C-Section Wound Care: What to Know After Birth

It’s not uncommon to not know how to properly care for your c-section wound after birth. As with any wound, there are essential things to look out for and tend to.

It can be challenging to care for your baby within those first few weeks after having a c-section. On top of that, it is even harder to care for yourself. You are feeling sore, weak, and scared to move.

Most belly birthing people do not even want to look at the incision, much less touch it. However, reconnecting to the area and waking up the tissue are two of the most important things to do following cesarean delivery. 

Keep reading for more tips on caring for your c-section wound.

new mom with baby and c-section wound

Note: These tips for wound care are general guidelines that we have found helpful following cesarean delivery. As a reminder, this is not a medical recommendation, and you should seek medical attention as needed. 

infographic on c-section wound care

At-home care and cleaning for your c-section wound

There are numerous ways to close a cesarian incision, including stitches, dissolving stitches, staples, skin glue, and more. Your c-section wound care will vary based on how your OB-Gyn closed your wound.

Initially, when you get home from the hospital, you will follow standard healing guidelines given by your provider regarding wound cleaning. Your doctor should provide additional care tips to reduce scar tissue and improve healing based on your specific wound.

1. Keep it clean

You may be wondering, “what should I clean my c-section wound with?”

Once a day (when you shower), let soapy water drip down your wound. There’s no need to waterproof it, but you should avoid vigorous scrubbing. Gently pat the area dry with a clean towel when you’re done.

2. Consider ointment

It might be possible to use ointment and cover your scar. Some doctors say it’s okay to apply a topical antibiotic or petroleum jelly and cover the wound lightly with a bandage; others say it’s better to apply nothing and leave the wound uncovered.

Talk to your doctor about which is best for your wound.

3. Air it out

Air promotes healing in skin injuries, so expose your scar to air whenever possible, such as by wearing a loose gown at night to get the air circulating.

new mom removing gauze from c-section wound

Caring for your c-section scar tissue

Scar tissue will develop with any c-section wound to help it heal. It’s essential to encourage this tissue to break down over time to help lessen the chance of painful adhesions, numbness, tingling, and tightness in the abdomen.

1. Gentle massage

Massaging the tissues above and below the scar using two fingers with mild to moderate pressure can help with healing and break down of scar tissue.

I recommend massaging across your abdomen right to left and left to right, making clockwise and counterclockwise circles. Do this massage about an inch above and below the scar as early as three weeks postpartum.

2. Desensitize the scar

Desensitizing can be a helpful way to reintroduce different materials to your skin. Often, women cannot wear tight-fitting clothing or get creeped out wearing jeans because of the sensitivity of the scar.

The process of desensitizing will help tremendously, so you do not have to live in dresses for the following year. Now, how do you do this? It is pretty simple.

You will start with a soft material such as a tissue or Q-tip and slowly progress to a more rough material such as a washcloth. This should be done around six weeks or once cleared by your doctor or pelvic floor physical therapist. 

3. Apply gentle moisturization

Scar healing and moisturization are also crucial in your recovery. We typically recommend using an organic Vitamin E oil around six weeks postpartum or once the incision is completely healed. 

jar of vitamin e oil

4. Try skin rolling

Skin rolling is a great tool to break up the skin and tissue layer from the muscle. You will pinch the skin and fatty layer, lift it, and roll it across your abdomen.

You will do this at and above your incision, right below your belly button. We recommend doing this at six weeks postpartum or once cleared by your doctor or pelvic floor physical therapist. 

5. Introduce cupping

You can use cupping to lift the fascia up and away from the muscle to prevent the shelf-like appearance that commonly occurs after cesarean delivery. This is a skilled technique that someone trained in cupping therapy should do.

Cupping can be done directly on and around the incision once healing occurs.

6. Practice proper engagement

Appropriately engaging transverse abdominis is one of the most essential factors in cesarean recovery.

We recommend feeling the inside of your hip bones. From there, try to perform a pelvic floor contraction or kegel. You should feel a muscle pop up into your fingers.

If you don’t feel the muscle, try this cue:

Imagine buttoning low-rise jeans where you pull in your lower tummy right above your belly button. That is your ab muscle that is responsible for core support, limiting low back pain, decreasing diastasis recti, and allowing full reconnection post-surgery.

We recommend starting this as early as one week following delivery.

woman engaging her core muscles

Signs of issues with your c-section scar:

If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Redness, warmth, or swelling of the incision or skin surrounding it
  • Fever higher than 100.4 Fahrenheit
  • Oozing or drainage from the incision site
  • Foul smell from the area
  • The wound becomes hard or you feel increasing pain around the wound
  • Pain or tenderness in a specific spot of the incision (note that while some pain is normal for the first few weeks, it should be generalized — not pain that you pinpoint to a specific spot)
  • Your incision splits open

How long does it take a c-section scar to heal?

By two weeks, your scar should look and feel much better. That said, it can take anywhere from six weeks to three months before fully healed.

Cesarean delivery can be challenging for your body. I want to remind you that you will begin to feel more and more like yourself every day.

When to seek help after three months postpartum

If you feel like you are still unable to tolerate touch or wear tight-fitting clothing, notice keloiding of your scar, or still cannot engage your low core; I would encourage reaching out to a pelvic floor physical therapist who specializes in postnatal care.

More resources on c-section recovery

Megan Rome

Pelvic Floor and Obstetrics Physical Therapist

As a Pelvic Floor and Obstetrics Physical Therapist in Charleston, South Carolina, I offer both in-person and virtual visits to help your pregnancy and postpartum journey. My classes are designed to take you through preparing your body for birth, training your birth partner to be your constant support and advocate, as well as everything you need to know postpartum from taking your first poop, pain-free sex, and healing your core and pelvic floor. You can also learn all things about bladder leakage and how to make it stop.

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