I’ve recently had a number of new mamas who have had cesarean births, and none of them received any information on caring for the scar after it’s healed. First things first, you had a birth, not a section. A c-section is a surgical procedure done by doctors. A cesarean birth is how your little one was brought out into the world. That is your birth story. Honor it.
Many of the women who come to me several months after their cesarean births tell me about loss of sensation, pain or a “pulling” sensation around the area, low back or pelvic pain, or even dissociation with the entire area. This is a result of two main physical factors: scar tissue and adhesions. Scar tissue is fibrous tissue that replaces normal tissue after an injury. In this case, the incision is the injury. During this process, the healing begins a chain of events that can create adhesions, resulting in tissues becoming stuck to anything that is near. It may adhere to tissues you don’t want it to, like the fascia and organs.
There are two main recovery practices I recommend women perform regularly after the scar has healed: abdominal massage and castor oil packs.
Once you have the clearance from your doctor that your scar has healed, you can begin to massage it. Massaging the scar is very important to gain back that mobility for your core and pelvis to function properly, by reducing tightness and breaking up adhesions. Here’s a great video that shows you step-by-step how to massage your scar at each layer.
Another simple and highly effective at home treatment for scars is castor oil packs. Castor oil is derived from the castor seed and has been used as a healing remedy for centuries. Castor oil helps to decrease inflammation, pull out toxins in tissues and dissolve scar tissue. (By the way, you can use these treatments for any type of surgery or scar tissue in the body).
Here’s how to do it:
Adapted from Banyan Botanicals and the Artemis School.
High quality organic castor oil (generally available at local stores like The Scarlet Sage or Rainbow Grocery, or online).
Organic cotton flannel (usually sold right next to castor oil).
A hot water bottle or a heating pad.
Layer of plastic (saran wrap or cut up a plastic bag or trash bag).
Cut two layers of flannel to cover your scar and the surrounding areas, no more than the size of your heating pad or hot water bottle.
Cut a piece of plastic that is a little larger than your flannel pieces.
Stack the flannel one on top of the other. Place enough castor oil on the top piece of flannel only to almost saturate but not soak the material. Usually a couple of tablespoons. The second piece of flannel is just there to absorb any extra castor oil.
Castor oil stains. You may want to place a towel underneath you in the event that the castor oil drips (although it shouldn’t be this soaked). When I use a hot water bottle I also put a towel or blanket on top to keep the heat in.
***Note: Like anything, there is a small chance that you could be allergic to castor oil. Place a small amount on your skin to test before doing a full treatment.
Place the castor oil side of the flannel layers over your scar.
Place the piece of plastic over the flannel (this is to protect your heat source).
Place your hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the plastic.
Relax and enjoy this treatment for 20-30 minutes. Use it as a time to meditate on nice, deep belly breaths.
Afterward you can spend a little time gently massaging the area.
Wash the castor oil off with soap and water.
What to Expect
1. Your belly will be really soft after. Some women who are wanting to strengthen their abs postpartum don’t like this softening. It’s a temporary result of the treatment and will go back to normal within a couple of hours. Softening is a good sign, because that is what you want to happen with the underlying scar tissue. Also, remember that our bellies are supposed to be somewhat soft; they’re holding all of our squishy internal organs.
2. Intestinal bloating or discomfort. This can be a sign that you have an imbalance in your gut flora. The castor oil treatment will help this. Castor oil treatments can also induce bowel movements. Back off the treatments a bit if the intestinal side effects are bothersome.
3. Following a castor oil treatment your scar may be red or a little weepy—meaning it might be releasing a little fluid. This is normal and a good sign that things are changing.
If these home care practices don’t work, we recommend seeing a qualified Mayan Abdominal Massage Therapist or PT specializing in postpartum work.