Is It Normal To Experience Swelling Above The Incisions After Having A C- Section

Childbirth is the most magical and surreal experience that a woman goes through. And although the bundle of joy you finally get after all the mayhem makes it worth every minute of labor, sometimes, the process of giving birth to your precious little baby can be quite challenging and scary. Take C-sections for example, this method of child delivery globally accounts for 1 in 5 childbirths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) (1). But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with its set of complications and health problems that may stay with you well after you’ve delivered your baby. But if you want to know everything that entails getting a C-section and if it’s normal to experience some swelling on your incisions, then this is the article for you. Read on to know more.

What Is A C-Section And Is Swelling Above The Incision Normal?

A C-section procedure involves two incisions- one cut in the abdomen and another one on the uterus. The abdominal incision is usually a vertical cut between your navel all the way down to your public hair or in some cases, it could be a horizontal cut on your lower belly, normally known as the bikini cut. And according to Monte Swarup, MD, FACOG, board-certified OB-GYN and founder of HPD Rx, “Mild swelling above the incision is entirely normal for several weeks following a C-section. Directly above the incision is where a lot of the dissection occurs surgically which leads to swelling there” (2). The problem arises however, when occasionally, the swelling above the incision is caused as a result of surgical site infections (3). This is an infection that occurs within 30 days after having undergone a surgical procedure. But this can sometimes be mistaken for the widespread swelling that women experience after childbirth. This happens due to the fact that your body almost doubles its blood volume in order to support the pregnancy and that’s not something that goes away in one day (4). Here’s what to look for to determine if your C-section swelling is normal or could be related to an infection.

What Does Normal C-Section Swelling Look Like?

Often in the postpartum period, many women report experiencing some general swelling due to the c-section, especially on the legs. This is mostly around the feet and ankles. This is due to the fluid accumulation from pregnancy and the IV fluids administered during the surgical procedure. This swelling usually goes down in time and your body will return to normal as it gradually releases the excess fluids. However, if you notice a lot of swelling only on one leg then it’s best to seek medical attention immediately in order to rule out other causes like potential blood clots. Experts also recommend seeing your doctor for swelling on the hands, face, and eyes after a C-section, as they may be symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia, that is, high blood pressure that occurs soon after pregnancy (5).

What To Know About C-Section Swelling At The Incision

C-Section Swelling At The Incision

Image: IStock

Surgical site infections often look like hematoma and seroma, which occur in an estimated 2% to 5% of women after a C-section, which can cause swelling above the incisions (6). Hematoma refers to the collection of blood, whereas seroma is the collection of fluid that builds up under the surface of your skin around the site of the incision. If either of these occur there is a partial risk of the stitches of the c-section opening up prematurely, making it easy for bacteria to gain access to the flesh and cause harmful infections. Some signs of having an infection in your incisions are:

  • Experiencing localized pain or tenderness
  • Localized swelling in the spot right above the incision site
  • Heat, your skin is unnaturally hot to the touch
  • Redness around the incision site

Here Are Some Risk Factors That Can Lead To A Surgical Site Infection

  • Emergency delivery
  • Previous C-section
  • Increased blood loss during delivery
  • Duration of labor longer than 12 hours or extended surgery time, that is, longer than 38 minutes
  • Incision length greater than 16.6 cm
  • Health conditions such as pregestational/gestational diabetes and hypertension
  • Lack of prenatal care
  • Lack of preoperative antibiotics which are antibiotics administered before surgery to prevent infections

Having a baby might be incredible but the journey may also be filled with setbacks and complications that you didn’t see coming. And although we all hope that our birth plan plays out to the T, sometimes an emergency C-section can’t be avoided. This is why it’s important to rest well and give your body time to heal after delivery. Even if you do have a surgical site infection, follow doctor’s orders and take it easy. You and your baby will be back in good form in no time at all!

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