Staples Vs. Sutures: Does it Matter?

By Katie Roebuck

October 7, 2019

I am the mother of two children, an RN, Prenatal Educator, Lactation Counsellor, and Sleep Coach. My nursing career has been focused on Maternity and Obstetrics. I am based in the Niagara Region and I enjoy helping moms reach their goals with pregnancy and motherhood!

Talking about cesarean sections can be a bit scary for some. It’s considered major abdominal surgery and ends up as a longer recovery for mama. And as you may have guessed, you’ll end up with a good-sized scar afterwards. 

A little bit about cesareans before we get started 

The doctors cut through multiple layers starting at your skin to access your uterus, and then open your uterus to bring your baby earthside. They then use dissolvable sutures to close each layer back up again. The only difference you’ll notice after a cesarean is on the skin, where sutures or staples are used. Because you need to be 10 centimetres dilated to birth your baby vaginally, most cesarean incisions are about 10 centimetres long and are typically done just above your pubic hairline. 

I’m a c-section mama twice over. My first birth was an emergency cesarean, my second was scheduled. And I have had both methods of skin closure done.

Staples

Staples are staples, similar to what you use on paper, but they are sterile and placed with a small handheld stapler to hold the sides of your skin incision together to allow it to heal. 

Sutures

Sutures mean the physician will stitch the skin closed with sutures, like sewing two pieces of fabric together. Most of the time they are “invisible” stitches meaning you actually won’t see any of the suture material in your incision.

Staples need to be removed on Day 5 after a Cesarean section. Because most moms are discharged from the hospital on day 2-3, it means an additional visit to your doctor or public health clinic to have the staples removed. Removing the staples doesn’t hurt, it just pinches a bit. You can take some Tylenol or Advil beforehand to ease the discomfort.

Sutures typically dissolve on their own within a week, so one advantage is it does not require an additional doctor visit to remove them. 

Do They Heal The Same?

Cosmetically, staples and sutures heal the same. My scar is the same, and staples vs sutures made no difference in my overall recovery. However, a couple of published studies have shown that having staples to close your incision may increase the risk of incision complications (infection or re-opening) compared to sutures. 

Some physicians prefer one method over the other, so always ask if you require a cesarean section on how the skin will be closed. 

How to Help With The Healing Process

One of the best tips to help promote healing, regardless of how your skin was closed after a cesarean, is to keep the incision clean and dry and check on it daily. If you’re rocking the mummy tummy, lift the skin to pat it dry after a shower, or use a hairdryer on a low setting. Wear high waisted underwear and pants while your incision heals to prevent rubbing and irritation.

If you have any concerns about your healing, notice pain, redness, swelling, or anything abnormal, speak to your OB or midwife and schedule an appointment. 

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