An episiotomy, a surgical cut in the perineum – the muscular area between the vagina and the anus – done to create sufficient vaginal opening for baby’s passage, is one of the several rigours often experienced by a lot of mums during childbirth.
To enable the subsequent stitches heal as soon as possible and keep the discomfort to the barest minimum, see top things you should do…
*While taking a bath or shower daily, wash your stitches gently with soap and warm water.
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*Ask your doctor about sitz baths (sitting in a bathtub and covering the buttocks up to the hips in water for 20 minutes). Use cool water for the first few days, then warm water afterwards. Squeeze the cheeks of your bottom together when you sit to avoid pulling painfully on the stitches.
Doing this will help reduce pain, swelling and bruising, making for quicker healing.
*Use a squirt bottle with warm water to clean the area whenever you use the toilet and pat dry with a clean washcloth. You may also pour warm water over your vagina while urinating to curb the usual stinging or burning sensation that may make you want to scratch.
Wipe from front to back after bowel movements to prevent transferring bacteria from your anus to the cut or its surroundings.
*Place a clean pad around the cut and press gently as you poo to help relieve pressure on the cut.
*Change your sanitary pad regularly and ensure you wash your hands before and after to prevent infection.
*Try to expose your stitches to fresh air frequently as this also aids healing and minimizes the urge to scratch. You may take your underwear off for 10 minutes twice a day or more and lie on your bed, putting a clean towel under you to avoid staining your bed spread.
Wear loose clothing always to ensure proper air circulation to the area.
*Place ice packs wrapped in a clean towel on your stitches for 10 – 20 minutes to reduce pain and swelling. You may repeat every two hours.
*To reduce pain and pressure on your wound, place a doughnut-shaped cushion beneath you while sitting or squeeze your buttocks together.
*Do Kegel exercises regularly by tightening and then relaxing your vaginal muscles (see more here). This improves circulation to the perineum, facilitates healing and curbs leaking from the bladder or bowel.
Walking may also boost blood circulation in your perineum and foster speedy healing.
*Drink lots of water and eat fibre-rich foods daily. This will help prevent constipation, so you can have easier bowel movements without straining your stitches. In addition, if you experience constipation, ask your doctor about taking laxatives.
*Talk to your doctor about taking an anti-inflammatory drug to help with the pain and swelling.
Depending on the size of your cut and other factors, healing should take place between two to four weeks postpartum, and you should stop experiencing any pain after 2 months.
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Meanwhile, you should see your doctor if you experience pain around your perineum, discharge large blood clots, your stitches become more painful or smelly – this may be a sign you have an infection, or your sanitary pad is always soaked with lochia or blood.
Discuss other symptoms you’re worried about to get prompt help.