Bit of a warning before reading, i share some details that aren't for the fainthearted, if you have a fear of medical procedures or anything of the sort, then reading this one might be harder for you than most, please keep this in mind.
Welcome to another scary labor blog, and unfortunately this one will probably hurt to read, not legitimately but you will definitely cringe with pain upon reading. Episiotomies are something i was informed of but knew very little about. My mum had a few, and i think my sister did too, but i didn't really understand what it was until it happened to me during labor. Today I'm going to delve into the world of episiotomies and I'm going to share with you my experience of undergoing one, and how i recovered from it.
First and foremost: What is an Episiotomy?
According to the Healthline Editorial Team of (healthline.com), an episiotomy is known as "a surgical cut made in the perineum during childbirth. The perineum is the muscular area between the vagina and the anus." Yeah sounds gross right? Ouch! For me i knew it as a cut they made somewhere down there right before i pushed my baby out. It wasn't explained to me exactly where it was going to be, how many cuts i'd need or why i needed it essentially, because mine was more of an emergency cut, they didn't really have time to share the details and i was far too exhausted to argue or speak up. Am i upset that i had one done? Actually no. Yes it hurts, yes the recovery process is gruesome, but i needed it, and i knew i was in good hands with the doctors who knew what they were dong, so i was fine with it. Do i wish i knew more about episiotomies? Yeah i do, i think that would have made my recovery process a bit easier to deal with, and I would have known exactly what i was in for when i got one.
My experience with an Episiotomy
There isn't a great deal to the process of having an episiotomy, at least not from what i can remember. I'm not a doctor or medical specialist so i can only tell you what i know from being the patient who had one. For me, they told me they were going to make a small cut to help with the process of bringing my baby out. As you'd know from my previous blog about my labor experience, my son got stuck in the pushing process and they used the vacuum method to bring him out. In order to do that, the doctors told me they needed to make a quick cut to help bring him out easier. My mum recalls watching them cut me and having to turn away as it brought back bad memories for her with her episiotomies. They are not pleasant to feel, and even though i had an epidural, i still felt quite a bit of pain during the episiotomy. I felt a tremendous clunking pressure and what felt like the thick skin of my finger had been cut. It was painful and having the epidural took the edge off, i can't imagine how much worse it would have been had i not have had the epidural. I could hear the scissors clunk and
honestly it sounded scary. I think i would have had more of a reaction had i not been pushing for so long and was just so physically exhausted, and scared for my baby that i didn't notice how gross the whole ordeal was at the time. Thinking back on it, i realise just how much work went into ensuring my baby made it earth side unharmed, and for that i will forever be grateful to those team of people who flooded my room unexpectedly and got my son out. After having the episiotomy and my son was finally out, they stitched the area which took about thirty five minutes. By that point i was so caught up in my son and how beautiful he was, how happy i was for it to be over and him to be safe, that i didn't notice them stitching me, or cleaning up the mess i had made. I am actually glad i had the episiotomy, i feel that without it, i would have torn, and in my honest opinion, tearing makes for a worse recovery than episiotomy. Either way both hurt and the aftermath absolutely sucks! But i had heard stories of tearing and I am okay with my episiotomy.
After the Episiotomy
This was probably the hardest part for me in terms of physical pain and irritation. Not only are you bleeding and trying to recover from the trauma of child birth, adding stitching to that mix is very annoying and painful. The first week or so after having my baby, i found i had a lot of trouble sitting, on any surface, hard or soft. I felt a great deal of ache and stinging where my stitches were and i genuinely did not want to sit down. In hospital after giving birth i actually spent most of the day standing or leaning over the bed. I was so sore, and the thought of putting any kind of pressure on the area made me want to cry. I was also so paranoid about getting infections given my previous kidney infection, that i changed my pads more often than what was recommended, i desperately wanted to keep the area as clean as possible. I also found that i needed to sit on ice packs everywhere for the first week or so.
Man i love ice packs! Not only did they help with the swelling and pain i was feeling, it was also summer in Australia when i gave birth, so it also helped to keep me cool, a big plus i'd say. Child birth in general makes you feel swollen and a bit yuck, but after an episiotomy, i felt like i had to walk with my legs substantially apart and i was slow to walk and move for a little while until i had started healing a little. All i wanted was to feel normal, to have pain relief but there wasn't much i could to, i just had to wait until my body started healing on its own.
My Recovery Tips
There are some things that can help you deal with the pain, and help you heal well. I stand by these tips, and my recovery was a short three weeks after episiotomy and birth, and my doctor was pleasantly surprised with how fast i recovered. Obviously they aren't miracle cures, but sticking to them does help the process.
Cleanliness: Keep the area clean! The doctors at the hospital suggested when showering to only run some water over the area, no soaps. And i followed this to a tee! i just ran some water over the area, not inside, to help clear off any blood or discharge that comes with giving birth. Change your pads as often as you can. I am an advocate for pads over depends underwear or any of those reusable period underwear after childbirth, as you need to keep the area as clean as possible. Find a pad that is best suited to your skin, that doesn't cause irritation or itchiness, and use as many as you can.
For me, being in Queensland, Australia, the only pad that agrees with my sensitive skin is Whisper Overnight Pads. I just find they are the biggest and most absorbing pad of every other brand in the market. They also kept me the cleanest. Cotton pads don't absorb as much as they should, an they are itchy and irritable on my skin. In Australia they are only available at certain Coles Supermarkets. This is just a choice made by me, as i find every other pad doesn't work for my skin, i leak through very fast or they just don't feel right on my skin. Finding the right pad for you is the first step. I even tried the maternity branded pads, designed especially for child birth and just found they did not absorb as much as i needed them to. I am quite a heavy bleeder however, so normal pads or the maternity branded pads may work for you, its all about finding what's best for you.
Ice Packs: Sitting on ice packs helps to reduce the swelling and is a massive life saver really. It numbs the area and it just gives much needed temporary relief which you really need. Try to sit on an ice pack as much as you can, for me i slept with an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the affected area and i found it gave me so much relief the next morning.
Loose Underwear: Now you're probably already having the idea to wear loose underwear when wearing pads, but the looser the better really. Obviously not to the point where they're falling off, but nice and loose so that way you aren't restricting the area with tightness. It also helps to stop any irritation. I bought underwear that were 2 sizes too big, and i found cotton to be the most durable, and easiest on my skin. I avoided lace for quite some time as i find it too scratchy and irritable on my scars.
Pain Killers: Only turn to pain killers with the advice of your midwife, GP or medical specialist. For me i was given the okay to use panadol and ibuprofen as i didn't end up being able to breast feed like i wanted. I found ibuprofen helped the most with the pain and swelling. But i found short rapid relief with panadol rapid capsules. But as mentioned before, always check with your medical professionals first before using pain killers.
Leaning Forward during Urination: This is a super, super, SUPER, important tip to remember. Your urine will sting you, and it will bring tears to your eyes. Once your urine touches those stitches it will burn.
Whether you are torn or have been cut, lean forward when you urinate. Do not forget this, as it will make going to the toilet increasingly harder until you just don't want to try. Leaning forward when you urinate also keeps as much urine out of the way of your stitches as possible, which helps with keeping up with your hygiene step. Keep the area moist free helps with the healing process. If you need to wipe, like i generally did, i typically would dab gently in a downward motion, i would never slide down like normal. You don't want to pull or rip those stitches, so being as gentle as possible is super important.
Consistency: What i mean when i say consistency is well consistency. Keep on your ice packs, keep on your pad changing and hygiene routines, the more you keep up with it, the faster you'll find relief. For me the pain and swelling stopped from my episiotomy after a week, and my stitches were fully healed after three weeks. I was given the okay to have sex and do everything i normally did after three weeks instead of four or six.
Remembering these tips, and listening to the advice your medical professionals give you can help you with your healing process. And even though it's not a pleasant recovery process, it doesn't have to be painful the whole time. If something seems up, speak to someone, if you are experiencing more pain than you think you should, get checked! I would quite often get my husband to check up on my stitches if i couldn't to make sure they were getting infected. And if i thought something seemed wrong, i'd head to my GP to make sure everything was ship shape. I was checked twice during my recovery process, once due to a routine checkup after a week, and once because i was worried my stitches weren't healing correctly. They were but i did the right thing and got checked anyway because its important to have that peace of mind. After all, you've just given life, you deserve to know that your body is A-Okay!