Have you just given birth or are you preparing for soon? Congratulations!
You have just become whole human from the ground up, ridden the waves of labor and pushed a baby out of your birth canal, also known as a vagina.
You may feel sore, raw, messy, excited, exhausted, happy, frustrated, on an oxytocin high, with no sleep, and in any combination of the multiple emotions someone may experience after giving birth.
Even though you’ve made it through pregnancy, labor, and delivery, your journey is only just beginning.
From the birth of your baby to about three months later, you are in what “the fourth trimester”. This delicate part of the postpartum period is an essential time for your newly developed body to heal.
While healing takes place on many different levels, from physical to emotional to mental, you also want to think about the steps you will be taking to heal your vagina, vulva, perineum, and anus – also known as the actual genital tissue that makes up the das human equivalent of watermelon has just passed through on its way out into the world.
Mother of mother
No matter how you feel, everyone needs extra help after giving birth.
The idea of “mothering the mother” ensures that not only are the general needs of the birthing parents considered, such as fed, hydrated, and emotionally supported, but that other people take care of errands and household chores. Your support team can include a partner, family, friends, postpartum doula, or any combination of people.
With others taking care of the cooking, dog walking, and laundry, not only can you focus fully on bonding with your baby, but it’s also essential to your long-term vaginal health and healing.
What to expect
Knowing what is in the normal range and what is not will help you know what to expect after vaginal delivery and what red flags may appear.
- Pain: Your perineum and rectum may feel sore and tender for three to six weeks, depending on whether you need stitches or not.
- Swelling: Your labia and the entire genital area can be swollen for a few days to a few weeks.
- Labia changes: Your labia may look darker or have varicose veins after giving birth.
- Stitches: If you’ve had stitches from an episiotomy or tear, they should heal in seven to ten days. It is important to wash them with water after using the bathroom and not to touch them to avoid infection.
- Hemorrhoids: Are normal after delivery. Avoid constipation by not holding onto it when you poop, eating fiber-filled foods, and taking a gentle laxative or stool softener if necessary.
- Bleeding and Discharge: Known as lochia, this is the body’s method of removing extra blood and tissue that was used to raise a baby. Your bleeding may be heavier up to ten days after you are born, with spots and light bleeding lasting up to six weeks after you are born. Some clots are normal, especially in the first week.
Prepare for vaginal healing
While you may not be able to predict exactly how your birth will go, there are certain steps and preparations you can take to aid your vaginal healing after giving birth.
- Find the right provider: If you can choose a provider, choose one that makes you feel safe and comfortable. This can make a huge difference in the outcome of your birth and therefore in your postpartum healing. You should also ask them about their guidelines on episiotomies and push procedures.
- Make “Padsicles”: Prepare these before the birth by moistening the maxi pads with witch hazel and stacking them in the freezer with foil in between. It can be helpful to bend them slightly to fit the curves of your body. Some people use aloe vera and other medicinal herbs to soak them in. An ice pack specially made for your perineal needs after giving birth!
- Peri bottle: Short for perineum bottle, your hospital, your birthing center or your midwife may have one of these handy wash bottles available. Fill it with ¾ warm water and ¼ witch hazel after going to the bathroom.
- Seat Bath: This is a warm bath where you just soak your bum and possibly your hips. This can also be infused with medicinal herbs. You can also try heat packs or hot water bottles to relieve discomfort.
- Yoni Steams: Sit over a saucepan or bowl of steaming medicine Herbs intended for postpartum healing. It is recommended to wait at least 30 days after giving birth before steaming.
- Minimize movement: Your body takes time to heal. This is also important to prevent postpartum bleeding. You may want to set up your ward on the first floor if your bedroom is upstairs.
- Stay away from your perineum: Avoid standing or sitting too long for the first few weeks, trying to lie on your side or sit on a pillow if necessary.
- Let it breathe: Try to wear loose clothing to allow your genitals to breathe after giving birth.
- Stunning: You can use local anesthetics to numb perineum pain.
- OTC pain relievers: Like ibuprofen or paracetamol, ask your provider first.
- Reduce the risk of infection: Do not insert a tampon or menstrual cup by using only pads or period panties for at least six weeks after giving birth.
Signs to contact your provider
- Postpartum bleeding: Let your doctor know if you fill more than one pad in an hour as it could be a sign of postpartum bleeding.
- Pelvic prolapse: If you have excessive pressure or pain in the pelvic floor, or have difficulty peeing or defecating, it could be a sign of a pelvic prolapse.
- Clot: While some clots are normal, if they are larger than a quarter, you should consult your provider.
- Chills and fever: These are possible signs of postpartum infection.
- Stitches: If your stitches are red, swollen, or pus, this could indicate an infection.
Long term healing
Postpartum healing takes time and Your body will never return just like it was before, but that’s okay, you just gave birth to another person!
This should also be taken into account when planning your vaginal birth healing process Cones, Pelvic floor physiotherapyand how have good sex after pregnancy.