While most of the attention is given to your new baby after you have given birth, it is just as important to look after yourself.
It is extremely important to prioritise your own care after you have given birth. So much attention is placed on looking after yourself during pregnancy, but it is perhaps even more important postnatally.
When you have given birth, the spotlight tends to be on the baby. People will ask you about how the baby is feeding, sleeping and adjusting to life outside of the womb. Less attention is given to the way you might be feeling postnatally.
If you obtained a wound during the process of giving birth it is very important that you care for it in the right way. Without proper after-care, the wound may lead to an infection that could make life with a new-born very difficult.
There are a number of reasons why a woman experiences a wound from giving birth. She may have had a caesarean section which involves an incision on her lower abdomen, or she may have obtained a vaginal tear or surgical cut.
In some cases, women experience a natural tear somewhere on the perineum. These tears can vary in severity ranging from a small first-degree tear, which may require no stitches, right up to a third or fourth-degree tear which may require several stitches.
In some cases, an episiotomy may be performed. This is where a doctor will perform a surgical cut to the perineum. This is often the case when a forceps or ventouse delivery is necessary. In all of these situations, the woman leaves the hospital with a wound that requires aftercare.
One of the most important elements of wound care is ensuring that hygiene is given priority. The area should be kept sterile and clean and should not come in to contact with fragranced cosmetics. For a caesarean section incision, the area may be covered with a gauze or bandage to protect the sutures. This bandage or gauze may need to be changed and these instructions should be followed meticulously. Washing your hands before and after you use the toilet is good practice too.
Ice packs are often used to ease pain in the perineum following the birth. The area may feel swollen and a stinging sensation can occur when you urinate. This is due to the fact that the urine is acidic and irritates the wound.
A sports bottle full of tepid clean water is a great tool in this case. You can pour the water directly on to the area while you urinate at the same time. It dilutes the acidity and can lead to less discomfort. It is important to wear appropriate underwear to aid your healing also. Tight-fitting narrow underwear may aggravate the wound site both vaginally or in the case of a caesarean section incision site. Large loose-fitting cotton underwear should be worn initially.
Rest is perhaps the most important thing to aid your healing. Many women push themselves physically and this can have an adverse effect on their sutures and general well-being as they heal. It is advised to abstain from sexual intercourse or heavy lifting for several weeks. Your doctor may also prescribe a stool softener to help aid your healing and increase your comfort levels during this time.
Your wound will be checked during your hospital stay and in many cases by your public health nurse when they visit. At your six-week GP check-up, the doctor will ensure that the wound site has healed properly and advise you accordingly. If you have any concerns before the six-week check-up, it is important to visit your maternity hospital’s A&E department as you are still under their care until six weeks have passed.