Pregnancy after having had infant surgery

In 1½ years of posting weekly about the effects of infant surgery, the blogs that attracted the greatest number of “visits” were about related subjects: adhesions from the surgery (highest) and adhesions and pregnancy (3rd).  Both are clearly “hot” topics.

Almost a year ago I wrote quite extensively about the possible effects of infant surgery on baby girls if they have a baby in later life.  Unsurprisingly, the strong interest in this subject was not reflected in the number of Comments on the post.  Your blogger here is not female nor a medical worker, making that understandable.  However, let me explain to the reader that my interest in blogging on infant surgery is purely and simply (a) to explore and document my own PTSD struggles resulting from my infant surgery for pyloric stenosis, and (b) to pass on to the blogosphere’s interested human population some of the many things I have learnt and benefited from my years of privately researching the human issues around infant surgery.

Here and now I want to give just a quick overview of what those women who have had infant surgery to their abdomen might expect during a pregnancy.  For more detail, click on the above link to my June 2011 post on this subject, or google for more information.

In summary, if you have had infant surgery on your abdomen and wonder whether and how this may affect your pregnancy, there is – (1) most likely, good news, (2) the possibility of some trouble ahead, and (3) good news even if you have some problems.

1                    It’s most likely that your infant surgery will have little effect on your pregnancy.

Judging by what people have posted on the internet, about 50% tell us they had no problems whatsoever from their scar or from adhesions under it.  It’s more than likely that those who have an uncomfortable time will go to the effort of writing about it, so we may conclude that the great majority regard it as “not an issue”.

It would be wonderful to have more than anecdotal evidence for this conclusion, but for what it’s worth, in 15 years of internet research, I have never come across a medical study on this.

I’d like to think that if considerable numbers of infant surgery patients went on to have difficulties carrying a baby, the medical world would recognise this and direct more research to improving its management.

A surgical scar takes up to three years for mature, but in that time becomes tougher and stronger than normal tissue, although also far less elastic.

2                    Some abdominal scars will cause pain or discomfort, especially during pregnancy.

This may range from itching and stabs of pain to feelings of internal pain, tearing and even some bleeding.  This may occur during any but the first months of the pregnancy.

Rubbing a soothing cream over the uncomfortable area always feels good, and massaging an old scar and adhesions under strain is helpful.  However, many of the often recommended creams (e.g. cocoa butter) are useless except as a lubricant, and some (such as Vitamin E cream) may be worse as they can cause a rash on stressed skin – as even I as a mere male have found – lol.

It should be realised that not only the scar we see is tough and inelastic: a surgical scar goes deeper than the incision that it repaired.  Almost all abdominal surgical scars come with adhesions, scar-like tissue that develops web-like between abdominal organs in the body’s attempt to heal collateral damage done by the surgery and even by the gases and air to which the wound was exposed.

Often these adhesions can be felt by the patient in later years but most cause little or no trouble.  However, like the outside skin of the abdomen they may object to the growing baby.

3                    Whether a mother-to-be has discomfort or not, it is virtually impossible that her scar will cause major difficulties.

The internet record shows that many women who have had infant abdominal surgery understandably wonder and worry about how their first pregnancy will be affected by their external and internal scarring.

It is very significant that on the web there is simply no mention of anybody having their scar rupture or herniate due to pregnancy, although this is possible.

Several women mention the scar of their incision line widening a bit, others found theirs became less indented, sharp and obvious, and others again have reported their pregnancy “exploded” their scar along with their abdominal skin, so that it became more like their striae or stretch marks.

Others have mentioned that during their pregnancy their scar and the indentation that often comes with belly scars almost disappeared as their abdomen was stretched.  But only then…

To those who have had abdominal surgery and then a pregnancy, I ask, Would you be game to tell us something of your experience here?  Either as a Comment, or you’re most welcome to email something to me that I can post here. If you’re really game, include a photo to post .

First-hand comments on posts such as this one will be highly appreciated by many of our readers, but may once again be elusive.  So a good selection of quotes from web forums may have to do.

In any case, in my next post I plan to pass on some of the comments women have posted elsewhere about this subject.

6 thoughts on “Pregnancy after having had infant surgery

  1. Briana

    I had to have 4 open heart surgeries due to a blood infection and had a pace maker inserted into my abdomen under the muscle on my right side, it was later removed but left a deep scar . I am now 35 weeks pregnant and the visible scarring is about 3 to 4 in higher on my abdomen than the scar tissue that is underneath the skin. It is unbearably painful at times and there is nothing that soothes it. It’s a deep stabbing shooting sore and somewhat burning sensation and I’m not sure if I can handle much more of it. My doctor tells me there is nothing to be done about it at this point so we will just have to see how things turn out in the future but for now I am in pain.

    1. Fred Vanderbom Post author

      I am so sorry to read about something of your difficult experience, Briana, during what should be an exciting (if also demanding) season of your life. But also, thank you for sharing this: it will help others to realize they are not alone. It sounds like adhesions were caused by the insertion and removal of the pacemaker and it is probably true that because the pain and stretching are not life-threatening there is nothing free of some risk that can be done. Would physiotherapy or massage help, if not immediately then for the future? I had minor adhesions under my scar which regular massage seems to have broken up. I do realize though that the damage you have suffered would be more major.

  2. Gemma

    I’ve had both heart surgery and ps both repaired as an infant. Whilst my scar from heart surgery causes me no problems during pregnancy or otherwise my ps scar is a different matter. During my first pregnancy (am now on my second) the scar tore and stretched causing discomfort and unsightly stretch marks. After my pregnancy during surgery to treat endometriosis I was diagnosed with multiple bowel adhesions. These cause me pain in day to day life but have proved to be agonising during this pregnancy (I’m only 22 weeks in!) various doctors and consultants are unsympathetic and I’m told its dead tissue so can’t be causing me pain (!!!??). I also seem to have developed a herniated belly button (probably due to the four laparoscopic surgeries I’ve had to treat my endo). All in all scar tissue, adhesions and pregnancy are not a good match in my experience.

    1. Fred Vanderbom Post author

      So sorry to hear your experience with this, Gemma. Sadly, the ps scar having formed adhesions to some of your abdomen’s key organs is giving you much grief. And as happens so often. the medical people make ignorant and/or dismissive comments: “dead tissue” – what a load of rubbish! It seems to be true that during pregnancy there is not much that can be done to deal effectively with the pain you are suffering, but why not then be open, honest and supportive about this this?
      Briana’s Comment above reminds us that the scarring from heart surgery can also include very troublesome adhesions, but it seems you have been spared this.
      A dear friend of mine is facing a second angioplasty but has been told that one of the vessels worked on last time is adhering to the scar, which must be re-opened. So a big risk of catastrophic damage there. His surgeon believes he can minimise this risk and my friend is willing to accept it for the net benefits. It may be that your baby will also be born at some cost to you, but I trust it will be worth it.
      After this pregnancy, would you consider trying to treat or have your adhesions treated? As I have written, there are various therapies available, including simply massage. However. not everybody is helped by this. and the more invasive treatments are risky of further grief. I understand that in the UK such work can be done under the NHS (if you trust the unknowns enough!).

  3. S Robinson

    I had a suspected twisted bowel at 18 months old. I’m now 28. Turned out it was appendicitis, I was left with a abdominal scar from below my breast to just below my belly button. I am currently pregnant with my second child. In my first pregnancy the scar stretched: it went from about 0.5cm across to about 2 cm across. However it did not hurt at all. Now I’m 30 weeks and in the last week I’ve been in agony. My scar has stretched further and it seems to have stretch marks coming off it. It hurts to bend, sit, walk. The only comfort I get is when I’m sat back on comfy sofa. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope with the next 10 weeks.

    1. Fred Vanderbom Post author

      The caring thoughts and best wishes of all the readers here will be with you. What you had so young would have been major surgery and left quite some damage and most likely also adhesions, we should imagine. From what you write your first pregnancy has strained the scar on the skin surface but probably also internally. It seems that this 2nd pregnancy has compounded this. At this stage, if you haven’t tried it and if it’s not too late in your pregnancy, some have found it helpful to massage the area regularly with bio-oil or a suitable cream, and (after your pregnancy) you could try kneading the scar region to loosen under the scar and also any adhesions. Ultrasound has also been used and may help, but from what I have read, what helps one is not always good for all.
      Best wishes – and let us know if you find something that helps!


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