Childbirth is a beautiful, awful thing. It is both gross and lovely, a test of endurance and will, and a universal feminine experience. However, the days and weeks that follow in the site of the awful, beautiful thing are not feeling lovely or happy for a time. Personally, my first birth was not terribly complicated and I had a vaginal birth, that ended with getting an episiotomy which then tore even further. (Having an 8 pounder as a first baby when you are petite can do some damage!)
Afterwards, I developed a fever as my stitches became infected due to an allergy to the suturing material. This resulted in stitches ripping out and my being readmitted to the hospital. So I have strong feelings about sharing any help I can with women who have trouble healing down there after giving birth. By the way, my two subsequent births were quick and easy healing processes, especially compared to my first.
Understanding what is normal is an important thing before you leave the hospital. Have a clear set of instructions of what warrants a call to the doctor, and what necessitates an ER visit post-birth. You don't want to be figuring that all out while feeling terrible and not on top of things. Get instructions in writing, as well, and keep those in a safe and easy to find place.
15 Take It Easy
Having a baby doesn't earn you a medal of bravery or a purple heart, that's true. But it is at least equivalent to running a marathon, and if you are not an athlete at that level, you will be drained. You also passed a person through your private parts, so necessarily things need time to get back to normal. This takes more than the ride home from the birth center, in case you didn't know. How long will it take to feel like yourself again depends on whether it is a vaginal or surgical birth, and how easily (or not) the birth went. If you had a birth that dragged on for two days and you pushed for four hours, you'll need longer. If you required interventions, you'll need more time, too. Rest up and let things go. The laundry will be there later, and so will all the other vital things. If people offer help, take it!
14 Sitz Baths
I remember hearing my mom talk about sitz baths, but thought it was some old wives thingy. Boy, was I wrong! A sitz bath at the hospital can be a welcome, soothing help and will be sort of like a mini-whirlpool tub for your entire bottom region. I was unable to use it after my first child as I could not sit down directly onto my bottom for at least 8 weeks! However, for the other two births, I definitely utilized the hospital sitz baths. When I returned home I simply sat in warm water with Epsom salts for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day until I was healed up "down there." Some people use a small pan that fits atop the toilet, and then the contents are dumped and flushed once the water ceases to be warm. Some special sitz bath recipes include things like Epsom salts, witch hazel, olive oil and baking soda, as well as some essential oils such as lavender or chamomile.
13 Spray Pain Away
One big help to moms once they are home from the hospital after birth is analgesic spray, such as Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray. I was given this in the hospital, and also given an additional can to take home. I ended up buying another can myself, it was so helpful. The spray comes in handy after toileting, to spray the affected area. It is a cold, numbing spray that can bring prompt relief! Other versions include Epifoam, which is more frothy rather than an aerosol, and it may work best to spray it into your pad. It contains pramoxine, another analgesic. The upside of the spray is that it isn't a swallowed pain pill, so you don't worry about breastmilk being affected, and it gives immediate relief. Have a few of these on hand; you'll be glad you were prepared!
12 Tucks--Not Just For Hemorrhoids
Sometimes the simplest remedies are some of the best and such is the case with hemorrhoid pads. These pads, such as Tucks, are wet little cotton pads you can easily fold up and put on your pad inside your panty crotch area. They are usually filled with witch hazel and are disposable. I would recommend using at least a few at a time, and change them out when you go to the bathroom, as they are likely to lose their cooling, comforting feeling and they are also likely to be mussed with bloody discharge during healing time. There are many different brands to choose from, but they are marketed as hemorrhoid pads. Don't worry; they are perfect for helping heal down there. Keep a good supply of these on hand, as they are ideal cooling pads to work towards healing that area.
11 Pain Relieving Meds
There will be pain and discomfort after childbirth. Period. And one tool in a woman's toolbox will be pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or preferably if it's tolerable to her stomach, ibuprofen which is also an anti-inflammatory. Take as directed by your doctor, understanding that's it's possible to overdose on over the counter medications, and overdosing on Tylenol can cause liver damage, even death. Over time, a woman will be able to reduce how much and how often she takes the medicines, as healing improves the needs will be reduced. Make sure the doctor knows any other medications and even herbal medications you take to prevent any possible drug interactions. If using ibuprofen, be certain to take with food as taking on an empty stomach is likely to cause stomach upset.
10 Hot Or Cold
Warm or cool compresses are age-old pain relievers, and women definitely have preferences for "down there" after giving birth. Some like to alternate, although not typically immediately hot right after cold, but maybe every hour or two switch back and forth. Never use too hot or too cold materials, and don't leave in place longer than 20 minutes at a time without a break. I find a nice bag of frozen peas a perfect cold compress, myself. It moves and molds easily to the most confounding shapes, so it's perfect postpartum. Heating pads, rice pads heated in a microwave or other simple inventions work quite well to ease pain. Some compresses are meant to be used as either warm or cool methods, and this is a good solution, too. Once you've finished using it after heating it up in the microwave, then you can throw it in the freezer and give your bottom a break while you switch temps.
9 Down There Calisthenics
Kegel exercises are a girl's best friend at many periods of her life, and her man won't mind them a bit, either. What they are is pelvic floor toning exercises. You know the muscles you use to turn off your flow of urine when you are peeing? Those are the little guys whom you want to work out. The reason is a toned pelvic floor will decrease urine leakage, increase sexual satisfaction and increase healing in the area of childbirth, especially helping heal an episiotomy. You only want to work those muscles in isolation, so avoid tensing your buttocks, fists or any other part of your body while doing Kegels. Start by holding for a few seconds and then releasing, doing a set of 10 or so. Then you'll want to work your way up to holding for 10 seconds each time.
8 Spray The Va-Jay-Jay
If a mom comes home after giving birth with some stitches, she needs to take particular care when toilet habits are the topic. She will NOT want to wipe. It will be excruciating should she forget. Instead, you should use a water spray bottle to squirt warm, please warm water only, and then PAT dry. Again, no wiping! This is very important to avoid irritating a very sensitive area even more, and to avoid the potential for infection of stitches. Some women have come up with special concoctions to put in a post-toileting spray bottle to ease pain and speed healing. Before trying anything out, even if it's an herbal based product, a woman should get her physician's OK. How long should a woman keep doing this? As long as she prefers to do so, as it won't hurt her. I definitely did this for at least 2 months following baby number one, and considerably less time with babies two and three, but I didn't have any real stitches with those kiddos either.
7 Blow Dry
When healing from childbirth, particularly if there is tearing or stitches involved, you want to avoid the area getting too humid and yucky. One way to fight that is to use a blow dryer on the region, at a warm or cool, not hot level. You will only want to use the blow dryer for a few minutes at a time, and the best time is after using that spray bottle after toileting. Keep the dryer several inches from your pertinents for safety's sake, of course. Again, don't go too high or too hot on this, and don't overdo. This way you can avoid toilet paper all together in the stitches or perineal region. And you'll be so happy you did. Probably after the first week or two, it won't be necessary anymore.
6 Put A Spot Of Tea On... Literally
Black tea also has some anti-inflammatory properties, which any lady with puffy eyes probably already knows and has tried out. But did you know you can help heal down there by brewing a couple tea bags in boiling water, and letting them steep for several minutes, or until cool. Then place the tea bags right in your panties, with pad protection to avoid staining, of course. It can help with general perineal pain, stitches relief and from pain due to those frequent hemorrhoids following childbirth. Toss them before someone brews the worst pot of tea. Ever. You can also put black tea bags on your sensitive nipples to ease pain there, as well. Just rinse off the residue before attempting to nurse your little one! Black tea is a cheap remedy for a lot of things, and hey it's nice to drink from time to time as well.
5 Air Time
Sometimes the nicest thing you can do to aid healing of your down there is just giving it a little air. We all need a little break, a little air from time to time, and after all your perineum has been through of late, it really deserves some. It should be easy enough in the initial days postpartum. Wear your cozy, cotton nursing gown and put a towel down under you and just chill. Let the air freely mingle with your lady parts and feel the healing begin. It's invigorating and relaxing at the same time. Just don't get too used to it; some people frown on such things. You'll need that towel in case of a mess, which can happen in those first couple weeks. You'll also need to be sure anything you wear is not expensive or tough to launder, for obvious reasons.
4 Get A Move On
You know those little red pills or something similar your doc gives you while still in the hospital after giving birth, the colace or stool softener? These are life savers; do not throw them out! Stool softeners are the most gentle of the-keep-the bowels-moving category of meds. They keep things from getting hard and uncomfortable to pass. And the discomfort of passing hard stool while healing from childbirth can be pretty intense, trust me. Other times you may need to go up to a bigger solution like fiber pills or drinks or gentle laxatives. Just be sure to check with your medical provider first to make sure it's safe for you, especially if you are nursing your newborn. You need to keep constipation from occurring to be kind to your bottom, and even if you've never had that problem before, after birth may be a new you and that means some new (temporary) problems.
3 Go For The H2O
It's easy during pregnancy to become dehydrated, and no surprise, post-childbirth it's a problem as well. Just make sure you are getting plenty of fluids, especially plain old water. It will keep you from getting a bladder infection, common both during and after pregnancy, and it will also help ward off constipation. Having trouble passing bowel movements, having hard bowels, and not going at all pose painful threats to that whole sensitive system down there. Water is the cheapest, easiest fix to avoid all that pain so drink up! Juice isn't a bad choice, and of course, neither is milk, but avoid caffeinated drinks and those with lots of sugar, as they will just work against you ultimately. If you drink and drink and cannot quench your thirst, let your doctor know in case you are developing another medical problem such as diabetes.
2 Hands Off Policy
Sometimes we're like the dog who just got stitches and needs one of those totally lame cones around his head. We have an owie and we can't stop looking, checking and touching the spot. Problem is every time you mess with the area of stitches or a healing laceration, you risk introducing bacteria and germs to it and you don't want an infection on top of the other healing issues you already have! Try to avoid touching the area as much as humanly possible. Go to the bathroom and use your spray water bottle. At most pat dry, and if possible air or blow dry your bottom region. Wanna see how things are healing? Natural to be curious, after all. Then sit spread eagle and grab a hand mirror and check it out without your nasty fingers getting all in the mix.
1 None Shall Pass
Most medical caregivers recommend you wait until the 6 week postpartum check up for the go ahead on getting busy with your man. That means nothing via vagina until then. No tampons. No sex toys. No fingers. No man parts. Nothing. It's not just a good idea, it's a great one. First of all, you don't want to be one of those weeping women who finds out at her postpartum check that's she's already pregnant again. Do you? I didn't think so! And you don't want to go too fast and then set yourself back so that you can't have sex for even longer. And you don't want to come to fear the pain of penetration, and let it interfere with your previously pleasurable feelings about sex with your significant other. Just let it cool off and heal and you'll both be quite glad you waited. You can however, share hugs and kisses, and special touches. No rules about any of that!
Sources: Parenting.com, Parents.com, BabyCenter.com