How much pain a woman feels after cesarean delivery may depend on the length of the incision, a new study suggests.
Researchers assessed pain in nearly 700 women who gave birth via elective C-sections. Both short and long surgical incisions were linked to greater pain.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that the ideal length of a C-section incision is between roughly 4.5 and 6.5 inches. They said shorter and longer incisions should be avoided when possible.
Women in the study were followed for up to 12 months. Those with short incisions were more likely to report higher pain scores immediately after delivery, which likely indicates intense tissue stretching during delivery, the researchers said.
Women with long incisions were also more likely to report higher pain scores, including increased sensitivity to pain around the surgical incision.
“To our knowledge, this ‘Goldilocks effect’ of surgical incision length on pain outcomes has not been previously reported,” said lead researcher Dr. Ruth Landau. She directs the Center for Precision Medicine in Anesthesiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
Landau recommended further investigation to unravel the effects of short-term tissue stretch and increased tissue trauma on short-term and long-term post-cesarean pain.
“We were surprised to find tremendous variability in surgical incision length,” Landau said in a news release from the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Incisions ranged in length from 3.5 inches to 9 inches, perhaps reflecting a surgeon’s preference or a mother’s body characteristics, she noted.
The study was to be presented Saturday at the anesthesiologists society’s annual meeting, in Boston. Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The March of Dimes has more on cesarean sections.