How do I take care of my vaginal area after delivery?
It’s normal for the perineum (the area around your anus and vagina) to be swollen, bruised, and tender after you give birth. For some women, this soreness lasts up to 6 weeks. If you have stitches, you may feel even more discomfort. Most women are discharged from the hospital with instructions that they can use acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen for pain. Each is safe to use when breastfeeding. If pain persists, talk to your health care provider.
You may find relief from vaginal pain and swelling by doing the following:
- Apply ice packs to the perineal area for the first 24 hours. Ice packs and cold compresses should be removed after 10 to 20 minutes and be reapplied every hour as needed. (Ice packs should be wrapped in a towel or facecloth and not applied directly to the skin).
- Women can use cold compresses, a bag of ice or frozen veggies, or a frozen, water-soaked maxi-pad or baby diaper to place in their underwear
- Use a peri-bottle or a spray bottle to rinse off the perineum after using the toilet and blot dry
- Rest as much as possible
- Let the perineum air-dry while resting
- Use a pillow or an inflatable ring when sitting. Inflatable rings are available at most drug-stores
- Soak the perineal area in warm water a few times a day and after bowel movements
- A sitz bath filled with a few inches of water and placed on the toilet seat is convenient and can be purchased at the drugstore or home health store
- If you are using your bathtub for perineal soaks, have it cleaned first and ensure that someone is present to help you in and out of the tub for the first few times
- Take pain medications recommended by your health care provider
How long will postpartum bleeding last?
In the first few days following delivery, you will have heavy bleeding and will likely pass some clots. The bleeding will slow down over the first week to 10 days, after which you should only have light-coloured pink or brown discharge. By 6 weeks, any bleeding or spotting should subside.
If you soak a pad completely within an hour, try resting for a while. If the bleeding continues after resting or if you are passing clots larger than a golf ball, get in contact with your health care provider.