The emotional and physical upheaval of a cesarean section (c-section) delivery is demanding enough without considering the toll that recovery can take.
Following major abdominal surgery, pain and discomfort are to be expected at the site of your incision, and you may be wondering whether a burning sensation is a normal part of this pain.
Why is my c-section scar burning? In some cases, a burning or stinging sensation on or near your c-section incision can indicate an infection, though this is typically accompanied by other symptoms. Burning is commonly linked to abdominal nerve damage but, in rare cases, it could be due to a hernia or endometriosis.
It’s only natural to feel worried and wiped out at the thought of a long, painful recovery from your c-section surgery.
Everyone heals differently though, and the more you know about the healing process, the better you’ll be equipped to deal with each day, week, and month.
We’ll look at what burning pain means, your recovery timeline, and more in the following.
C-Section Incision Burning – What To Know
Many women experience a burning sensation as they heal from a c-section surgery.
Key things to look out for during your recovery are how the wound appears, how long the sensation lasts, and possible signs of infection.
Is It Normal for a C-Section Incision To Burn?
Yes, a lot of women report feeling a stinging or pulling sensation similar to burning when they lie down or get up, and some feel it on one side of their abdomen.
Mom-of-two Leslie Berry from Kidsly Mom described feeling a tender “burning sensation on one side.” This is expected postpartum as the stitches are pulled during movement or whenever pressure is applied to the incision.
Nerve damage is the most common cause behind a burning c-section scar, but when accompanied by other symptoms, this kind of stinging pain can be attributed to an infection, a hernia, or endometriosis in rare cases.
What the Incision Should Look Like as It Heals
According to physical therapist Dr. Laura Glazebrook, a healthy c-section scar should “start fading from a red to a pink coloration, and it should look pretty uniform as it heals.”
C-section scars commonly heal in line with the incision, but some scar formations can appear raised and thicker (hypertrophic) or stray from the boundaries of the original wound (keloid).
How Long Does C-Section Pain Last?
Some women can experience pain for several days or weeks following cesarean delivery.
You’ll likely need to take pain relief medications for the first week or so, and after this period, it’s normal to feel sore and tender for the first month postpartum or longer.
Your first checkup is normally scheduled 4-6 weeks after delivery, so if you are still experiencing pain at this stage, your doctor will be able to discuss your ongoing recovery and recommend other forms of pain relief.
Signs of Infection
Burning can be a sign of an infected incision, but it is not the only sign. If you experience any of the following, please report these to your healthcare provider as soon as you can:
- Nausea and dizziness
- Feverish/have high temperature
- More pain in the wound or your womb since delivery
- Incision site feels warm to the touch
- Green or yellow weeping/discharge from the wound
- A foul odor from the wound
- Wound is red or swollen
- Wound is gaping/open
- Unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination
When To See the Doctor
It’s advisable to see your doctor if you experience any of the above-mentioned signs of infection alongside a burning sensation or if you are still experiencing a burning, stinging pain beyond 8 weeks postpartum.
Other less-common symptoms that could indicate a blood clot and require urgent attention include:
- Swelling/redness in your lower leg
- Breast pain
- Heavy vaginal bleeding/discharge
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Permanent numbness around or near the scar
When To Expect Pain and Discomfort To Go Away
Pain and feelings of discomfort should have more or less subsided once you are 8 weeks postpartum, and the general soreness should begin to fade within the first 2-4 weeks following your delivery.
How Do I Know My C-Section Is Healing?
You’ll know your c-section site is healing well when it becomes less and less tender to the touch. The scar itself will change from pink to purplish and may remain this way for several months before gradually fading into a faint whitish line.
How Long Does It Take for C-Section To Heal?
It normally takes around 6-10 weeks for a c-section incision to heal completely, and healing can be sped up by ensuring you don’t rush into resuming your regular activities.
Dr. Rajiv B. Gala at the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists stresses “allowing at least six weeks healing time allows the incision line to mature so that when strenuous activities are performed, the integrity is not compromised.”
C-Section Recovery Week by Week
Everyone’s recovery will be slightly different, so it’s important to take the process week-by-week and report anything out of the ordinary to your doctor. Here’s what you can expect:
In the inflammatory stage, you may need to stay in the hospital for up to 4 days post-delivery in case of heavy bleeding.
Your incision will appear swollen and red/pink, and you’ll find that it hurts to laugh, cough, sneeze, and take a shower.
Nearing the proliferative stage of your recovery, white blood cells will begin to guard your incision against infection. Your wound will still feel sore at this stage, and the muscles surrounding the incision can feel weak.
In the third week, collagen starts to form at the wound to strengthen and pull the tissue together.
At the remodeling stage, your scar will become thicker and change color from pink/red to a dark purplish shade as new blood vessels start to form.
By week 6, you can begin using tampons without risking infection, but please speak to your doctor before doing so.
After 6 Weeks
Shortly after this time, your c-section incision should have healed up completely, allowing you to comfortably resume normal activities such as exercising, driving, sex, etc.
Some women can experience incision or muscle pain for several months following delivery, and you may struggle with urinary incontinence due to a weakened pelvic floor.
Your doctor or midwife may refer you to a physical therapist to aid your long-term recovery.
C-Section Recovery Tips
1. Rest as much as you can: Rest whenever baby sleeps, and ask loved ones for help so you can grab naps!
2. Take gentle walks: This helps reduce the risk of blood clots and heart issues and maintains good mental health.
3. Ask for breastfeeding support: C-sections are linked to higher risks of difficulties when breastfeeding, so speak to a lactation consultant if it’s painful/difficult to feed your little one.
4. Wear loose, comfy clothes without waistbands: Floaty, freeing clothes prevent fabric from rubbing against or irritating your scar.
5. Clean your wound properly: Your doctor/midwife will instruct you on wound aftercare. Washing and then drying the incision promptly will reduce your infection risk.
Should My C-Section Incision Itch?
As c-section wounds heal, an itching sensation at the incision site is very common.
Itching occurs due to damaged nerves in the area becoming very sensitive, but it can also be caused by the regrowth of pubic hair in that area.
Apply a cold compress, and avoid scratching as this can lead to infection.
Should My C-Section Incision Be Hard?
Thicker, firmer scars — known as hypertrophic scars — appear slightly more raised than normal c-section scars due to a complication during the healing process in which excess collagen is produced at the incision site.
It’s normal for these scars to thicken for up to 6 months before improving.
A burning c-section incision can be worrying and debilitating to deal with during your recovery, but it’s rarely a sign of infection or other complications on its own.
The presence of additional symptoms such as nausea, fever, and weeping wounds is when your burning scar will require urgent medical attention.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.