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Why did this photo of a Caesarean section scar get shared by more than 14 million people?

Why did this photo of a Caesarean section scar get shared by more than 14 million people?

By Dr Ardeshir Bayat, an internationally recognised wound and scar expert and co-founder of Science of Skin

As someone who spends every working day looking at scars, I was very interested by the reaction to a black and white photograph of a Caesarean scar, which took the internet by storm.

I am sure many of you will have seen, if not heard, of the image, which featured a newborn baby lying curled up underneath his mother’s Caesarean scar. It was a textbook image of a scar (although, admittedly, a lot more artistic than the images I tend to come across in medical text books).

Since the image was posted by the photographer in August 2015, it has been shared more than 14 million times on social media. The responses to the image have been extreme with some people even claiming it had a pornographic connotation.

Why did a simple image of something as commonplace as a Caesarean scar cause such a controversial reaction?

On her own blog, the photographer, Helen Carmina, expressed her thoughts on the subject.

She wrote: ‘What I have realised is it is less about the picture and more about what it represents: an outlet for people to come together and open up about their experiences, good and bad, and the way these experiences have scarred them both physically and emotionally.’

Scars affect people in many different ways but they can often cause anxiety, particularly if they are very visible or difficult to hide. Some people, like the mother in the image, embrace their scars and see them as “battle wounds” that remind them of a particular experience or period in their life. However, for many, this is not the case and they prefer to hide them or try to make them less obvious. Certainly, the quality of life can be significantly affected by the presence of a scar and that response is entirely variable in individuals of different age, gender and background (see my previous publication on this topic below).

This is one of the reasons why we developed Solution for Scars, to help those people who want to lessen the appearance of a scar, which may not only be causing them pain but also emotional distress.

I am a clinician and a scientist and my work aims to help improve how the body heals itself after an injury or a surgical procedure, such as a Caesarean. Despite it being a relatively commonplace procedure, a Caesarean section can be regarded as a significant operation. I think the main reason this image was shared so many times is because it is still extremely rare to see an image of a Caesarean section scar in public as a social response to a physical blemish like a scar can have a variable psychological reaction and affect individuals differently and even for some such a scar may remain something of a taboo.

Photo: Copyright

1: Brown BC, McKenna SP, Solomon M, Wilburn J, McGrouther DA, Bayat A. The

patient-reported impact of scars measure: development and validation. Plast

Reconstr Surg. 2010 May;125(5):1439-49. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181d4fd89. PubMed

PMID: 20440163.

2: Brown BC, Moss TP, McGrouther DA, Bayat A. Skin scar preconceptions must be

challenged: importance of self-perception in skin scarring. J Plast Reconstr

Aesthet Surg. 2010 Jun;63(6):1022-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2009.03.019. Epub 2009

Jun 5. PubMed PMID: 19501559.

3: Brown BC, McKenna SP, Siddhi K, McGrouther DA, Bayat A. The hidden cost of

skin scars: quality of life after skin scarring. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg.

2008 Sep;61(9):1049-58. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2008.03.020. Epub 2008 Jul 9. PubMed

PMID: 18617450.


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