Recover after the birth of your baby
Swelling and bruising around the vaginal area, with or without stitches in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) can cause discomfort following a vaginal birth or attempted vaginal birth.
It is important to recover after your babies birth, look after your body during this time and apply some basic first aid principles to help you recover, especially in the first 2 to 3 days after delivery.
Immediately after your baby’s birth, follow the PRICE regime:
P – it is important to PROTECT your perineum when opening your bowel. Use a clean maternity pad or wrap some toilet paper around your hand and provide a firm upward pressure. This supports your stitches and/or the healing tissues, helping you to better relax the back passage – it is particularly important to avoid straining.
R – horizontal REST (lying on your back or side) regularly throughout the day reduces the effect of gravity on your pelvic floor and perineum, helping to minimise swelling and discomfort while taking the extra weight off the healing muscles. We recommend aiming for at least two horizontal rests for 30 minutes each day.
I – apply ICE to the perineum (or wherever you are sore). Ice is an excellent option for pain relief any time during your recovery, but is particularly useful for reducing swelling in the first 24-48 hours following delivery. Apply a wrapped icepack to the area for 10 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours.
C – apply COMPRESSION by using 2 pads in firm supportive underwear. This supports the perineum, reducing discomfort and swelling. When sitting in an upright position, try placing a rolled towel between the legs for extra support.
E – ELEVATE the perineum by lying on your tummy during the day for at least 15 to 20 minutes. A pillow or two underneath your hips can elevate this area higher, assisting the swelling to move away from the area. Add a pillow under your chest if your breasts are tender. EXERCISE is also important; starting gentle pelvic floor “flickers” soon after birth can improve circulation to the area and engaging these muscles prior to moving can help protect the perineum as it heals.
Arrange a time with your Women’s Health Physiotherapist if you would like to learn more tips to help you prepare for labour and your postnatal recovery.
If you experience significant and/or increasing perineal discomfort after your delivery, be sure to see your GP to rule out an infection.
If your perineal pain persists, please do not hesitate to book in and see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist for further assessment and advice.
Kate Phillips, Women’s Health Physiotherapist and Clinical Director myPhysioSA for Her