It’s likely at some point during your pregnancy you’ll wonder these 2 things:
1. How the heck will my baby fit through my vagina?
2. What damage will be done to me in the process?
These concerns are so normal. In fact, tearing during childbirth is one of the top fears for most pregnant women (next to pooing in labour).As a doula I’ve seen all sorts. 10 pound babies leaving no trace, 7 pound babies with a 2nd degree tear, 8 pound babies being born after an episiotomy and 9 pound babies leaving a labial graze only. And everything in between.
What’s the stats for Australian women?
- 25-27% experience no tearing at all
- 23-25% have a very minor vaginal tear or graze that often does not require stitches, healing on its own
- 26% have a perineal tear that may need to be stitched
- 20% will receive a surgical cut to the perineum called an episiotomy
- 2% endure the most severe form of perineal tearing during birth, involving the vagina, perineum and sometimes the anus (ie. 3rd and 4th degree tear). These require more extensive care.
Bottom line (pun intended): You have about a 75% chance of coming through birth with some degree of tear or graze.
Given this, here’s how you can ensure speedy healing to your life-bearing lady bits.
My 20 Top Tips for Healing:
- The first week matters. Get your healing off to a great start straight away. What you do – and don’t do – in this first week after birth matters. It can be the difference between getting an infection and/or ongoing dramas, or getting things sorted once and for all.
- Do more warm, than cool. Yes, anything cool will feel REALLY nice on the hot and swollen area by numbing it and bringing the swelling down, but don’t over do it. It’s best to alternate between cooling applications (ice packs, cooled herbal compresses, padsicles) and warming applications (warm compresses, sitz/herbal baths). As these encourage circulation to the area which brings all the healing magic with it.
- Change your maternity pads regularly to help keep the area clean.
- Think like a lady. It helps to keep your knees close together when getting in/out/rolling over in bed or getting out of a car (think of how the Royal Princess’ do this to avoid undie flash). These conscious movements can help prevent micro tissue tears as healing is underway.
- Avoid long periods of sitting or standing. This includes sitting up in your hospital bed, home bed or sitting on the couch. Sitting anywhere basically. As it increases the pressure on the area and the swelling will persist. Same goes for standing. You’ll know you’ve over done it when your peri gets super achey by the afternoon. Another excuse to lie down and heal!
- Learn how to love side-lying (AKA napping, sleeping, dozing) and/or side-feeding baby. This is an easy way to take that pressure of your achey nether regions.
- Avoid the donut cushions. The theory is nice but they increase the pressure to the area and provide little support for sutured tissues. Side-lie instead.
- Keep the area clean but avoid over-washing the area with soaps/body washes. Remember your vagina is self-cleansing.
- Wipe from front to back. This message has never been so important, especially if you have an open wound.
- Have your caregivers check how you’re healing and that no infection is beginning. Especially if you sense things aren’t feeling – or smelling – right. You should be getting better gradually, not stalling or regressing.
- Ask a postpartum physiotherapist which pelvic floor exercises you can begin with – and which to avoid – specific to you.
- Throw a hand down there to support your perineum while coughing, sneezing, laughing or even while emptying your bowels (using a warm, moist hand towel can be nice here).
- Nourish yourself from the inside with all those nutritious meals you stockpiled in your freezer whilst pregnant.
- Take your supplements. Continue on your multivitamins and consider adding in some wound healing supplement/s with Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, betacarotene and bioflavonoids.
- Stay hydrated and up your fibre. This keeps your bowels happy and your need to strain to a minimum. Seek help if you haven’t done a poo in 48 hours.
- Take Ural sachets to alkalise your urine, reducing the sting on sensitive tissues.
- Tilt your pelvis when pooing by using a small step to rest your feet on. This helps your bowels open easier and takes the pressure off the area.
- Take probiotics. Keep your body’s microbiome and healing powers on point.
- Engage your postnatal support team. More rest = faster healing
- Take pain relief if required, but avoid the constipating varieties.
Used for centuries – and still going strong – these pack a punch for postnatal healing. You’ll find a mixed bag within the BodyWise BirthWise Store. The herbs and ingredients have astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and vulnerary properties. Plus they’re all alcohol-free, cause no mama needs that! Some are ready to go, some have a variety of uses, whilst others need a little prep.Most of them can be used together (ie. at different times throughout the day) or following one another depending on your needs.If haemorrhoids have also joined the party, the Bottom Balm may also interest you.
🌸 Peri-Heaven Postnatal Herbal Spray (100ml)If you like convenience and hands off healing, this may be for you.This wins hands down for convenience and no-prep as its all ready to go.
It packs easily into your hospital bag and if your postnatal room has a small bar fridge (bonus) you can keep in here for extra cooling relief. It can be used the day of the birth and for as long as required in those early days/weeks.Tip: Keep any leftover for skin irritations; sunburn, heat fuelled nappy rash, grazes or burns!
🌸 Peri-Heaven Postnatal Herb Bags(Pack of 5 or 10)
If you like options and multi-use, these may be for you. They are essentially very large tea bags packed with potent healing herbs and salts.
Can be made up into to a peri-spray or peri-wash (you’ll need a suitable bottle for application, here’s 2 options, info below), used in a sitz bath and/or as a direct warm or cooled compress.
🌸 Peri-Heaven Postnatal Herbal Balm (15gm)
If you don’t mind the direct application (i.e gently applying with your finger) this may be for you.
It’s a smooth balm in a pocket tin. A little bit goes a long way.
The magic is in regular use, not how much you put on each time.
Can be used on its own from birth or as a follow on from the Postnatal Herbal Spray once things have ‘calmed down’ a little.
Can also be followed by Skin & Scar Salve once any incision is completely healed to minimise scar tissue build up.
For those that don’t mind doing a little prep, love getting their hands on herbs and appreciate variety of use, this may be for you.
You get a bunch of loose herbs to play with. For those looking to upscale from the shallow sitz bath to a deeper one, this will cover it. It can also be used as peri-sprays/washes, compresses or add liquid to padsicles then freeze for use after the birth.
Comes with full instructions for these variety of uses.
You’ll never fear toilet paper until you visit the loo for the very first time after birth. And the whole week after.
This postnatal ergonomic masterpiece will be your best friend. It’s used upside down and that angled nozzle delivers a continuous and soft stream of relief to all the right areas! Obviously it’s designed to be used on the toilet or in the shower.
In those early days the body has lots of extra and now redundant fluid on board to excrete. This makes for a busy bladder. As urine will sting any inflamed or open tissue, this can help dilute the urine during and after loo visits.
It’s also a perfect way to deliver a healing herbal peri wash. Some even use it as a handheld bidet.
Remember a clean wound always heal faster.
These empty 100ml atomiser spray bottles can be paired with any of the herbal goodies above or used with salt water.
The spray is a gentle, fine mist through the atomiser.
Designed to be used with cooled or warm water.
My final word…
There are many factors that contribute to the likelihood of experiencing vaginal/perineal/labial trauma from giving birth (worthy of another post).
The good news is that vaginas are extremely forgiving!
For the overwhelming majority of us, they are built to birth our babies. Over and over.
Even if we come through birth needing to heal afterwards, with the right support we can do so quickly and hassle-free. So much so, we can’t resist going back at doing it all again!
Happy birthing and happy healing,
Or perhaps you’re past this point in motherhood? Please consider forwarding to a friend or sharing for those other mums-to-be in your life ❤️
What about you? What helped you the most with healing after the birth? Leave a comment with the top 3 things you’d recommend and why.