy permanently changes you. Some women come through pregnancy with smooth bellies and unmarked skin but most of us have a few souvenirs like stretch marks, saggy skin, poochy tummies and surgical scars. Now that more than a third of all babies are delivered by c-section a third of all Moms have c-section scars. Here are a few FAQs about the most common surgical scar around.

How big is a c-section scar? Surprisingly small. Most baby-heads fit through a four to six-inch skin incision made horizontally just below the pubic hairline. The abdominal muscles are moved aside (not cut through) and a horizontal incision is made in the uterus. In rare cases, doctors make a vertical incision from below Mom's belly button to the pubic bone. That's pretty unusual in the US and most developed countries and only used in extreme emergencies when they don't have time to do the more intricate and less visible "bikini" incision. If they do a vertical skin incision, they're likely to do a vertical uterine incision too.

What do c-section scars look like after they heal? Since they're usually made below the pubic hairline, you might not see your scar at all. It'll look red or pink for several months but eventually it fades to a pale, flat, thin line. Some women create bigger, thicker or raised scars than others but they are rarely very obvious. As a matter of fact, many of the bikini-clad women you see at the beach or pool have c-section scars and you never notice them.

Can you do anything to encourage your scar to heal well? Eat well so your body has the right nutrients for healing and creating healthy tissues. Keep it clean during the initial healing period to prevent infection. Avoid heavy lifting, housework or any big movements that might stretch or irritate the scar for the first six weeks. You can try topical creams and ointments that have varying success rates for promoting healing.

Why does a c-section scar prevent you from having a vaginal birth with your next birth?

But if uterine rupture is so rare, why won't many doctors and hospitals do vaginal births after cesarean (VBAC)?

What are other complications with c-section scars?

Will my doctor use the same scar for my next c-section?