Optimal Perineal Care: How to Treat Stiches after Birth

The possibility of a perineal tear during birth is a cause for concern among pregnant women, and rightly so. A large percentage of the women (around 70%) end up with stiches after birth especially if it’s their first delivery. But even if you have stiches, it’s not the end of the world.

The following article will present you with useful perineal care tips that will help you effectively deal with those stiches while preventing unnecessary (and rare) complications.

First, it is important to remember that perineal tear heals in 6 to 8 weeks after delivery. Second, most stiches after birth are dissolvable. They will absorb into the skin by themselves with no need for any additional medical procedure. The number of stiches depends on how wide the tear is, but it has no effect on the healing process.

Basic perineal care guidelines

During the 6-8 weeks in which you have stiches after birth, it is highly important to wash the vaginal area with soap and water at least 3 times a day. Lukewarm baths will speed up healing. It’s better to avoid feminine wash cleansers and perfumed soaps as they can cause irritation due to high Ph level. Gentle baby soaps are the best option.

If it burns after you urinate, wash your vagina with water (you can use a bottle) every time you go to the toilet.

Additional tips to relieve pain and accelerate healing

Although it varies from one woman to another, pain is an inseparable part of perineal tear and stiches after birth. In most cases the pain is mild but it can increase and reach its peak on the third or fourth day after delivery. Here is what you can do for relief:

1) Pain relievers – Drugs such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Paracetamol can help you deal with the pain. If you breastfeed, make sure the painkillers you take are allowed for nursing mothers. You should consult your doctor before you start taking drugs.

2) Soft pillow – to prevent unnecessary pressure on your pelvic floor, it’s highly recommended sitting on a soft pillow in the first week or two after birth.

3) Going to the toilet – One of the scariest things for women with stiches after birth is going to the toilet. You must relax, pooping will not open up the stiches. Avoiding the toilet won’t do you any good as you might end up with hemorrhoids.

To soften your stool, you should drink plenty of water (no less than 0.6 gal a day) and eat foods rich in fiber like vegetables, whole grains and dried plums. The amount of fiber your body needs on a daily basis is 0.055 – 0.066 lbs (25-30 g).

Other foods such as yogurt (thanks to high concentration of probiotics essential for healthy digestion), olive oil and honey are also recommended.

If you suffer from severe constipation, you should ask your doctor to prescribe you laxatives such as Glycerin suppositories.

4) Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) pads relieve pain immediately and are highly efficient for reducing perineal swelling. You should place the pads (after they were cooled in the fridge) on the swollen area for 20-30 minutes once or twice a day.

5) Ointments – it’s also possible to treat stiches after birth with medical ointments like Traumeel, Aloe First and Epifoam. The latter contains steroids and requires a prescription from your doctor. These ointments are all used to reduce inflammation.

6) Oils and herbs – Essential oils like lavender and rose oil and herbs like Arnica, Hamamelis and Calendula are known to have healing qualities. It is recommended adding them to your bath.

Possible Medical Complications

Although relatively uncommon, complications may occur and you should be aware of them.

1) The stitches may open up – It’s quite rare but if it does happen you will have to be re-stitched after your doctor confirmed the wound had not be infected. In cases of infection, you will be treated with antibiotics.

2) Hemorrhages – Stiches after birth sometimes cause small internal hemorrhages around the vagina and in the anal area, but if you spot a large hemorrhage, turn to your doctor. It may require draining.

3) Severe pain for more than a week and intensive and continual bleeding require medical attention.