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How Many Stitches Are Required for a C-Section (Cesarean Birth)?

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Here’s everything to know about a c-section birth like why they happen, how many stitches are required for a c-section, and postpartum care tips!

If you’re a first time mom, you probably don’t know what to expect during labor. And that’s especially true for a c-section birth!

This post covers everything you need to know about a cesarean section including why they happen, how they work, and the required number of stitches.

It’s normal to be nervous about birth. But these insights and tips will help you feel confident about the end of your pregnancy journey.

Whether a c-section is your preferred method for birth or a suggestion from your doctor, this is the best information to help you prepare and recover!

What causes a c-section birth?

A mother with a blue hair net nestles her baby's head after c-section.

Before we detail how many stitches are required for a c-section, let’s dive into some specifics about what causes a c-section birth and how the procedure works.

Over 30% of births in the US are c-section deliveries. And some women prefer a cesarean delivery.

Others may require a c-section birth due to pregnancy complications, concerns about the baby’s health, or an abnormally large baby.

Common Reasons for a Planned C-Section

  • Previous c-section. It’s possible to have a vaginal birth after a prior c-section, but the risks of complications are higher. It also increases the risk of having an emergency c-section. Because of that, your doctor may suggest a planned c-section birth.
  • Multiples pregnancy. Pregnant women with two or more babies may require a planned c-section.
  • Placenta previa. This is a condition where the placenta blocks the birth canal.
  • Baby’s position. If the baby is transverse (sideways) or in breech presentation (feet first).
  • Baby’s size. The baby’s head or body is too large to fit through the birth canal.

Reasons for an Emergency C-Section

Women may also experience an emergency c-section if a vaginal birth becomes too dangerous. Any abnormal distress for the mother or baby may trigger the need for a cesarean birth.

For example, your doctor may opt for a c-section to avoid blood pressure and heart rate problems. This may happen if labor doesn’t progress normally.

Two common causes are contractions that aren’t productive or a birth canal that’s too narrow.

Other reasons for an emergency c-section:

  • Cord compression. When the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s head, body, or wedges between the baby’s head and the mother’s pelvis.
  • Prolapsed cord. The cord comes out of the cervix before the baby.
  • Abruptio placentae. The placenta detaches from the uterine wall.

What happens during a c-section?

Nurses pull a newborn baby from its mothers womb during a c-section delivery.

Fortunately, most c-sections are a quick operation: just 10 minutes to remove the baby and another 30 minutes to stitch everything back up. Here’s how c-sections routinely play out:


Before the operation, an anesthesiologist will inject the mother with numbing medication from the breast bone down.

You may be numbed with a spinal block or epidural anethesia.

For a spinal block, the medication goes into the dural sac (this is the tube that contains the spinal cord, nerves, and cerebrospinal fluid).

And for an epidural, the medicine goes into the epidural space (the space around the spinal cord).

A spinal block provides immediate relief because there’s direct access to the spinal cord. And, this is the preferred option for planned cesarean sections.

On the other hand, epidurals are most often used for c-sections that occur after labor has already started.

NOTE: Doctors usually avoid general anesthesia (when the mother is put to sleep) because there’s a greater risk to the baby.

During the Operation

After numbing, the doctor will wheel you to the operating room for the surgical procedure. You may need to have your abdomen shaved. The operating room staff will then wash your stomach with an antiseptic solution, place sterile drapes over the area, and insert a catheter into your bladder.

There will also be a short screen placed between your face and your abdomen. This is so you don’t have to see the operation and to keep the area sterile.

Your doctor will then make an incision in both the abdomen and uterus to birth the baby.

Two kinds of incisions may be used: a vertical incision or a horizontal incision.

A vertical incision is from the belly button to just above the pubic bone (classic cut). A horizontal incision is a side-to-side cut on the bikini line (bikini cut).

Most women prefer a horizontal abdominal incision because it’s far less painful and more discrete. However, if your c-section is an emergency, your doctor may opt for a vertical incision to get the baby out quicker.

Once the doctor makes the incisions, they’ll cut the umbilical cord, remove the placenta, and the baby is born. Since your view will be blocked by the screen, don’t forget to have the doctor raise the baby so you can see them!

They’ll then begin the stitching process to close up the uterus and abdomen. In the meantime, nurses attend to the baby (cleaning, weighing, etc.).

You may be able to hold your baby with the assistance of a nurse when the baby is ready.


After the operation, you’ll return to your recovery room. There, you’ll be able to bond with your baby skin to skin. And you may start working toward breastfeeding if desired.

If so, you’ll likely need extra support for breastfeeding because your abdomen will be particularly tender. So pay attention to any breastfeeding tips from your lactation consultant if available.

Otherwise, you can educate yourself with helpful breastfeeding resources.

And you should also arm yourself with breastfeeding essentials like a nursing pillow and nipple creams to make the healing process more comfortable.

RELATED: Lochia: How long does postpartum bleeding last?

How many stitches are required for a c-section?

Woman places fingers on each side of the scar left from the stitches required from c-section.

There are no fixed amount of stitches for a c-section incision because there are usually too many factors that come into play.

The number of c-section stitches required depends on the type of incision (horizontal or vertical), the doctor’s preferred technique, and the baby and woman’s size.

It could be as many as 13 packs and as few as 3, it really just depends.

But, thankfully, you won’t see most of the stitches because the majority are internal.

Types of C-Section Stitches

Doctors typically use 2 types of stitches to close c-section incisions. One kind for the uterus, and another kind for the abdomen.

The doctor will close the uterus incision with dissolvable stitches. And the abdominal incision is closed with one of the following options:

  • Surgical staples
  • Non-dissolvable stitches
  • Surgical glue

However, the cosmetic results are essentially the same.

The internal absorbable sutures will dissolve and heal on their own. If you have staples or stitches, they’ll need to be removed in the doctor’s office, usually a week later. The glue will gradually peel off as the wound heals.

If you have a preference for either closure, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

A vertical incision may be larger and more noticeable than a horizontal incision. And it may require more stitches. On average, c-section scars are 4-6 inches long.

Postpartum Care and Recovery

Regardless of how many stitches were required for your c-section, you’ll need to practice extra care during your postpartum recovery.

C-sections are a major surgery so your body will need time to properly mend.

It’s important to protect your c-section scar while it heals and keep it away from direct water and abrasion. And follow all of your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Here’s a list of things you should not do after giving birth:

  • Don’t take a regular bath or go swimming. You should avoid submerging your body in water. And don’t get into untreated water or water with chemicals and scented soaps. This can cause irritation and/or infection.
  • Refrain from sexual intercourse until your 6-week postpartum appointment and approval from your doctor.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise or physical activity. This can disrupt or reopen your c-section wounds. It may also cause injury to your incisions and other parts of the body.
  • Don’t use tampons. Your body still has open wounds internally. Because of that, tampons can introduce bacteria and cause severe infection.
  • Avoid straining while going to the bathroom. Straining can pop your stitches or reopen your healing wounds. Instead, use stool softeners, drink prune juice and lots of water.
  • Don’t hold your pee. This can cause strain on the bladder and increase the risk of infection in the bladder and urinary tract.

You should:

  • Gently clean your incision daily. Allow water and soap to run over the incision as you shower. Or, gently clean the wound with a soft towel.
  • Wear loose clothing to avoid abrasion and compression.
  • Use heat. Heating pads can help soothe soreness. Try using a heating pad in 15-minute intervals on your abdomen as needed.
  • Use doctor-approved medication for pain relief.

Your abdominal muscles in the lower abdomen will also be very weak after your surgery. And you may also experience ab separation (diastasis recti).

There’s a lot of strain on the abdominal cavity throughout pregnancy. And there’s more strain during the c-section procedure. Because of that, you won’t be able to resume household chores for several weeks.

Doctor’s caution against, bending, kneeling, or even pushing a vacuum during this time. Because of that, you’ll need to rely on your partner or others to help with tasks you may normally do.

RELATED: Is it too late to wear a postpartum girdle?

After Your 6 Week Appointment

Regardless of the birthing method, each pregnant woman should meet with her healthcare provider at 6 weeks postpartum. This visit is to ensure proper healing and transition into motherhood.

At this time, your doctor may give you the go-ahead to resume exercise, intercourse, and other activities.

And, you should be in much better shape than those first few days and weeks after labor and delivery.

However, you may still have some recovery to do. Several postpartum body changes often take longer to resolve.

These may include:

Continue to work with your doctor or a therapist to overcome any remaining postpartum concerns you may have.

And, remember to be patient with yourself!

Some things may never get back to exactly how they were pre-pregnancy. And that’s okay and completely normal!

RELATED: How do I tighten my stomach after having a baby?

When to Be Concerned

Woman hunches over and presses her hands to her stomach while experiencing abdominal pain.

Surgical incisions always pose the risk of infection if not cared for properly.

So now that we’ve discussed the stitches required for a c-section and tips for postpartum care, here are some dangers to look out for:

  • Swelling or redness around the incision
  • Discharge/puss from the incision
  • Fever
  • Extreme/worsening pain

If you have a fever or notice puss, always reach out to your doctor right away. These are major signs of infection that shouldn’t be ignored.

RELATED: What’s Going On If Postpartum Bleeding Stopped Then Started Again?


How many layers get stitches in a C-section?

A c-section requires two incisions, one in the abdomen and one in the uterus. Six layers of abdominal wall and uterus are opened during the procedure. The doctor will close both the uterus and abdomen with a double layer of stitches.

How many types of stitches are used in cesarean delivery?

2 types of stitches are used for cesarean delivery. One kind for the uterus, and another kind for the abdomen.

The doctor will close the uterus incision with dissolvable stitches. And the abdominal incision is closed with one of the following options:

– Staples
– Non-dissolvable stitches
– Surgical glue

Are there stitches inside after a c-section?

Yes. Both the abdomen and uterus receive incisions to birth the baby. So there will be stitches inside on the uterus once the baby is born.

The uterus is closed with dissolvable stitches that will gradually break down and disappear as the body heals.

How much time does C-section stitches take to heal?

Stitches in the outer incision (the woman’s abdomen) heal in 5-10 days. Internal stitches (in the uterus) take longer to heal. These typically heal in about 12 weeks.

Can a c-section scar reopen after years?

It’s possible, but highly unlikely for a c-section scar to reopen years later. However, it can happen in the course of subsequent vaginal delivery, from heavy strain in the area, or from another surgery.

The Bottom Line

Mom leans over and kisses her newborn baby lying on a bed.

Here’s the bottom line on the number of stitches required for a c-section:

  • There is no set number of stitches required for a cesarean birth.
  • The type of incision (vertical or horizontal), the doctor’s preference, and the mother and baby’s size determine the number of stitches.
  • You should use extra care and precaution during recovery to avoid infection.
  • Reach out to your doctor right away if you notice any signs of infection.

Want More?

If this post on c-section stitches was helpful, be sure to check out:

Your Turn

Did I answer all your questions about how many stitches are required for a c-section? Let me know in the comments!

Pinterest graphic with text and woman touching scar from the stitches required after c-section.