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After the birth of their child, many woman worry about caring for their perineal area while it heals. Childbirth is a very traumatic event for a woman's body, often resulting in reduced strength in pelvic floor muscles, a torn or cut perineum, and even hemorrhoids. Another problem in the perineal area after childbirth is lochia, or the bloody discharge a woman may experience for up to six weeks after the birth of her child. Proper perineal care can make these problems more manageable and help to encourage healing.
Initial perineal care, after the stitches have been put in and the new mother has been cleaned up, is focused on treating the pain and swelling associated with childbirth. Nurses will apply cooling packs to the area, and offer pain relievers if they are necessary. After the swelling has gone down, heat will be applied to the area, to stimulate healing. Sitz baths, using special tubs that fit onto a toilet bowl, allow the woman to easily and comfortably soak in warm water.
Many hospitals will also provide women with pain relieving sprays that can be applied to painful areas, as well as foams which can prevent itching and swelling if the woman has had an episiotomy. Hemorrhoids may also cause discomfort after childbirth. The best way to treat them is by using witch hazel or medicated pads to relieve burning and itching sensations. Drinking plenty of liquids, eating a lot of fiber-rich foods, or even taking a stool softener can also help.
One of the most important steps to perineal care is keeping the area clean. Sanitary pads must be changed regularly. After using the bathroom, flush the perineal area with water, and then pat dry, moving from the front to the back to avoid spreading germs from the rectum to the vagina and perineal area. A woman should remember to wash her hands well both before and after using the restroom or changing her sanitary pad.
Stitches put into a perineum tear or episiotomy should dissolve within three week. New mothers should continue careful perineal care until they have their first post-birth check-up with their doctor. Lotions, sprays, and powders should not be used on the perineum, and tampon or douche use should be avoided until they have been approved by a woman's doctor.
Proper perineal care is necessary for healing. It is important that a woman understands how to correctly care for her perineum after childbirth before leaving the hospital. Most hospitals will provide all of the information and tools that a woman will need, but if a woman has any more questions, she should ask her doctors or the nurses taking care of her.