There are many things you need to learn to prepare for a Cesarean Section. An often neglected topic that can drastically improve your C-Section recovery, is deciding how you want your incision to be sealed. Even if you have had a C-Section before, TALK to your doctor about your surgery. Make sure you are both on the same page. Do NOT assume that everything will be the same as it was with your last one. Stitches are way different than staples.
Now, let’s talk C-Section closures:
I did not even know there were so many options! There are staples, dissolvable staples, stitches (sutures), dissolvable stitches, and glue! GLUE! This is something I JUST learned about while doing research for this blog post! Crazy, right?! Now I want to learn more so I can decide if I want to just use glue for my next C-Section! But in this post, we will talk about the two I have experienced, namely dissolvable staples and subcuticular sutures.
Most everyone can agree that recovery after the second C-Section is smoother than after the first, so my views may be biased based on this fact alone. However, medical professionals agree with my personal preference that sutures are better than staples. And, subcuticular sutures are the best [source].
My first Cesarean was completely unplanned, so I did not even think about how they would close my incision. They used dissolvable staples. In the beginning, my incision looked like puckered up lips that had been glued shut. It was a little freaky to see the inside of my skin. I felt so exposed, and like I was about to split open at any given moment. I thought that the OB had messed up and that I needed a bandage to cover it up, because how could it be healthy to have all that flesh exposed?? But no, it was important to let the area breathe and remain dry.
After a few months…
My scar became thick, reddish-purple, and raised. It would get fiery hot and SO itchy ALL the time, even 12+ months later. After a year, normal pants would still irritate my scar and I would get unbelievably itchy (but it was like a DEEP itchiness, that went below the surface, so scratching did not provide relief). I was also numb in some areas. It was such a weird feeling to touch my belly and not feel it. This was a year after the surgery, people! I felt like I would never feel normal again. I was so frustrated. Plus, I have read horror stories online of “dissolvable” staples popping out of people’s skin, plus there is a higher chance of your wound reopening with staples (dissolvable or otherwise).
Luckily, none of my staples popped out, but I could definitely feel them under my skin, and I could feel a lot of tense pressure. My scar was one thing, that did not concern me too much, but it had like a 2-inch wide border that felt strange, raised, thick, hard, and itchy. In addition, I felt like I had a triangle of pain: from my scar to my belly button and back down. It felt horrible.
Everyone would tell me that it was normal; that it was, in fact, NOT infected, so I should not worry. These were just things that came with having a C-Section. If I gave it a few more *years* it might feel better.
Let me tell you, friend: You have a choice, and your choice should not include dissolvable staples. There is a better way. A way where you can feel mostly normal after just a few months. (I know, still not ideal, but better than waiting decades for something that won’t happen)
While I was at a mom book club in Kansas, I started talking to a mom who had previously had three C-Sections. She told me that two were sutures, and one was dissolvable staples. She told me about how she had found a doctor who had studied in India, and exclusively performed what she called a ‘continuous stitch’. Based on her description, I wonder if it was actually subcuticular sutures (also known as “intradermal sutures” or “subcuticular continuous stitch”). Her second baby had a preexisting condition, which led them to perform the Cesarean in a different hospital that did not have sutures in the OB operating room, so her Obstetrician was forced to use dissolvable staples. She HATED them. She said her scar was so much thicker, uglier, and itchier, and that her recovery took a lot longer. I completely agree.
Sadly, I moved from Kansas to Utah, but the doctors I got only did subcuticular sutures. I was ecstatic when I found out because I thought I had missed out on this seemingly elusive Indian practice. Come to find out, according to a speaker at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, subcuticular sutures should actually be the preferred method of closure. The scarring is so consistently aesthetically pleasing (hardly noticeable), this method is apparently frequently used for plastic surgeries.
My experience with stitches…
My second incision has healed faster, felt better, and is way smaller. I have no numb spots (which is pleasantly unexpected). The only area that feels weird is my scar area- not a ginormous 2-inch border, with an accompanying triangle up to my belly button. They might have nicked one of the muscles leading to my pelvis because there was a bit of pain there, but this has since faded (4 months post-op). The skin-deep stitch is removed after a week, so your body can focus on healing instead of dissolving stuff. They used dissolving stitches on my internal organs, but these were way better than the dissolvable staples they used last time. Less to dissolve.
In short: I had staples longer than I have had stitches, and I never felt this good with staples. Four months in, and I hope I never get staples ever again. We moms are already recovering from a C-Section, adjusting to having a newborn, and getting used to our wild hormones. We should at least have peace of mind that nothing else is going to pop out of our skin or reopen.
I hope you have gleaned some new insights from my experiences, and that you are now better equipped with questions to ask your OB! I wish you good luck on your C-Section journey, and hope you have the best recovery!
What have been your experiences with stitches and staples? Pop me a question or comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!
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