In modern western medicine, having a cesarean delivery (or a C-section) is a common part of the birthing experience. Whether planned or due to complications during labor, the CDC states nearly one-third of births are by C-section, However common the surgery, C-section recovery requires more education and different care than a vaginal birth. Following proper guidance, and with patience, you can relieve the common discomforts and physical signs associated with having undergone a C-section, like a C-section shelf.
What Causes a C-Section Shelf
The Mayo Clinic describes a cesarean delivery as “a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus.” The scar adhesion is the area around the C-section incision site where one layer of tissue is healing stuck / sealed to another layer when it should glide freely. If it’s on the surface layer (skin over the muscle), it visually creates the puckering that is commonly referred to as a “C-section shelf.” You can also see this on the surface where skin texture is different and there is a “puff”, which is why it’s commonly called a “c-section pooch”.
The way these C-section shelves appear can vary from body to body—some women present with more raised, puffy scar tissue, while others might see a low hanging belly or loose pooch. But these scar adhesions that cause the C-section shelf are not merely cosmetic. They can lead to feelings of discomfort, including numbness, pain, tingling, and itchiness. When they occur in the deeper tissue layers, affecting the muscles and organs, abdominal adhesions can cause functional problems including:
How can I get rid of my C-section shelf?
The good news is that you can prevent and relieve new and even decades-old adhesions causing your C-section shelf with scar tissue massage and other interventions.
C-section shelves can appear more exaggerated when suffering from diastasis recti. Over 60% of childbearing women experience some degree of abdominal separation postpartum, which can contribute to a host of symptoms, including back pain, incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, and a persistent pooch that doesn’t respond to diet or exercise. This is why it’s important to *self-check after delivery and during your C-section recovery.
*Some OB/GYNs will sew together the lower abs when they finish a C-section, impacting your ability to get an accurate read on your abdominal separation. Ask to see the surgical report following delivery or ask the doctor what she/he did. (You can also ask them to sew each layer individually before a planned surgery.)
If you do find you suffer from diastasis recti following your C-section, we suggest following a postpartum workout plan such as EMbody Reclaim to resolve diastasis recti and restore core strength and function. That therapeutic exercise program paired with scar tissue massage should help to reduce the appearance of C-section shelves caused by scar tissue adhesions.
Whether your C-section was planned or decided during labor, you don’t need to live with the common side effects or discomforts that can come with scar tissue adhesions, loose skin after pregnancy or the C-section shelf. Through therapeutic exercise and scar tissue massage--and a bit of patience and persistence--you’ll find these non-invasive, non-surgical answers to be the long-term remedies for c-section recovery so many women are seeking.
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