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What is a C-section shelf (and what can I do to minimise it)?

Updated: Jun 14

Though the most recognised part of our C-section birth is the incision scar, a lot of us can be surprised to see the development of what is called the C-section shelf.

What is a C-section Shelf?

A C-section shelf is the section of the lower abdomen that ‘hangs’ over the scar where the incision was made and its appearance can look different for each of us. It may be raised, puffy scar tissue, skin puckering, excess skin overlap or low hanging belly. A C-section shelf may also appear more exaggerated if you develop diastasis recti. 

How does a C-section shelf develop? When a C-section incision is stitched back together, the skin becomes more taught than before, leading it to look like a piece of string being held against the tummy. This means the skin above, which has been stretched from pregnancy will appear to hang over your scar line.

Not merely cosmetic - scar adhesions that contribute to the development of a C-section shelf can result in physical feelings of discomfort, including numbness, pain, tingling, and itchiness. When these sensations occur in the deeper tissue layers, the surrounding muscles and organs can be affected, causing functional problems including:

  • Back pain

  • Bladder frequency and urgency

  • Pain during intercourse

  • A tight feeling around the incision area / lower abdomen

How can I heal my C-section shelf? With proper guidance and patience you can prevent and relieve new and even decades-old scar adhesions associated with your C-section shelf. These long term remedies should help to reduce the appearance of your C-section shelf:

Scar Massage Scar adhesions usually develop in the area underneath and around your C-section incision where one layer of tissue may be stuck to another layer when it should usually glide freely.Scar mobilisation is to massage the scar tissue which increases blood flow to the area and helps to gradually break up adhesions and free the surrounding tissues. The idea is to loosen the scar from the tissue, so it doesn’t get “stuck” to the layers below. Helping to break up adhesions will improve the function of your core/abdomen and appearance of your c-section shelf. You can perform a c-section scar massage yourself and/or a pelvic floor physical therapist can help. Begin with small circular massages (using a moisturiser or oil for your skin) to promote blood flow, support the healing process, and reduce discomfort.Remember to wait until your incision is completely healed, (usually after 6 weeks postpartum) and you feel ready to begin developing a healing relationship with your scar.


Skin Care

A consistent skin routine can help to visibly reduce the appearance of the incision scarring, stretch marks, and the laxity of your skin. 

  • Scar creams and oils: These can be specifically formulated to reduce the visibility of scars.

  • MyScar Silicone Strips: MyScar offers premium caesarean silicone strips that can improve your scar’s healing and appearance, providing you with the best recovery and aesthetic result. Made with advanced premium silicone technology, they can improve the colour, size, texture, and overall appearance. MyScar is recommended by obstetricians, plastic surgeons and well-known pelvic health physios throughout New Zealand. Visit: https://www.myscar.co.nz/ and use code “csectionshelf” for 15% off all Myscar products.

Can exercise help to improve my C-section Shelf? A therapeutic exercise routine may help with excess fat and help to heal your postpartum core and pelvic floor, however no form of exercise will completely ‘fix’ your postpartum skin. Improve a C-section shelf and heal diastasis recti by focusing on deep core training while factoring in total body workouts to build strength and stamina. Is it too late to start ‘treat’ my C-Section Shelf?

A lot of preventative healing happens in the first six months postpartum, but it is never too late to begin personal rehabilitation.Healing from a c-section takes patience and the acceptance of your birth story and the way you feel about yourself can have a huge effect on the relationship you have with your body and your self-esteem.


If you are preparing for or recovering from a C-Section birth, Vanessa can help to address any emotional challenges and provide you with personalised information and support. 


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