C-sections are a common, routine surgery, and most of the time all we hear about is their result — a beautiful new baby. But sometimes life throws a curveball, and even the most routine surgeries can have dire, devastating results, or complications that feel like they've sprung from a horror movie or a nightmare. Imagine taking a shower after your C-section and suddenly, you feel your incision burst open and from that wound, your actual insides come out. Horrific thought, right? How is that possible? Can your intestines fall out after a C-section?
That is exactly what happened to a woman in the UK. Mel Bremner reported to Channel Mum that five days after the birth of her child, she was taking a shower and bent over to pick something up from the floor. At that time, she felt her incision burst open, and her intestines began spilling out, according to news reports. Bremner said that at the time she felt no pain, but upon the ambulance's arrival, she was immediately medicated with ample morphine and airlifted to the hospital where they could repair the damage and ultimately save her life.
An extremely graphic photo of the damage can be seen on the Channel Mum website, but be forewarned, I have a tough stomach, and it actually made me lightheaded.
This terrifying scenario sounds like a violent plot twist that someone like Stephen King or George R.R. Martin would write when they're feeling particularly evil. But no, this is apparently a real thing that can happen, and it's not just a twisted way to kill off a member of House Baratheon in a thousand-page fantasy novel.
I contacted Scott Chudnoff, MD, MSc, FACOG, the Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stamford Health in Stamford, Connecticut to ask him how something like this occurs, and if it even could. He tells Romper that this particular story is a rare complication called "wound dehiscence." According to Chudnoff, "When the abdomen is closed after any surgical procedure, there are several layers which are closed and theoretically any of those layers may open up." You know, like your C-section incision.
"If just the skin opens, this is referred to as a skin separation. If the fascia layer opens, this is referred to as a wound dehiscence," he adds. Fascia is the web soft tissue that lies just beneath your skin that provides structural integrity and protects the muscle and organs beneath it, as per StatPearls.
Chudnoff says that sometimes the skin will remain intact and only the fascia layer opens, causing bulging of tissue through that layer known as a hernia. However, it is possible — although rare — for all layers to open as it did for Bremner.
As per the World Surgical Journal, this terrifying complication has a mortality rate of up to 45 percent, which is why doctors go to such great lengths to avoid such a result. Dr. Wayne Furr MD FACOG, of Lone Tree OB-GYN Associates tells Romper that this particular type of dehiscence Bremner experienced is called "evisceration" and that it is "when bowel contents come out through an abdominal incision that has broken open." He says that OB-GYNs are extremely meticulous in how they close your incision to prevent this, but that "sometimes that fascial layer is naturally weakened by chronic illness and poor health that can be associated with poor wound healing." According to Furr, some of these risk factors are things like "diabetes, poor diet, cancer, cigarette smoking, and obesity. These types of illnesses predispose to wound breakdown and dehiscence, even if strong suture is used to close."
It's important to note that this is one of the worst possible complications of C-sections, and we don't hear about it because it happens so infrequently. Dr. Angela Jones, OB-GYN and Astroglide’s resident sexual health advisor, tells Romper that after you have a C-section, the best way to prevent such an injury is to listen to your physician, take care of your wound, and avoid lifting anything too heavy or moving too much before you're allowed. You should also try to avoid becoming constipated as the pushing that results can cause undue stress to the wound. And maybe, don't look at that picture of the intestines. I know I regret it.