If you've read my birth story with Oscar, you will know that I had to have an episiotomy because he was back to back and there wasn't enough room down there for his head to get out at full circumference. At the time I had no real idea of what was going on, I was just trying to get baby out. It was only afterwards when the registrar was talking us through what had happened that I realised they'd had to cut me. I didn't have a problem with it, I mean I'd have liked for it not to have had to happen, but it meant that Oscar was safely delivered so nothing really mattered.
The one thing I wish I had known about however, was the recovery. I wasn't given any information on how to look after my wound and I had no idea just how painful the next couple of weeks were going to be. With the help of Google, my blogging buddies and the community midwives, I did discover how best to look after it and that the level of pain I was experiencing was normal so I thought it might be helpful to write down in one place, my tips on recovering from an episiotomy birth.
Chances are that you have had an episiotomy because you needed a little assistance in getting the baby out with either a forcep or ventouse delivery. In my labour they tried both! The suction cup didn't work so they finished with forceps. From the use of them and the speed of the birth, I was left with really awful bruising. I didn't even know why I was in so much pain until I was brave and looked down there to see that the whole area was black and blue. The fact that I couldn't sit down made complete sense at that point! Some people say sitting on a donut cushion is best for an episiotomy recovery but that wasn't the case for me – I found that cushioning my lower back with my pregnancy pillow and then putting a normal bed pillow flat in front of it whilst surrounding myself with cushions has been the best. For the first week, I was basically laying down and moving to a standing position was incredibly painful. Into the second week, the bruising had started going down and I could start to sit up a bit more for short periods. I honestly had no idea that this would be the case however and so it was a bit of a shock to the system.
Along with lots of cushioning in whatever position works well for you, get yourself some arnica tablets as this will speed up the healing of the bruising. It's important not to use arnica gel though as you don't want to get anything like that on your wound. I found the easiest way to get up from the sofa was to roll off sideways and also having someone to support me.
I'm not going to lie – the pain has been immense and for me the recovery has been comparable to that of a csection. This has really upset me at times because one of the biggest reasons I didn't want a csection was so that I could be up and about quickly, but sadly I have spent most of the other half's two weeks off laid up on the sofa, struggling to get up and walk around and feeling utterly useless. He has been doing everything and it's only been in the later stages of the second week that I feel up to doing things. Once the swelling and bruising went down, this made way for the stinging of the wound area!
Take pain relief regularly! At first I was taking seperate paracetamol and nurofen until the other half discovered Nuromol which is a mixture of the two. This meant I didn't have to calculate what I'd had and when, it was just two pills every 6 hours and it really did help.
OK, so here is the most important thing that you need to know about the wound. There is a really high chance that once your stitches have dissolved, you will end up with a hole in your noonie. Yep, not the usual holes that are already there but a brand new one! I had absolutely no idea about this and totally freaked out when I checked it after a few days and saw said hole. I immediately thought I was going to need further stitching up and that it was maybe infected. When the midwife came round the following day, I asked her if she could have a look and she was totally blasé about it, informing me that actually, in comparison to some, my extra hole was relatively small! So, generally a few days after you've been stitched up, your stitches dissolve and you are left with an open wound that will heal itself from the inside out. It's incredibly important that this doesn't get infected so do keep a close eye on it. The wound will also bleed at times (something else that freaked me out!). I'm at the stage now when my post birth bleeding has almost stopped but I am not sure when the wound may randomly bleed. Such fun!
You must, must keep it as clean as possible. Which is actually really hard considering you are peeing, bleeding and wearing maternity pads for weeks! If you can, try and have a daily bath using lavender oil and tea tree oil. You need to put about 5-6 drops of each into the running bath water and then add a bit of milk to disperse it. Spend about 20 minutes soaking in it. Honestly it really does work!
My other recommendation is to have a large cup or jug in the bathroom and after every wee, fill it with warm water and just pour it over your lady bits! Make sure you then dry the area well as it's important that it stays dry. This water trick is also good to do if it is stinging when you pee – just pour at the same time!
Getting up and about
I think the most important thing here is to take it easy and don't rush into doing anything. Your lady parts will tell you what you are capable of and when. For me, I was completely out of action for about a week before I slowly started finding myself able to move around a bit more! My first day out of the house was for Zach's birthday party nine days after Oscar was born. I was a bit sore and exhausted by the end of the day but it felt amazing to be out of the house. It was then another few days before I went out again for a walk. I'm now on day 17 and I finally feel good. I have managed to cook a dinner, managed to entertain guests when I couldn't previously make them a cup of tea and managed to be a bit more hands on with both Zach and Oscar. It's been slow progress and it's so important not to rush.
Make your other half read this post so he doesn't think you are taking the micky! Take your time and let people do things for you. It really will speed up your recovery. My other half was changing all of the nappies, handing me the baby when he needed feeding, cleaning, looking after Zach etc etc. He was amazing and I hope that you get the level of support I have had because you really do need it.
I really hope that if you have stumbled across this post, it has helped you in some way, answered those questions that are whirling round your head and made you realise that the pain you are experiencing is completely normal.
The above is obviously based on my own experience of an episiotomy and I am not a medical expert. If you are concerned about anything relating to your episiotomy wound then do contact your midwife or GP.