What is a C section pouch and can you treat it?

If you’re experiencing the ‘C section pouch’, ‘overhang’ or ‘shelf’ that many women report after having a caesarean, we explain exactly what it is and how to treat it.

Around 1 in 4 babies are born via C section in the UK, proving that C sections are far from uncommon. With so many women having a surgical birth, more women than ever are searching for more information about the recovery process. One of the most common questions is “how do I get rid of my C section pouch?”

Before we get into the science, we’d like to stress that everyone’s recovery is different, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to your postpartum body. You shouldn’t feel the need to ‘get rid of’ anything while you’re healing, but we know many new mums are troubled by the C section pouch phenomenon. 

What is a C section pouch?

Body changes are inevitable after growing a small human for nine months and then delivering it into the world. It’s normal for your tummy to stretch or hang after giving birth. 

Most women store extra fat around this area during pregnancy to cushion their baby, but fat is not the only cause of an extended postpartum tummy. Other reasons for your tummy’s shape may include:

  • IV fluid retention: During a C section procedure, you will be given IV fluids to keep your fluid levels replenished. You may still retain some of these fluids after surgery.
  • Uterus stretching: During pregnancy, your uterus stretches to house your baby. It usually begins growing from around 12 weeks (or earlier if you’re carrying multiples), and will grow roughly 1cm each week from then. It takes roughly 6 to 8 weeks for your uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size after giving birth.
  • Muscle stretching: Pregnancy causes your abdominal muscles to grow apart. This is called Diastasis Recti and has been found in 100% of pregnant women by 35 weeks. Your muscles usually come back together without any support, but the appearance of your muscles may look different to pre-pregnancy and appear to look like fat. Click here for more information on Diastasis Recti.

Of course, with a C section birth, there may be a scar in the middle or at the bottom of your stretched tummy, causing this common ‘C section pouch’ shape.

how to get rid of a c section pouch

Image by Sophie Darwin Photography

Your emotional response to your postpartum body

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by your new, evolving body after giving birth. This may be more likely if you’ve had an emergency C section or a birth that didn’t go as you’d expected it to. 

Please know that these emotions are valid, but that your body is doing what it needs to right now to recover. It’s normal for your body to look completely different to your post-pregnancy body after giving birth. After all, it’s known as the ‘fourth trimester’ for a reason. That said, the postpartum phase is temporary, and your body will keep evolving and changing over time.

If the following tips feel confronting, or overwhelming, simply bookmark this article and come back to it when you’re ready. If you’re looking for more general information on how to take care of yourself in your early C section recovery, you can click here to download our free recovery guide.

how to take care of c section pouch

How to treat your C section pouch

There are a number of ways to support your body’s healing after giving birth. All of these tips will support the appearance of your stomach, if that’s something you’re concerned about.

Eating for C section recovery

First and foremost, we recommend having a healthy diet and lifestyle as much as humanly possible with a new baby. Focus on getting fruits and vegetables as well as high quality protein. 

Nutritionist, Lynda Stretton recommends incorporating some key components in your postpartum diet. We understand that this may feel like another chore as a new mum, so please use what’s available to you and don’t let nutrition overwhelm you. One step at a time.

  • Omega-3 fish oil supplement with good levels of DHA. This is the omega 3 fat incorporated into your baby’s brain, particularly during the last semester.
  • Good quality protein. Grass-fed bone broth is a great option, as it’s full of collagen, electrolytes and protein. Other great sources include nuts and seeds, legumes, grass-fed meat, fish and eggs.
  • Healthy fats. Every cell of our body needs fat. If you want to regulate your mood and energy levels, be sure to eat avocado, nuts, seeds, egg yolks, organic olive oil, grass fed butter or coconut oil.
  • Healthy carbohydrates. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll metabolise blood sugar rapidly, and may therefore crave sweet foods. Satisfy your sweet tooth by roasting a sweet potato and snacking on it with some hummus. Other great complex carbohydrates to eat include oats, buckwheat and your rainbow of fruits and veggies.
  • Probiotic-high foods. Great sources include unpasteurised sauerkraut, kimchi, miso. These are great for regulating your gut health.
  • Vitamins to help with scar recovery. Zinc, vitamins A and C are your best friends. Be sure to consult a health practitioner first.

Movement for C section recovery

It’s a common misconception that you should avoid movement for the first 6 weeks of C section recovery. While you’ll be advised not to do certain things, such as driving, climbing stairs and lifting heavy objects, gentle movement can actually help the recovery process and reduce swelling. 

Pre and postnatal fitness specialist, Holly Grant discusses how you can move safely in the early days of C section recovery.

 

Scar massage for your C section pouch

Scar massage is a great tool for promoting your body’s recovery. Your scar isn’t just external. Scar tissue extends underneath the skin. Scar massage helps prevent the build up of excess scar tissue, known as ‘adhesions’. This is important, as adhesions can cause restriction around your abdominal organs. 

According to women’s health physiotherapist, Clare Bourne, other benefits of C section scar massage include:

  • Improves the visibility of ‘overhang’ that lots of women are worried about
  • Helps manage swelling
  • Reduces numbness and improves sensation
  • Reduces tugging and muscle restriction
scar saviour c section balm

How to massage your C section scar

C section scar massage is a well-kept secret when it comes to postpartum recovery. Though its magical healing benefits are extensive, few women know how to go about it.

When to begin C section massage

You can begin massaging your scar to improve the visibility of your C section pouch once your scar is fully healed. There should be no scab or raised areas, and any stitches must have been removed. This is usually around 6-8 weeks postpartum, but we recommend getting the go-ahead from your GP if you’re not sure.

Beginning to massage your scar can be a highly emotive task, especially if you had a difficult birth or are struggling with body image following your pregnancy, as many women do. If the thought of touching your scar is emotionally triggering, please park the idea for now and come back to it when you’re ready. There really is no rush, and your emotional wellbeing must take priority. After all, this should be a fairly enjoyable process.

If you do feel ready to start this process, you may like to desensitise the area first and build up to direct scar massage. Clare Bourne explains how you can start to do this. 


 

Once you’re comfortable touching your stomach, you can use the following techniques on your C section scar directly.



Massaging your C section scar: step by step

  • Take some scar balm on your hands, as you don’t want to massage the area dry. We recommend using our Scar Saviour, which is 100% natural and specifically designed for C section scar massage.
  • Begin by applying with gentle sweeping movements above and below your scar.
  • Apply directly onto your scar in gentle sweeping movements, back and forth. Apply just a slight pressure. You’re not attempting to cause discomfort or create any redness.
  • Once you’re comfortable with this, you can begin using little circles along your scar to encourage mobility.

Scar Saviour

Scar Saviour was created to support new mums with C section scar massage, a hugely valuable tool to treat the C section pouch. It's 100% natural, and contains wonderful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients, including turmeric, marshmallow root, and vitamin E.

Click here to shop Scar Saviour.

before and after of c section pouch

Before and after of C section scar after using Scar Saviour

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