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What is a Bikini Cut?

By R. Anacan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A bikini cut is a method of incision used in abdominal surgeries. For many years doctors commonly used what is often known as a classical incision for abdominal surgeries. However the bikini incision has grown in popularity and more patients are now opting for it. The bikini incision is also referred to as the Pfannenstiel incision, after Hermann Johann Pfannenstiel, who introduced this type of incision in the early 1900s.

A classical, or classic, abdominal incision is a vertical incision made from the navel to the top of the bikini line. One of the main disadvantages of the classic surgical incision is that a portion of the incision scar is often visible when a bikini bottom is worn. A bikini cut is a horizontal incision that is made from one side of the abdomen to the other, right above the pubic hair line. The location of the bikini incision enables the patient to hide the incision scar when wearing a bikini bottom, hence the name.

Abdominal surgeries and procedures that may utilize the bikini cut incision include hysterectomies, cesarean sections, tubal ligations, tubal ligation reversals, appendectomies and the removal of ovarian cysts and fibroids. For most of these procedures the advantage of the bikini cut is that it generally leaves a smaller and less noticeable incision scar and typically causes less pain after surgery. The bikini incision also frequently contributes to a lower rate of hernia formation and a faster recovery time over abdominal surgeries utilizing a classical incision.

The major disadvantage of the bikini cut is that the location of the incision makes it more difficult to view or to access the upper abdominal area during surgery. The upper abdominal location of the classical incision provides a surgeon with more room to maneuver and operate during abdominal surgery. Another advantage of a classical incision is that it enables a quicker delivery time during a cesarean section.

In addition to a less visible scar, a major advantage of using a bikini cut incision is that it may allow a mother the possibility of a vaginal birth for a subsequent pregnancy after a cesarean birth. A vaginal birth after a cesarean is typically not possible when a classic incision is used due to the threat of scar tissue from the incision tearing and reopening during delivery. Therefore mothers who undergo a cesarean section utilizing a classic incision will generally need a cesarean section for all subsequent births.

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Discussion Comments

By chrisinbama — On Aug 03, 2011

I don't know who to comment to because I feel what everyone is saying. So, I guess this is to all!

I had an appendectomy in 1986. Of course, the bikini cut was not very popular at that time. I don't even know if you could have a bikini cut back then. Since then, I have had 4 C-Sections that were bikini cut and 1 hysterectomy.

Now, I cannot tighten my abdominal muscles up. I have tried crunches and many other types of abdominal exercises but that skin seems dead. It is just like a flab of skin. My doctor told me that it is from me having so many abdominal surgeries and that probably a tummy tuck would be the only thing to get rid of that extra skin.

Right around the area where I had the bikini cuts, the skin is so loose. It is really embarrassing and I hope to one day have the tummy tuck. However, I am grateful to have the bikini cuts because all of the scars are in the same place.

By SarahSon — On Aug 03, 2011

I had an emergency appendectomy many years ago, and have an incision from my belly button going down several inches. At the time this happened, most abdominal surgeries had this type of cut and the bikini cut was not widely used.

I am thankful that this surgery was done as my appendix had ruptured and this saved my life, but I wish they had done a bikini cut when they made this incision.

The scar is long and ugly and I have not worn anything that shows this scar since I had the surgery.

By honeybees — On Aug 02, 2011

I have had three abdominal surgeries and the second and third ones were a bikini cut. When I had my first child, I was planning on a regular delivery, but after several hours of labor, I had to have a cesarean section.

I was not given a choice in what type of incision they would make, I was just ready to have this baby and get it over with. I was told later that they usually make a bikini cut with this type of surgery, and the rest of my children would probably be born by cesarean section.

Both of my kids were born this way, but the worst thing for me is that I have quite a bit of scar tissue where the incision was. Even though it is down low and is not as unsightly as my other abdominal incision, there is still quite a bit of scar tissue. This would have happened no matter what type of incision was made, so I am glad that I had the bikini cut.

By ElizaBennett — On Aug 02, 2011

@SailorJerry - Don't worry too much. Ultrasounds are notoriously inaccurate at revealing a baby's size--they can be off by several pounds. And even large baby can often be delivered vaginally.

If having a vaginal birth is important to your wife and you, you might want to practice some alternate laboring positions, like hands and knees, squatting, or bouncing on a birth ball. Changing positions can change the shape of the pelvis so that a bigger baby can fit through.

You might also consider hiring a doula if you haven't already. These birth professionals provide emotional support and practical suggestions for laboring and they've been shown to reduce the rate of cesarean section.

But no, a bikini cut doesn't leave a large scar. I had a scheduled section myself (placenta previa) and it healed beautifully. I did have a lot of trouble getting in and out of bed the first week or so; I needed someone to hold the baby for me while I got up. It was months before I was able to wear bikini cut underwear because the area does stay tender. (But don't worry--if your wife needs a section, you'll have plenty of time to run out and buy "granny panties" if they're needed.)

Good luck with the baby! I hope everything goes smoothly.

By SailorJerry — On Aug 01, 2011

My wife's doctor has told her that our baby seems to be very large and that a C-section might be necessary. I'm assuming he would be able to use the bikini incision. Will she have an ugly scar if so? Will it be very painful for her? I want to be prepared for this possibility so that I know how to take care of her.

By anon57339 — On Dec 22, 2009

thank you for this information. It is greatly appreciated.

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