I am not sure exactly when it happened. But somewhere between getting pregnant with my firstborn and then having her, my nose developed a heightened sense of smell. It just stuck with me, something I have to this day.
That’s great when I’m sitting on our deck overlooking the mountains with a glass of exceptional wine. I can sniff out the exact notes. It’s a little less great when I’m running errands and I’m trying to resist the bakery that smells like what I suppose heaven smells like.
And it’s a downright curse when I walk past a dumpster. Oh, the trauma!
In the most popular books about pregnancy, it talks about the potential for a heightened sense of smell. But some studies contradict this. Still, I know what I’ve experienced. Perhaps it’s just being more in tune with my body now that I’m a mom.
Anyway, while I did not personally notice my c-section incision smelled bad, I did notice the distinct shifts in my vaginal secretions and those odors. I felt like everyone could smell them. But they can’t. There’s the good news there.
So, what do you do when your c-section flap smells? And more importantly, is it normal for your c-section scar to smell?
Normal vs. Abnormal
I’m not going to sugarcoat this…it’s NOT normal for your c-section incision to smell bad. Some of you may notice a weird odor where your c-section incision smells like the belly button. Others of you may notice a strange, foul odor like fish. Whatever it smells like, there’s no reason to worry just yet.
First, you should take a look at your c-section incision. If it looks normal, meaning it’s not red or oozing, it’s likely a case of needing to cleanse the area or change your wound dressing. So try that first. In most cases, that should clear the air, pardon the pun.
Wondering why your c-section incision is leaking and smells? Well, I’ve got some unpleasant news…it’s likely infected.
How to Know if Your C-Section Incision is Infected?
According to Medical News Today, c-section infections are relatively common and are estimated to occur in 2 to 15% of c-sections. It’s good to keep an eye on your incision and know what you should call your doctor about. Some swelling, pain, and redness around the incision are normal.
Signs of infection, though, involve an abnormal amount of swelling and pain at the wound site, abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain or swollen legs, and abdominal discomfort combined with fever-like symptoms. Sometimes a clear fluid may leak out of the wound too.
Also, don’t bother to call your doctor if you ever find holes in that incision area.
If you have a temperature over 100.4°F, headache, chills, sweating, dehydration, fatigue, and muscle aches, you must seek medical assistance immediately. Fortunately, antibiotics can help quell any infection. Your doctor will be able to help you clear the infection quickly.
What You Can Do to Avoid C-Section Infections
If you haven’t had your c-section yet, this might all sound really scary. You can do a few things to help prevent infection even before your delivery. Obesity is one of the most common factors for c-section incision infections, so keeping your weight healthy is ideal.
The same goes for your blood sugar levels. And I hope I don’t need to tell you this, but don’t smoke! That’s another factor before the c-section happens that can increase your chances of infection.
Sometimes, those infections can happen even when you’re healthy and doing all the right things. Bacteria can get in there and make for an unpleasant experience. Most doctors say Staphylococcus aureus is the most common, though there are others, and thankfully, all of them can be wiped out with antibiotics.
Factors beyond your control could make you more prone to having a c-section incision infection that emits a foul odor. If you live in a rural location, have twins, endure more prolonged labor, have more vaginal inspections, or have suffered recurrent pregnancy loss, you should ask your doctor about your risks and what his or her plan is to help you for your peace of mind.
Preventing C-Section Incision Odors and Infections
After your c-section, there are things you can do to help heal your wound and keep it healthy. You shouldn’t do some things, like go for a swim, get into the hot tub, or even take a bath. Your doctor will likely clear you to do those things in 6 to 8 weeks post-surgery.
If you want to avoid any foul odors coming from your c-section and prevent infection, make sure you:
- Wash your wound daily with soap and warm water. Pat it dry too!
- Keep it covered properly and follow your doctor’s orders for how long to do it.
- Stick to taking all prescribed medications even if you’re feeling better.
- Choose comfortable clothes that don’t give you a tight fit.
One Last Thing
It’s not all that common, but some moms experience c-section incision smells even years later. If you have a c-section incision flap, something fungal is likely going on. This tends to happen more to overweight people because the skin traps things like germs and sweat.
While it takes time to lose weight after having a baby, if you’re obese, please ensure you’re taking care of yourself and checking the area frequently. You don’t want to wind up with something like this. And if you do, call your doctor immediately.
Basically, smells coming from your c-section incision aren’t normal. If nothing looks infected, try washing the area and changing the dressing. You may even be picking up unpleasant odors from your vagina. But if you see something that looks and smells wrong, call your doctor to get it cleared up fast!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.