What Causes Keloids After A C-Section (And How To Prevent Them)


Keloids (pronounced ‘KEY-loids’, and also known as hypertrophic scars) are a form of scar tissue that is caused by trauma to the skin, like the incision site of a c-section. They can happen to anyone and on any part of the body, including the face. Keloids are usually seen in people who either have darker skin tones or those who have had lots of sun exposure, and they can also be triggered by steroid creams, tattoos, or even acne treatment.

Regardless of whether you’ve had a vaginal or c-section birth, there is always the risk of skin trauma. Keloids can be visually a problem, but they can cause pain and discomfort as well as limit movement in some cases. If you’re worried about getting keloid scars after your c-section then read on for more information about what causes them and how you can prevent them!

What are keloids and how do they form?

A keloid is a result of trauma to the skin, usually scars. Keloids are one of the most common skin conditions in the world, affecting between 2% and 10% of the population. They are prone to developing on those with darker complexions or spots that have undergone intense trauma. But keloids can happen to anyone at any time!

Keloids look like raised bumps, or patches of scar tissue. They can be red or purple in color and they are generally hard to the touch. A keloid is usually not painful but it feels thicker than normal skin.

Although there is no clear understanding as to what exactly causes keloids to develop, two main theories rely on activating receptors that regulate cell growth or an immune response by our bodies. People with higher levels of certain hormones caused by stress – especially women who have gone through childbirth – have been found to be more predisposed for the development of keloid scars.

What causes keloids after a c-section?

Keloids are a type of over-growth in the skin that can happen after surgery, trauma to the skin, or from bodybuilding. They typically form following a scar though they can also come from any trauma that has resulted in broken blood vessels and bruising. A c-section is major surgery, and c-section incisions are an example of trauma to the skin.

Keloids are more likely when the surgical site is large, (your incision needs to be big enough to remove baby!) or when the surrounding skin stretches or moves. (like your abdomen as you get up to move!) Don’t forget, your tummy skin has stretched skin to fit baby inside!

The typical c-section low-transverse incision (that’s the horizontal incision at your bikini line) is prone to rubbing up against the elastic of your underwear and the top of your pants. As your wound heals it becomes a little itchy and tight and your instinct is to touch or rub the area. This leads to additional trauma which can then lead to keloids. The ‘c-section pooch‘ (the loose belly skin above your c-section scar) can also rub against your healing incision.

Even c-sections with a vertical incision are prone to keloids because there is a lot of movement happening in your abdomen as you heal from the surgery. Your baby will be spending a lot of time against your tummy as you feed and cuddle them. Take care to make sure you protect your incision site during the healing process.

How can you prevent keloids after a c-section?

While you can’t guarantee that you’ll avoid keloid scarring, you can reduce your risk by taking proper care of your c section incision as your scar heals. A few ways to prevent keloid scarring:

  • Keep your stitches dry, out of water, and away from soap. Keep any wounds covered with a clean bandage and do not remove it until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Use vitamin E oil to keep your scars moisturized. Moisturizers will help soften the scar tissue and also reduce itching, inflammation, and irritation. Applying a thick cream or petroleum jelly may also help in preventing keloids.
  • Massage your scar regularly with coconut oil or another natural oil of your choice. Make sure you massage down to the main stitching site at the incision opening.
  • Keep your doctor updated with how your c-section scar is developing. You should let your doctor know if there is any sign of infection (redness, swelling, pus, etc.) or if the keloid becomes more painful; as these are two signs of a possible infection.
  • Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes on a regular basis. This will help reduce inflammation and swelling- both of which can make the keloid bigger. Some mothers recommend wrapping a few ice cubes in fabric and rubbing them on the incision to remove the swelling. The cold compress will shrink blood vessels, which could help reduce discoloration and scarring.
  • Use a belly band or abdominal binder. The additional support and pressure that it offers will help the incision site heal faster.

How to flatten scars after they have formed

No matter what scar you’re trying to get rid of, there’s no quick and easy answer. Everyone is after a less noticeable scar! Once your incision has completely healed, and you’ve got the okay from your doctor, you could try some home remedies and treatments to minimize scarring.

  • Use silicone sheets or silicone gel – This will help flatten the scar and reduce the thickness and puckering of the scar surface. The tape or gel will keep the wound soft and flat, and prevent excessive redness or discoloration. For best results, the wound should be treated daily for at least two months. (this was my main treatment for both of my c-section scars.
  • Gently, but regularly massage your c-section scar – Massage can increase blood flow to the wound and promote wound healing. Massage daily with a scent-free oil or lotion for 4-6 weeks for at least 10 minutes at a time.
  • Try tape – One of the best ways to ensure a wound heals properly is to apply surgical tape. Cover with tape for 4-6 weeks after stitches have been removed, and replace it regularly. The cool thing about using tape is that it can help put gentle pressure on raised scars. The extra tension will help you keep tabs on skin stretching in the area and warn you to take it easy!
  • Don’t expose your scar to the sun – Sun exposure in the first six months following a C-section will make your scar darker. Apply sunscreen or other sun protection, and if necessary tape up to cover it up as much as possible.

You might also consider scar revision surgery, where a plastic surgeon can resize a scar, reposition it to an area less visible by the world, or smooth contours of skin and soft tissue in order to fix sunken or dimpled scars that usually occur from deep wounds. Often times this surgical procedure removes the excess scar tissue of your c-section scar, and replaces it with a more thin line.

In conclusion – take care of your c-section scar

Keloid scars are a form of scar tissue that is caused by trauma to the skin. They can happen to anyone and on any part of the body. Keloids are usually seen in people who either have darker skin tones or those who have had lots of sun exposure, and they can also be triggered by steroid creams, tattoos, or even acne treatment. If you want to prevent keloid formation after your c-section incision heals, keep it dry with clean bandages, use vitamin E oil for moisturization, massage regularly with coconut oil or another natural oil of your choice, apply an ice pack every now and then, and do not expose your c-section scar up to sunlight for six months following surgery.

Carly Wight

Mother of two young boys (6 and 3!) and an avid "Googler", Carly is the kind to research something to the nth degree. Be it about products, hacks, or techniques, she shares what she finds out at her website - Fairy Good Mommy.

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