Post-Birth Perineal Care
The cycles and stages of birth can leave a mental, emotional, and physical impact on an individual. Healing goes both ways when it comes to childbirth. Mentally is how we process the birth internally, and physically is how we process the birth externally. Long labor, interventions, and vaginal deliveries can be the cause of perineal damage. Enlisting post-birth perineal care is helpful in the postpartum recovery process.
Types of Trauma to the Perineum
Trauma looks and feels different for everyone. Emotional and mental trauma can be a part of one’s birth story, and let’s not forget the implications of physical trauma that can plague a postpartum period. Tearing is one instance where a birthing person may experience trauma. The perineum is a rigid but sensitive area. Tearing occurs when the perineum is tight while the baby is making its way out of the birth canal through childbirth. There is a stretch that naturally gives to allow the baby to pass through. Yet, some perineum still needs assistance to achieve a safe birth of the baby.
An episiotomy is another form of physical trauma that can leave a birthing individual feeling big feelings. An episiotomy is an incision made using medical scissors to widen the perineal area for the baby. Episiotomy rates differ from birth facility to birth facility and from provider to provider. Leapfroggroup.org is a website that provides information on hospitals and gives the percentages of procedures. Nationally, hospitals should strive for an episiotomy rate of 5% or less.
Swelling in the perineum occurs when pressure is put on the cervix and perineal areas, typically occurring during the pushing stage (or second stage) of labor. The swelling can be painful when sitting, walking, and standing. The constant feel of the engorged area is a constant reminder of the occurrence.
At-Home Treatments to Soothe the Perineum
Having your postpartum toolbox filled with tools to help soothe the newly sore area of the perineum is a sure-fire way of making healing after childbirth. Healing at home is as simple as one, two, three. Cold Packs or “padcicles” provide cooling sensations. A maxi-pad soaked in witch-hazel and placed in the freezer creates soothing pads that one can place in their undergarment. Take note to not sit on for more than 20 minutes on the pad, and change it out as it soaks up lochia.
A stiz bath is a shallow basin or tub of water with healing herbs or salts that gently soak the perineal area while using the toilet or in a bath. The warmness of the bath is a comforting healing method. The herbs, salts, and other natural components promote a homeopathic healing that can shorten the recovery.
Sitting on soft items can also take the pressure and pain while the perineum is recovering from childbirth. A pillow, an exercise ball, and anything that gives flexibility when sitting upon, as opposed to furniture that is more sturdy. Be sure to alternate between sitting and standing as well.
When to Seek Care
Understanding what to look for when your body is recovering in the postpartum period is critical to healthy healing. Know when to make a call or visit your provider. While each provider has their own precautions to take when it comes to postpartum healing, in general, there are some specific signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Fevers over 100.4
- Swelling in hands and feet
- Nausea and persistent fatigue
- Persistent burning when urinating
- Fear when having a bowel movement
- Itching and burning at the tear, incision, healing in the perineum area
A pelvic floor therapist is another wonderful tool to pack in your birth toolbox. A pelvic floor therapist is an expert in the help and healing of restoring the health of the entire reproductive system inside and out.
Remember that you are in the driver’s seat of your health. If you feel something is off contact your provider. If you have questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact your provider.