One of the most visited posts on this blogsite deals with how having had infant Pyloric Stenosis (“PS”) affects pregnancy.
This question must be answered by looking at several aspects –
- Will the scar hold?
- What do I need to know about adhesions?
- Could I pass on my PS to my baby?
- Reliving the past – and the trauma
Will my scar hold?
The short answer is Yes!
Our skin varies, as do our stretch marks, as do our scars. Your scar may stretch and it may change in appearance, perhaps permanently, perhaps not. Or it may stay much the same, which will put extra stress on the surrounding skin and underlying tissue of the stretching abdominal wall. This may create a different pattern of striae (stretch marks caused by the dermis or outer tissue tearing) from the usual. So there are several unpredictable possibilities, but one thing does not happen: your scar will not rupture.
When a surgical wound is healing it can rupture and need repair. Inadequate repair of the underlying tissue can cause a post-operative hernia which will sometimes heal without further intervention, sometimes not.
But once scar tissue has matured (losing its redness takes a year or two) it is harder and tougher than normal tissue and far less likely to rupture than the surrounding tissue. The stretching of pregnancy may cause itching, pain, or a tearing feeling, especially in the scarred area, but this won’t affect your baby, womb, or pregnancy, and your doctor can promise you this!
This is how one mother answered this question –
My niece has similarities to your situation, here is what happened with her.
Nothing bad happened to her baby and he was able to grow just fine – your scars will not affect your bub.
As her baby grew it stretched her scars causing shooting pains, the pains were only every now and then. They only caused her to worry because she thought it may not be the scars and maybe it was something wrong with her baby.
Her scars are right through stretching right down the middle of her stomach in a T like form: she had an operation when she was born and then again when she was 5 and her scars are attached to her muscles. Her stomach also didn’t grow very big compared to most pregnancies, so if your belly gets bigger than hers it may cause a bit more pain than ‘every now and then’ (but that’s just a guess based on no medical knowledge).
Hope this sets your mind at ease, both you and your baby will be fine. (– anon)
What do I need to know about adhesions?
All abdominal surgery triggers the growth of adhesions, a web like formation of tough scar tissue that develops between areas that have been exposed, cut or otherwise affected by the operation. The organs inside our abdomen don’t like the fresh air and drying that occur during open surgery, nor the gas that’s used to inflate the abdomen for keyhole surgery.
A laparoscopic image of adhesions between the right diaphragm and liver
Everybody develops adhesions after surgery: these link different abdominal organs (e.g. the stomach and gall bladder or liver) or they link one or more of these with the inside of the abdominal wall. This is noticed in only a minority of cases, but when adhesions make their presence known it can be very troublesome, causing pain and snaring, choking or otherwise disrupting the normal working of our abdominal organs in the affected area. Adhesions are hard to treat, as surgery to remove them in affected people will inevitably trigger the growth of more of these nasty webs. I have written about adhesions several times – use the Categories or Tags search boxes to find them or go to Dr Google!
Pregnancy may make a woman with PS in her history aware of adhesions that had not troubled her before. She may feel pain or tearing in the region of her scar as her body changes; although this is uncomfortable it is a normal process and not hazardous, and will probably be a temporary although added discomfort of pregnancy.
Because each pregnancy has its own unique character in lots of ways, the pain and tearing sensations of adhesions can come with any but not usually all of her pregnancies.
The best advice for dealing with adhesion and scar pain and itching is what is usually recommended for pregnancy anyway: lots of lotion and lots of massage – which will help some and not others. The end result of the 9 months will we trust be well worth the discomfort and pain.
This is how one mother answered this question –
I am a 36 year old female, with 3 children. I had my pyloric stenosis operation in 1974, at 6 weeks old. My scar is now about 5 inches long, a cm wide and has 4 ‘stitch’ marks down either side. It sits off centre to my right side, vertically. And without a doubt it is attached to my abdomen at the bottom of the scar! My mum said it was just about two inches long when first done.
Throughout childhood I complained that my ‘scar’ hurt and this was dismissed by the GP as part of growing! At 18 I had my first pregnancy, and had a dip in my stomach as it swelled, with a feeling I can only compare to being jabbed with a pin. It wasn’t so bad with my second child a year later, although the dip was there as stomach grew. I had my third and last pregnancy at 33 years old, and my last baby was bigger than first two.
I collapsed with severe pain in my middle of right side 2½ years ago, and initially was diagnosed with kidney stones, but the urologist did not think the stones were big enough to cause the pain I was in. (They were smaller than grain of rice.) I am now awaiting an endoscopy with a gastroenterologist to see if I may have adhesions.
My scar is definitely pulling upwards towards my right ribs and I am rather unhappy that I have had to suffer for this long to get any answers! I have been back and forwards between the specialists 4 times now as neither would pin-point pain, but if I were able to ‘operate’ on myself, I am convinced I could put my finger exactly where my pain is! The pain is at best mild, but can get worse, usually 30-45 mins after eating. It is constant, but I have learnt to recognise, offset and control it with painkillers.
I have been lucky that none of my children inherited the pyloric stenosis. I am convinced that my life time of constant stomach problems, cramps, constipation, stabbing pains, nausea, etc etc has been a result of this condition, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone! Good luck to you all on getting it sorted, and insist on help if your child continues to suffer. (– Kaz)
Could I pass on my PS to my baby?
This is indeed quite possible, and because of the quirkiness of genetics a mother who has a PS history is more likely to have a Py-baby than a father. It is well-known that 4-5 boys have PS to every girl with it, but part of this means that those girls who do have it carry stronger PS-carrying genes. Not nice…
The risk is unpredictable, as infant PS is “multi-factorial” and can be caused by non-genetic factors – labelled “environmental” in the medical world, although PS is never caused by what most of us think of as “the environment”! A woman who belongs to a family tree with another (possible) case of PS is at higher risk than one with “one-of” PS. So the likelihood of a PS mother having a PS baby varies from almost nil to about 20% according to the several studies that are freely available online, and some few mothers have reported passing on their PS to most or all of their offspring – up to 4 children in a few cases I have on file!
The key thing to remember is: everyone (mother or father) who has had PS can and should be better prepared to give prompt and the best possible care for their new-born Py-baby!
This is how one website answered this question –
- Pyloric stenosis is the most common infant surgery in the United States after circumcision.
- Pyloric stenosis reports in the United States have shown as few as 1 case per 3,000-4,000 live births to as many as 8.2-12 cases per 1,000 live births.
- In general, pyloric stenosis affects approximately three out of every 1,000 infants.
- If a child with pyloric stenosis is female:
the likelihood of having a future son with pyloric stenosis is one in five.
the likelihood of having a future daughter with pyloric stenosis is one in 14.
- If a child with pyloric stenosis is male:
the likelihood of having a future son with pyloric stenosis is one in 20.
the likelihood of having a future daughter with pyloric stenosis is one in 40-50.
Reliving the past – and the guilt and the trauma
Sadly you won’t find this information on the PS-pages of our hospitals’ and paediatricians’ websites …
But having followed what not a few new parents have reported on internet social forums such as BabyCenter, Facebook, MedHelp, Patient, and Reddit, it is abundantly clear that some who have PS in their story struggle with guilt and PTSD, although thankfully not in a life-threatening form. How many and how severely people are affected in this way is impossible to estimate, as this matter has not been given any academic or statistical study that I have seen.
The now adult Py-baby may find during pregnancy that they (father as well as mother) are painfully reliving their own past, fearful of passing their PS on to their new baby. It is now known that the fears and deep emotions that many parents of a PS baby experience and convey to their growing child in story and emotionally can affect the in many ways exciting months leading up to the birth of a new person. In times past, the traumatised parents would keep their story to themselves, which will often affect their child even more. Sensitive and wise openness is far preferable to the old-time “stiff upper lip”.
Several things will help –
While most couples awaiting parenthood have never heard of PS, those who “own” their PS story will be far, far, far better prepared. All infant surgery runs a high risk of a chain of unhappy events, including:
- the horror of an eagerly awaited newborn infant vomiting itself to death;
- insensitive, even haughty doctors who dismiss the fears and homework of new parents and draw out diagnosing their infant’s problem;
- the hazards of anesthesia and surgery, increased in the very young;
- post-operative complications and frustrations;
- worries about long-term effects, usually brushed off by doctors but well-founded despite this.
Having recognised and to some extent worked through most of the fears and uncertainties is a great bonus.
Parents with a PS history also need to face the possibility of misgivings and guilt feelings that won’t be justified and will be unproductive, but may be very real and therefore also need to be processed.
As well as the above reasons, PS survivor parents preparing for the birth of a baby may be stressed by the possibility of bringing another “imperfect and damaged person” into the world, and by memories of the utter powerlessness inevitably associated with submitting one’s long-awaited newborn to a medical team and their procedures.
But PS parents will also know better than other parents that despite the above, PS is recognised throughout the medical world as the least un-desirable of all the conditions of infancy that usually require surgery. The surgery by today’s standards in minor and routine, and almost always quickly effective. Any immediate after-effects will usually clear up within weeks or months, and any long-term after-effects (although usually not acknowledged) are manageable and never life-threatening.
The bottom line: I survived, and my baby will too!
Here follow four people’s observations on this subject area –
I am not so much nervous about labor as I am about being the best mother I can be and being the mother she needs. I have a lot going through my mind right now. My main concern is how horrible I will feel if she inherits pyloric stenosis from me. Because of it I had to have surgery at 3 weeks old, it caused me to be so weak from not enough nutrients that I no longer had the energy to cry. I am terrified of having to go through what my mom went through. I keep trying to tell myself that she will be fine and everything will work out, but I am still scared... (– Jessica)
I used to work on a children’s gastrointestinal ward in London and would often see this. It’s a small op as far as an adult is concerned, but for any mum and little quite major. Make sure any questions you have going round in your head now, you write down. Make sure you ask all you want to ask, don’t be afraid as no question is silly, and they would rather explain to you what’s happening than have you confused and worried. (– Rachel)
I almost died before I was even born. After my mother’s water broke and she was in labor for several hours, I had a bowel movement inside the womb – gross! – and the doctor said that was sign that I was in distress and not getting any oxygen so he performed an emergency C-section.
Then after I was fed for the first time I vomited it right back up. And I kept vomiting after every feeding. I was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis… So I had to have surgery when I was just a few days old.
So my parents almost lost me twice before I was even a week old, and it’s easy for me to see why they – my mother especially – became overprotective parents. And they passed that overprotectiveness on to me. Even though I don’t have or want kids of my own, whenever I’m around kids I’m hyperaware of what’s going on around them.
I grew up knowing about all of the horrible things that can happen to children – rape, kidnapping, murder, etc. And it wasn’t just “stranger danger either. ( – Holly)
I had the surgery as an infant and asked in my first pregnancy if my baby could have the same problem. I was basically laughed at so I never thought of it again. I was definitely agitated over that because I would have always watched out for it. It was hard just thinking about my baby having an IV/surgery and I really broke down when we got to the children’s part of the hospital and I saw the crib/bed. After that though I was fine. My DH and I held him for 2 days straight – we took shifts at night. The hospital was so thorough and made us feel like Jacob was in great hands. (– anon)
Recommended: my previous post on this subject – https://whatwewishwedknown.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/an-abdominal-scar-and-pregnancy/