There are tons of books and literature that tell you how to take care of your baby after birth, but what you don’t often find are instructions on how to take care of your body after delivery. If during your vaginal delivery you experienced tearing or were cut to make room for your baby's head, you may have questions on how to care for your vagina after having an episiotomy. Totally understandable — your vagina played a huge part during delivery (maybe the biggest part, let's be honest) and it deserves as much care as anything else.
Romper spoke with G. Thomas Ruiz, MD, OB-GYN at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, who says there are several things you can do to help care for your vagina and manage the pain after an episiotomy. While some women may require narcotic pain medications for the first week post-delivery, according to Ruiz, many will feel better with non-narcotic medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, along with a topical anesthetic spray that you can apply to the incision every four hours.
Ruiz suggests applying ice packs, too. “Ice packs to the perineum every four to six hours for 30 minutes for the first 72 hours post-delivery will decrease both pain and swelling," he says. To soothe and keep your vaginal area clean, Ruiz recommends using witch hazel wipes after bowel movements and sitting in a sitz bath, which is about 4 inches of warm water with 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt.
Dr. Amy Peters, DO, OB-GYN at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center tells Romper that if your episiotomy required an extended incision, you can take stool softeners to avoid any straining during bowel movements and use an inflatable donut to sit on to avoid putting any pressure on the wound. She also recommends that you avoid wiping after using the toilet, and just try to pat or dab the area dry.
It’s not a good idea to mess with your vagina while it’s still healing, either. “Nothing should be inserted vaginally, until the postpartum visit, to avoid disruption of the stitches," Peters says. She also notes that stitches dissolve at varying rates, depending on the type of suture used, the extent of repair needed, and your body’s ability to heal.
If you’ve had an episiotomy, make sure to get the proper instructions and answers from your physician, along with the tools you need to get your postpartum care routine going. “Most hospitals will send you home with a nice supply of items to use after discharge,” adds Peters, “but should you run out, much of these items can be ordered online.” Once you know how to care for your episiotomy, you can begin to focus more on your baby, and less on the pain down there.