You had a baby! Congrats! We know you’re dealing with a lot of new challenges, which can be extra frustrating if you’re recovering from a cesarean delivery (often called a C-section).
That frustration can be even greater if you’re noticing scarring or inflammation that seems abnormal, which could be a sign that things aren’t healing as planned.
Developing endometriosis after a cesarean delivery is rare (between 0.03 and 1.7 percent of women who get C-sections experience endometriosis symptoms). But it can be very painful if left untreated — and it sometimes gets mistaken for other conditions.
It’s a lot to take in, especially when you deserve to be enjoying time with your newborn instead of dealing with intense pain.
If you’ve had a cesarean delivery and suspect you have endometriosis, take a breath. There’s light at the end of the tunnel!
Here’s what you need to know to get it taken care of ASAP.
Typically, endometriosis occurs when a tissue, similar to the lining of the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. It often affects the abdominal area, such as the fallopian tubes, vagina, or ovaries.
In some cases, endometriosis can be very painful and make period cramping much worse. In others, it may not have any noticeable symptoms.
After a C-section, you’ll have a scar on your lower abdomen that can take a few months to heal and fade. While the area may be sensitive to touch, you shouldn’t notice anything acutely inflamed or painful.
When endometriosis develops inside a C-section scar, it often causes a large mass on the area that can be irritated, tender, and painful. Because the symptoms are a bit different for everyone, endometriosis on a C-section scar is often misdiagnosed.
If you notice the following symptoms after a C-section, you might have endometriosis.
Note that everyone experiences this condition differently, so there’s no exact blueprint for how it will affect you.
The most common symptoms are:
- pain and tenderness on your scar months or years after a C-section
- a large unidentified mass on your scar
- bleeding or discharge on the scar site, especially during menstruation
These symptoms sometimes appear long after the incision has healed. According to a 2013 study, the mean time between delivery and symptom development is 4.1 years. This can make it especially difficult to pinpoint what’s going on.
Remember that endometriosis is linked to your menstrual cycle. If you’re noticing more pain or discharge in the scar area during your period, endometriosis could be the cause.
First things first: As soon as you’re concerned about this, talk with your doctor.
Endometriosis related to a C-section is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms can be linked to several more common conditions. For instance, abdominal pain might also indicate an umbilical hernia, a lipoma, clotted blood, or an abscess.
Be as specific as possible about the symptoms you’re experiencing so your doctor can try to figure out exactly what’s going on.
To get an official diagnosis, you may need an ultrasound, an MRI, or laparoscopic surgery to positively identify the mass as uterine tissue.
These methods can be somewhat demanding and invasive, and in some cases you may choose to try a treatment plan before undergoing a surgical procedure.
No matter where endometriosis shows up on your body, it can often be treated with hormonal contraceptives or over-the-counter pain meds.
Your doctor may start you on a birth control pill to relieve the cramping and pain you’re experiencing along with your cycle. Of course, this works only if you’re not trying to get pregnant.
You can also try at-home treatments to ease your symptoms, including diet changes, vitamins and supplements, and applying heat to the inflamed area. While these remedies won’t solve the problem permanently, they can make the pain easier to manage.
Unfortunately, the only way to remove the scar tissue (and thus get rid of your symptoms) is to have a surgery to remove the mass.
Research suggests that after surgery, there’s only a 4.3 percent chance the endometriosis will come back in the same area. Surgery can also remove the area of scarring that’s been struggling to heal.
In addition to being painful, C-section-related endometriosis can make abdominal scarring worse.
Especially for women who develop a mass at the scar site, it can be frustrating when the scarring won’t go away even years after the cesarean delivery. (Like, why? Just why?)
If you reduce inflammation in the area through meds or at-home remedies, the appearance of scarring can lessen. Surgery can also remove the mass that’s causing you problems.
If you want to try to reduce the appearance of scarring on your own, you can try natural remedies like aloe vera, vitamin E, honey, or apple cider vinegar. While these treatments aren’t scientifically proven, many people find them helpful.
You can also try scar tissue creams, many of which are available at your local drugstore without a prescription.
A dermatologist can hook you up with treatments like steroid injections and laser therapy to lighten visible scars, though they may not get rid of the incision scar entirely.