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August 4, 2020

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A study has shown that mums often have no idea what to expect as part of the recovery after child birth. We look at ways women can be more empowered with their options.

New market research* released from Ethicon Australia reveals that women are often feeling left in the dark when it comes to the way they might recover and heal following a caesarean section during child birth. The results of this can range from unexpected pain and complications, to scarring and embarrassment and general dissatisfaction with the birthing experience.

Talk To Your Healthcare Professional

Healthcare professionals have responded to the findings, emphasising the importance of opening the conversation with mothers-to-be, helping them understand the risks and benefits of different wound closure options and how the best choice can be made for them as an individual.

Findings showed that 69% of all women surveyed said they weren’t consulted by their doctor on their incision closure options, and over half of these women (54%) said that they would have preferred to be part of the decision-making process.

Not Happy With Not Having A Choice

Among those surveyed, over two thirds (68%) said their caesarean section were closed using stitches, followed by staples at 16%. A third of all women (33%) felt that these closure options negatively impacted their recovery, with 57% experiencing pain and discomfort, and 38% suffering from an infection.

Alternatives Available

Dr Kate Kerridge, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at ‘For Women’ Brisbane, says, “Pregnant women should feel empowered to talk to their healthcare professionals about the options available to them throughout their birthing journey, including issues pertaining to caesarean section closure and scarring. While most practitioners offer conventional stitches and staples, there are also newer wearable glue dressings available. These have been shown to help seal the wound against bacteria and allow a new mum to effortlessly care for her wound at home. Some women may never have heard of these products, or even be aware it is something they should discuss. This is why we need to begin to open up the conversation with mums, exploring their wound closure options and how we can make the best choices for them as an individual.”

Scarred By The Scar

The research also showed that mums faced challenges with their scar and body post- child birth. Only 1 in 3 women (39%) reported that they liked their scar, more than half said that they felt their scar doesn’t look good (53%) and a quarter (25%) believe that it took too long to heal.

In addition, over a quarter (28%) of women won’t wear certain clothes due to their scar placement or size, almost a fifth (19%) won’t wear certain swimsuits and 17% of women don’t feel comfortable showing their scar to their partner.

Lyn Ratcliff, Midwife at ‘For Women’ in Brisbane, says “the research shows that, while some women are happy with their scars, there are many who have had issues and aren’t happy with the final result. As a healthcare professional, this is upsetting to hear. Women should feel proud of their bodies post c-section surgery. They’ve successfully brought a baby into the world and that should be celebrated.”

Top Tips For Expectant Mums

To assist in opening up the conversation with healthcare practitioners, Dr Kate Kerridge and midwife Lyn Ratcliff have compiled six tips for expectant mums:

1) It’s normal for your baby to be ‘overdue’

Your due date is an educated guess of when your baby may arrive. Term gestation is considered to be any time after 37 weeks and extends beyond the due date of 40 weeks. In an uncomplicated, low risk pregnancy it is acceptable practice to allow some time after your due date for labour to begin.

2) A caesarean section birth is a possibility with every pregnancy

There are three circumstances that may result in a caesarean. Firstly, a woman may choose to have a caesarean simply as her preferred method of birthing her baby. Secondly, a situation may develop during the pregnancy, for example a baby is not head down at term and require a caesarean. Finally, an emergency caesarean may be necessary when complications develop during the course of labour, for example a baby becomes distressed. Therefore, all pregnant women should prepare themselves by having some knowledge about the procedure.

3) Vaginal bleeding after the birth

After you have birthed your baby, the placenta also needs to leave your body and usually passes through your vagina within half an hour after the birth. If you’ve had a caesarean, the placenta will be removed through the same incision. Vaginal bleeding results from the placental site healing and may take up to six weeks to stop completely.

4) The caesarean incision

Most women are concerned about caring for the wound and how the scar will look afterwards. It’s important to discuss your options for wound closure and the type of dressing that will be used with your healthcare provider they will result in different outcomes.

Stitches are the most common and recognised closure option, however, may need removal and may not completely seal the wound from bacteria. Staples are a more rigid option allowing the obstetrician to close the wound quicker and provides added strength when compared to stitches. Wearable glue dressings are another option that may make self-care easier and help minimise the risk of infection by sealing the wound. These types of dressings don’t need changing and are waterproof, so if directed by your healthcare professional you may be able to shower.

5) Resuming normal activities

A caesarean section is major abdominal surgery and it takes time to heal and recover. For the first two weeks you will need direct assistance with your own activities of daily living as well as looking after your baby, then you’ll need someone to be available for a further four weeks to call upon if you need help. Allow a full six weeks before gently introducing light exercise. Driving can resume when you can confidently, comfortably and safely operate a vehicle.

6) Bonding with your baby

Bonding begins at conception, is strengthened during the pregnancy and culminates with you meeting each other at the birth, regardless of the circumstances. Feeling disappointed with your birth experience or how you birthed your baby should not be confused with feeling that you’re not bonding with the baby.  You will need time to process your emotions, but you’ll soon see that it doesn’t matter to your baby how they were birthed, just that you’re their mum!

Expectant mums are encouraged to open up a conversation with their healthcare practitioner in order to discuss the various options available to them, along with finding out what the most suitable options are.

Kane Crammond, Product Manager at Ethicon Australia, said, “Our goal is to provide medical solutions that help patients get better outcomes, and we know from years of experience and feedback that options like wearable glue dressings are one way to achieve that. But this research shows that the first step to a great outcome is actually better communication.”

“We hope these findings help empower women to speak to their healthcare professionals about the options available to them and help healthcare professionals further understand what their patients want and need, resulting in optimal healing and overall satisfaction for mums.”

Dr. Kate Kerridge and Midwife Lyn Ratcliff are working in partnership with Ethicon Australia, empowering women to have a conversation with their health care professional on their caesarean options.

*Survey conducted by Pure Profile, consisting of 1,011 Australian women across all states who were either pregnant or had a child under 3 years old.

Were you bothered by any scarring during child birth? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • I lost all sensation on my abdomen, below my scar. I don’t remember them telling me about that risk. I felt like I was chopped in half.

    Reply

  • Very good advice and information that I wish I knew

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  • We just do our best!

    Reply

  • The trauma to my vagina after birth was not expected at all. I developed an infection in my stitches and in the end my husband had to wipe and change me. It was so traumatic and stayed with me for a long time.

    Reply

  • I think it is really about being able to have choices about your own body. A first time birth will always be an overwhelming experience. I wish we were told more information before the birth.

    Reply

  • All Mum’s are beautiful and their scars are a part of their journey. I never had any scarring from childbirth but I’d like to think I would have been proud of it. I agree your doctor needs to have a talk about what to expect from the birth and what sort of closing they want if they do have a caesarean.

    Reply

  • I got all 3 of my children in virginal birth.I am lucky to resume my all activities without any help. But heard of after caesarean birth need more assistance for first few weeks.

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  • My baby was 10 days overdue and 4.19kg, I also had an episiotomy, in which the sutures were very uncomfortable for the following 10 days. The possibility is prolapse is also very real, which i had, and new nothing about! There are lots of post birth scars that first time mum’s know nothing about and i feel there is a lack of education in this dept.

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  • No I wasn’t bothered at all by my scar and have worn my scars with pride. A scar really doesn’t change who I am

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  • Both my pregnancies were different although both vaginal births. The first I was 10 days over the second 4 over. I felt like with the second they aimed if be right d she was feeding all and doing everything but no one tells you how different it will be when you’re trying to split your time with your other child/ren.

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  • My first child left me with a severe 3rd degree tear, and I almost lost complete control of my toilet function. Repair surgery, weeks of rehabilitation and years worth of ptsd. 2nd and 3rd children were by scheduled csections and were a positive experience. I have a scar, but I’m extremely proud of that all my children have arrived in this world safe, happy and well loved.

    Reply

  • I was worried about bleeding after it.

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  • I must have had fabulous healthcare after birth because the whole recovery was thoroughly explained to me. I didn’t have a caesarean though

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  • It’s a big operation to have and no easy way out. It’s definitely one that takes more time to heal too

    Reply

  • Having a baby is wonderful but it is often traumatic too. You go through so much pain but you have a beautiful baby to show for it. No wonder so many women feel scarred.

    Reply

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