An abdominal scar and pregnancy

I have a surgical scar on my stomach: how will this affect me during my pregnancy?

This reasonable and very understandable concern affects many people – and there are many women who very much want a child despite uncertainty caused by having had an abdominal operation.

Why should I, a male and not a professional medical worker, be writing about this?

Being male I am very hesitant to address this question – so here’s why I’m posting this…

  • Since my 10th day I have a 1940s scar from stomach surgery (for pyloric stenosis) and have often wondered how this would affect me had I been one of my sisters…
  • With my wife of almost 50 years I have learnt 4 times over how pregnancy affects a woman’s body and mind…
  • As my parents did not help me to embrace my first surgery, I have made it one of my passions to learn and share as much as I can about this subject…
  • I have been reading and answering this question online for almost 20 years, and the feedback encourages me to “keep up the good work”…
  • Although I don’t have the academic and practical training of a medical worker, what I do have is widely valued: skills developed over 70 years of understanding, caring and communicating with people in a wide range of circumstances…
  • My posts about this subject on my other Blog are among the 5 most read.

What is the best and worst of how the surgery I had can affect my pregnancy?

The good news
1)  From the published material it seems that only a small minority find that their surgical scar and/or the adhesions under it become more of an issue during their pregnancy, and those who do have found (as is usual) that every pregnancy is different, also in this way.  Carrying the second baby will not always cause more pain than the first.

2)  There may be unpleasant but understandable itching, stretching and tearing pain at or under the surgical scar, and some have had a little bleeding, but nothing more serious has been reported.  A mature scar is stronger than the surrounding abdominal wall and won’t tear open.  The stretching and bleeding will heal.

The bad news
1)  If any of this happens to you it is hardly pleasant and it’s an unwelcome extra challenge during the long months of waiting and wondering.
2)  Because there is no easy “fix” for scar and adhesion pain many medical people won’t want to hear or say much about it.  Be prepared for a brush-off.  Be content with some pain relief – massage (with a cream) and safe medication.  And count yourself privileged if you have a doctor or obstetrician who pays attention to this aspect of your pregnancy.  A good and caring obstetrician will take the time needed to give you reassurance and answer your questions.

Some mothers-to-be will need and want to know no more, so I won’t extend this post, other than to provide links to relevant posts I wrote for my other Blog.  These posts deal with several more details (such as personal reports) that will be of interest or help to many.  Click on the link to access the post that interests you.

My first post (2011) on the effect of an abdominal surgical scar on pregnancy deals mostly with adhesions, inflexible strands of scar tissue that form a web between the scar and abdominal tissue, muscle and organs.  Together with the tough, non-elastic scar itself, adhesions are the most common cause of extra itching and pain during pregnancy, and sometimes even some bleeding.  They can also cause trouble apart from the rigours of pregnancy, as they can seriously affect the work of our digestive passage.

The second post outlines what can be expected and the overview is generally reassuring.  Surgery scars will quite likely make your pregnancy more eventful in any of several ways, but are very unlikely to be a major problem.  This post covers the material above here – but in more detail.

Being a male and not a family doctor prompted me to compile this third post.  It is a careful sample of Web Forum comments from women who have an abdominal scar and have been through a pregnancy.  Each “speaks” about how their abdominal surgery affected their carrying a baby and giving birth.

In another post I passed on a selection of photos: images which mothers have posted on their blogsite or a pregnancy forum to reassure interested readers about how their growing belly and scar may be affected.  Most have been able to post their story in a relaxed way, some even with pride or in fun, and perhaps others with some misgivings.  I and I trust many others will be grateful to them all: sharing sheds light and this usually reduces our fears.

The Shape of a Mother is a great forum for you if you are interested or concerned about this issue.  One of the posts there comes from Fiona, who tells readers about her harrowing emergency appendectomy during her first pregnancy; her scar was stretched and keloided somewhat (which it might have done anyway) but thankfully it didn’t rupture or cause major after-griefs.  And here is a link to Fiona’s update.  Audrey’s story and photos may also be worth reading in full.

Finally, this post gives an overview of the subject, followed by a selection of Comments gleaned from forum sites, and some photos.

– Fred Vanderbom

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Author: Fred Vanderbom

A stable upbringing in a Christian home, a long and happy marriage and family life, a lifetime of productive and steady work in close touch with many people - and with the God our world can know through Jesus Christ, many good and shaping experiences - I believe I've been very privileged. By some blogging and other work in retirement I am enjoying being able to offer some of what I've learnt for those interested. Your comments are always welcome.

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