• Postpartum Vulva & Perineum Care

December 17, 2019

There are many tender moments after you’ve given birth to your beautiful, new baby —  Snuggling, snapping first photos and sleeping to name a few. Learning how to care for your vulva and perineum should also be on your postpartum to-do list. Let me explain why.

Childbirth is an amazing experience, whether it happens fast or slow. Your body endures a lot of changes and some discomfort too.  

Here are three reasons why proper postpartum care of your vulva and perineum are important after vaginal birth:

  • Your pain in these tender areas will subside faster
  • Your body will heal faster
  • You will help prevent infection

Think of it this way: The better you feel, the better you’ll be able to care for your new little one. 

What do the vulva and perineum do in childbirth?

The vulva, which is comprised of external parts of the female reproductive system and the birth canal,  does a ton of work. Contracting, stretching and pushing can last for minutes or hours.

So what about the perineum? The perineum is the soft tissue connecting the vulva (below the vaginal opening) and the anus. The perineum stretches even more as delivery nears. It often tears as the body pushes baby into the world.  

A tear in the woman’s perineum is common during childbirth, especially for a first-time Mom.  Physicians may perform an episiotomy, a small cut in the perineum to expand the vaginal opening before a tear occurs. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than 50% of births include some type of tear or laceration.  

Tears or incisions in the perineum can cause temporary discomfort that may last for several weeks after childbirth. This pain may make it difficult to use the bathroom or even walk to the bathroom. In some cases, women may continue to experience  perineal pain during sex. 

All of these seem unfair. Just remember, they are perfectly normal. Time,  proper care, and cleansing of the vulva and perineum can help reduce pain after a vaginal birth. Some studies have shown routine perineal massage in weeks leading up to childbirth may help with future healing. There is also evidence that moisturizing the perineal area while you are pregnant may help protect the area.  

How should you care for the vulva and perineum?

Postpartum care may consist of:

Whichever methods you choose, practice them routinely. Consult a physician if any sign of infection appears such as severe pain, foul odor, fever or  abnormal discharge.

The days and weeks after your child is born are precious, exciting and, let’s be honest, challenging too. Remember, the better you take care of your body, the more capable you will be to care for your loved ones. 

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