These days many cesarean sections heal up well with a scar that is barely visible. However, the surgery leaves many other effects including numbness, discomfort and disconnection from the lower abdominals. The scar can often hold strong emotions as well. All births are a time of extreme vulnerability and deep transformation. Women’s birth scars are the symbols of their own rebirthing.
In my private practice, I do a lot of birth scar massage. Through mindful attention and touch, I encourage scar tissue to break up so that the underlying tissues are free to move as they are meant to and receive healthy blood flow. Many women have not wanted to look at or touch their scars because of how much this brings to the surface for them. When we massage these areas, we process the emotions held there by giving voice to the feelings. Through working on both the physical and emotional layers, the scar tissue begins to melt.
Aside from the more immediate physical and emotional impact of surgery, scar tissue can sometimes have far reaching and long term effects. Read more about how scar tissue works in the body in my article: Sticky Situation: What the Scars You Can’t See Are Doing To Your Body.
A simple and highly effective at home treatment for scars is castor oil packs. Castor oil is derived from the castor seed and has been used as a healing remedy for centuries. Castor oil helps to decrease inflammation, pull out toxins in tissues and dissolve scar tissue. (By the way, you can use these treatments for any type of surgery, scar tissue or adhesions in the body).
Here’s how to do a castor oil treatment:
- High quality organic castor oil.
- Organic cotton flannel (usually sold right next to castor oil at your local holistic pharmacy or find here).
- A hot water bottle or a heating pad.
- Layer of plastic (saran wrap or cut up a plastic bag or trash bag). I use the old packages from my flannel.
- Cut two layers of flannel to cover your scar and the surrounding areas. Can be about the size of your heating pad or hot water bottle.
- Cut a piece of plastic that is a little larger than your flannel pieces.
- Stack the flannel one on top of the other. Place enough castor oil on the top piece of flannel only to almost saturate but not soak the material. Usually a couple of tablespoons. (Because castor oil is quite thick and sticky I end up pouring lines of it on and then folding the fabric in various ways to spread it out). The second piece of flannel is just there to absorb any extra castor oil.
NOTE: Like anything, there is a small chance that you could be allergic to castor oil. Place a small amount on your skin to test before doing a full treatment.
- Place the castor oil side of the flannel layers over your scar. Place the piece of plastic over the flannel (this is to protect your heat source).
- Place your hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the plastic.
You may want to place a towel underneath you in the event that the castor oil drips (although it shouldn’t be this soaked). When I use a hot water bottle I also put a towel or blanket on top to keep the heat in.
- Relax and enjoy this treatment for 20-30 minutes. Use it as a time to meditate on nice, deep belly breathes.
- Afterward you can spend a little time gently massaging the area.
- Wash the castor oil off with soap and water.
For perineal or internal vaginal scar tissue:
You can thoroughly soak an organic cotton tampon in castor oil and place this inside for 20-30 minutes.
WHAT TO EXPECT
- Your belly will be really soft after. Some women who are wanting to strengthen their abs postpartum don’t like this softening. It’s a temporary result of the treatment and will go back to normal within a couple of hours. Softening is a good sign because that is what you want to happen with the underlying scar tissue. Also, remember that our bellies are supposed to be somewhat soft, they’re holding all of our squishy internal organs!
- Intestinal bloating, discomfort or nausea. This can be a sign that you have an imbalance in your gut flora. The castor oil treatment will help this. Castor oil treatments can also induce bowel movements. Back off the treatments a bit if the intestinal side effects are bothersome.
- Following a castor oil treatment your scar may be red or a little weepy—meaning it might be releasing a little fluid. This is normal and a good sign that things are changing.
When I can I begin these treatments?
Your scar should be completely healed. Wait at least six to eight weeks after surgery.
Is it safe to do castor oil packs while breastfeeding?
Can I re-use the flannel?
Some people say absolutely never and some say you can use it a few times. It’s important to consider that this treatment is pulling out toxins so these will also be soaking into the flannel. I save and re-use the second layer that hasn’t been on my skin.
How often do I need to do these treatments?
The effects of castor oil are cumulative, meaning the more regular you are, the more effective it will be. I like people to start out slowly with about three treatments per week and build up to daily treatments for 30 days. (Depending on your level of sensitivity daily treatments might be too much, adjust accordingly).
How can I possibly find the time do this every day?
I work with tons of moms and know how precious your time is. The most important thing is, is to simply do the best you can. It’s better to do a treatment once a week than never. Also, know that once you get your routine down, the preparation will be much faster.
My advice is to approach this as a loving self care ritual that feeds and nurtures you. Light a candle, put on your favorite essential oils, play some relaxing music and soak in the time for yourself. It will serve both you and your family. It’s also OK to do this while you’re catching up on emails or watching your favorite TV show. Make it work for your life.
Feel free to share your questions and experiences with castor oil treatments in the comments below.