Going to the bathroom after giving birth is a special kind of tortuous hell. As a woman who experienced a near fourth degree tear with the labor of her first child, I will tell you that there is no comfortable way to get the job done after that sort of damage. The worst part for me was the wiping. Sure, bowel movements hurt more, but the wiping or lack of ability to do so was just adding insult to injury. But when you can wipe normally after giving birth seems to be dependent upon your own labor situation. Or is there some kind of hard and fast rule about using toilet paper like you usually do?
According to the website Family Doctor, it's all blotting and peri bottles for at least the first week or so after giving birth, but after that, it's all up in the air. Your ability to wipe will depend on whether or not you tore and to what degree. If you had an episiotomy, the pain and healing will be different than if you didn't need one, noted Intermountain Healthcare. It's important to talk to your healthcare provider or speak with your postpartum nurses to determine what will work best for you.
Because I like precision and parameters, I spoke with retired New York City maternity nurse and postpartum doula, Mary Reid, to find out when women can expect to wipe normally after giving birth. Unfortunately, there are no straight answers. Reid tells Romper, "It depends." Of course.
She says that the damage to your vaginal area will determine your ability to wipe and when. "If you have a long incision, or if you tore badly, it's going to take a lot longer. Give your body time. The spray bottle is like your personal bidet, and it does a good job of cleaning you." Reid adds that generally, "if it doesn't burn like crazy when you urinate or hurt really bad when you have a bowel movement, you can start to wipe. Your doctor or discharge nurse will give you instructions and care advice before you leave the hospital, and if you're not sure, ask them."
When I gave birth to my son, he came out in what's known as a "compound presentation," meaning he came out like Superman — fist first. Not only was this dangerous for him, it also meant that even though my doctor did a primo job at stretching my tissues while I was in labor, my son still tore me a new one. I had a tear that went from my vagina upwards towards my clitoris, and a tear that went from my vagina to my rectum. The pain was excruciating, and each trip to the bathroom brought new and interesting spheres of agony.
I was given a peri bottle full of warm water, tucks pads, a cold spray, and narcotics each time I went to the bathroom during my seven day hospital stay. I was told to "blot with paper" the next week, and only "wipe front to back" when I had a bowel movement. It wasn't precise, and it wasn't pretty.
Honestly, it took me about three weeks before I could wipe at all. But other moms have different experiences. For instance, Jenn Swartzentruber, 35, had an uncomplicated vaginal birth at home with no tear or episiotomy. She tells Romper that she felt good enough to wipe after about a week and a half. Meanwhile, Amanda Shelley, 33, had a similar birth and was able to wipe a few days later. "Gently, but pretty normally," she tells Romper.
Healing is so individual. Take care of your body, listen to your provider, and follow their instructions. And the peri bottle and tucks pads are your very best friends. Keep them close — they really do help.