It’s one of the most common fears we hear from expectant mothers- “What if I tear giving birth?” While it’s a legitimate concern, the good news is most tears are surface level and heal quickly. But how do you care for a tear after birth in the meantime?
The area that is most commonly torn during birth is called the perineum and is the space between the vagina and the anus (though many people just know it as the taint). It may be torn by the baby as it moves through the vagina, or your care provider may decide to make a straight cut called an episiotomy to help the baby fit through. Tears may be shallow enough to need no special care besides rest while they heal, or may be deep enough to require stitches. These will dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed by your doctor.
While healing may be uncomfortable (lasting a week or a little more depending on the severity of the tear) there are lots of things you can do to relieve the discomfort.
Care for a tear with the tools your hospital provides
Try filling your peri bottle from the hospital with warm water and squirt it over your perineum while you pee to soothe any burning sensations. This also keeps your perineum clean and prevents infection.
Try a numbing spray – you can take the can home from your hospital postpartum recovery suite or you can get one at your local drug store. If numbing medication can’t be given or isn’t providing enough relief, over the counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help.
Hot & Cold
Spray witch hazel onto a maxi pad and put it into the freezer. Once cold, wear in your underwear against the tear for surprisingly effective relief. If you’re not much of the DIY type, hemorrhoid pads do the job.
Other forms of cold relief can come from wetting a disposable diaper with clean water and resting it against your perineum, or filling a condom with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water, tying it off like a balloon, and popping it in the freezer to create a slushy cold pack (note: this is to be used externally, not inserted into the vagina).
If cold isn’t your favorite, try sitting on a lightly warmed heating pad for a few minutes.
While most doctors will advise you not to take a submerged bath for about a month after delivery, sitz baths can be beneficial. You can buy a sitz bath to put over your toilet and sit in, or you can simply fill the tub with a few inches of tepid to warm water and sit with the water over the wound.
Avoid putting pressure on your perineum for a while, especially by sitting in the same position for a long time. Stand or lie as often as possible, and use a pillow for comfort when sitting is necessary.
Speaking of pressure, those first few poops can be a doozy! Perineal support can help. Simply wet a washcloth with warm water and as you bear down for a bowel movement, reach between your legs and apply gentle upward pressure to your perineum to counter the downward pressure of your push.
As annoying as healing may be, it doesn’t last long in the grand scheme of things. Make sure not to do any heavy lifting that may open the wound again, have patience, and you should be back to normal within two weeks.
And don’t forget to schedule your appointment for postpartum pelvic physical therapy to ensure that the tear and any subsequent scar tissue doesn’t affect your quality of life (and gets you back to pain-free sex when you’re ready)!