the road to recovery
How to help your mind and body heal after childbirth
What you can do If you had an episiotomy, your incision should take about 10 days to heal; stitches resulting from a perineal tear can take up to six weeks. What can you do during that time to ease the discomfort? “Take sitz baths—sit in a few inches of warm water—for a few minutes several times a day,” Phelan says. Don’t soak for more than a few minutes at a time, or you risk introducing infection. Also helpful: Use a squirt bottle to rinse your bottom with warm water after you urinate; use ice packs; and, if sitting is very painful, use an inflatable “donut” or horseshoe-shaped nursing pillow to take pressure off your bottom.
Some women also say that soaking cotton balls in witch hazel and placing them on the perineum for a few minutes helps ease discomfort, as does using a Xylocaine spray (although some doctors don’t favor such sprays because of the risk of allergic reaction).
Constipation> Constipation is particularly common among women who have had a Cesarean section because the trauma of surgery slows the muscular contractions that move feces through the system. But even if you delivered vaginally, it’s not unusual to go three or four days without a bowel movement, Phelan says.
What you can do Increase your fluid intake to a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses daily, more if you’re breastfeeding. Also load up on raw fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods, such as prunes and prune juice. If this doesn’t help, ask your doctor to recommend a mild laxative such
as Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia or a fiber additive such as Metamucil; don’t use stronger laxatives or suppositories without your doctor’s approval.
Hemorrhoids> Hemorrhoids, or swollen blood vessels around the rectum, are usually the result of prolonged
pushing during labor and can last several weeks.
What you can do Sitz baths and ice packs should provide some relief. Also ask your doctor about using a non-
prescription product such as Preparation H or Tucks medicated pads. Or you can try placing cotton balls soaked in witch hazel on your bottom for a few minutes.
Another trick some women swear by: Place a slice of raw potato on your bottom for 10 minutes several times a day.
Cramps and bleeding> You may feel some cramping as your uterus begins to contract and shrink. The site where the placenta was attached also must heal, which causes bleeding and discharge, often for up to six weeks. Don’t use tampons, Schwarz says, since they can introduce infection; wear heavy-duty, overnight sanitary pads instead.
Postpartum bleeding is usually heavier than a menstrual period, but if you pass large blood clots or soak more than one sanitary pad per hour, or if the bleeding seems to be increasing, call your doctor; these can be signs of hemorrhage from portions of the placenta that weren’t expelled.