5 tips for healing vaginal tearing

5 tips for healing vaginal tearing

The birthing process comes with many unexpected realities. We expect pain, joy, and even the unknown. One less known fact of delivery is vaginal tearing. Vaginal tearing occurs most commonly because the baby’s head is too large for the opening. Other factors can also raise your risks, such as being a first-time mother, having a larger baby, longer delivery, or the use of birthing assistance like forceps or the vacuum.

Vaginal tearing is often a natural part of the birthing process and should not be feared. In many cases, it heals back quickly, usually within ten days. The healing process for natural vaginal tearing also tends to be quicker than that of an episiotomy. Episiotomy is a surgical cut to the vaginal opening to prevent uncontrolled tearing during birth.

Birthing Process, Vaginal Tearing Healing and Treatment

FOUR DEGREES OF VAGINAL TEARING

There are four different degrees of vaginal tears. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may require stitches. For a higher degree tear, your recovery time could be a bit longer and you might experience more pain or discomfort. With some of my children’s births, I hardly noticed the vaginal tearing. With others, it was significant and took patience.

VAGINAL TEARING TREATMENT

There were some vaginal tearing treatment methods that my doctor recommended that really did work well.

1. REST

Your body cannot heal unless you rest. You have your hands full trying to take care of your baby so rest as often as you can and allow your body to naturally go through the process of healing. There are certain activities that I found aggravated the stitches or just prolonged healing. Walking too much, sitting too long, and lifting anything heavier than my baby were a bad idea. My doctor recommended no exercise or sexual activity until after the six-week checkup to ensure that everything did heal properly. In the meantime, take naps often, even short ones. Try to eat healthy and drink lots of fluids to prevent constipation.

2. STOOL SOFTENER

I got stool softeners after the delivery to prevent strain during a bowel movement as constipation is common during postpartum recovery. My doctor recommended using them for a couple of weeks, which I think is a great idea.

3. SQUATTY POTTY

Another great way to avoid putting pressure on the perineum while recovering from a vaginal tearing delivery is to use a squatty potty to empty your bowels. It keeps you in a squatting position that doesn’t compress the rectal canal. This shortens the time you spend on the toilet and minimizes the pressure on the perineum.

4. APPLYING COLD PACKS

The best way I found to relieve the discomfort was by using cold packs. In the hospital, the nurses used ice cubes in a sealed plastic bag and wrapped in a cloth or a baby diaper. The sharp corners on the ice cubes can be really painful against the tear, even through a diaper. Luckily, there are softer perineal cold packs filled with gel that can be applied without any discomfort. In the days following the delivery, I applied cold packs for 20 minutes at a time every few hours and it really helped with the swelling, bruising, and pain. Don’t apply too long as it can do damage.

5. SITZ BATH

My nurse at the hospital recommended soaking the perineum in a warm sitz bath at least twice a day. There are many different sitz bath devices that can be placed in the toilet to help with this. You can also just sit in a tub with water up to your hips. In fact, sitz bath got its name from the German “Sitzbad”, which just means sitting in a bath.

For me, taking a sitz bath never really worked in the stressful first weeks of taking care of my newborn and I think my perineum recovery suffered as a result. I’ve heard from a couple of friends who tried it that this is an effective technique and I regret not taking the time to make it work.

6. PERINEAL MASSAGE 

Keeping muscles healthy and strong can help avoid complications. Perineal massage can be beneficial both in preparation for and recovery from delivery. Make sure to consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist before doing perineal massage. My physical therapist didn’t recommend perineal massage until my vaginal tear stitches had properly healed.

7.  KEGELS

Kegel exercises is another way to prepare the pelvic muscles for delivery and recover the muscles after birth. But it’s actually really hard to do kegels correctly. Some 25% of women do them wrong! A physical therapist can help you learn how to do kegels right and determine whether it’s the right fit for you. Some women have an overly tense pelvic floor and so should not do kegels.

CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR

A few months after my delivery, I discovered a painful pink spot in the stitched part of my perineum. I showed it to a number of doctors, before one of them figured out that it was granulation tissue and burned it off with silver nitrate. She explained that I was essentially “healing too well.” And eventually, the pink spot disappeared. But the road there was painful and frustrating. One of the doctors that I saw speculated that the area was too moist to heal and gave me the completely impractical advice to go commando!

But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t see a doctor if you’re not healing well. If you see any larger blood clots on your pad, any foul-smelling discharge, or your symptoms get worse, call your doctor as you could have an infection or other complications.

Pelvic organ prolapse – why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

Pelvic organ prolapse – why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

I was told over and over again that my body would snap back into shape like a rubber band after giving birth. Well, that turned out to be far from the truth for me. I wasn’t diagnosed with postpartum prolapse until I was 9 months postpartum; before my diagnosis, I had never heard of the condition. My OB referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist. I was so completely mortified at the thought that I never had the courage to go.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse - why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Symptoms

What had caused my prolapse? Well apart from the fact that pregnancy stretches out the pelvic floor (the muscle hammock that holds the internal organs in place), I had donned my running shoes at 6 weeks postpartum and completed 2 half marathons by the time my baby was 9 months old. When I finally mustered up the courage to go to the doctor I was experiencing nearly every symptom of pelvic organ prolapse (POP):

  • Lower back pain and increased pelvic pressure
  • Irregular spotting
  • Frequent urinary incontinence, especially while I was running.
  • Painful sex
  • A heavy dragging sensation in the vagina
  • The feeling of incomplete bowel movements and constipation. (Liquid stools and other changes in bowel movements are also common.)

In fact, the only symptom that I didn’t have was my organs visibly bulging out of my body!

I also learned that there were several factors that could increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse:

  • Having a weak pelvic floor. Before my pregnancy I didn’t have any symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, but after it was definitely stretched out.
  • Having a vaginal birth, especially if it was assisted with forceps, a vacuum or had a particularly long pushing stage. Big babies can also stretch the pelvic floor more than normal. My labor was short, sweet, and unassisted. But my baby was nearly 9 pounds!
  • High impact exercise, excessive baby carrying, or constant straining (from constipation) can make the condition worse. I was more than guilty of this. The constant pounding created by running increased the pressure of my internal organs on the pelvic floor.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment

As I found, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to healing from POP. And since there are different stages in terms of POP severity, there are also different intensity levels when it comes to healing:

  • Some women undergo surgery where a mesh hammock is placed under the internal organs to help hold them in place.
  • Visiting a physical therapist is also an option. There they will make sure that you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly and help you learn other ways to activate and stimulate your pelvic floor muscle.
  • A pessary can help. A pessary is a ring that is inserted into the vagina. It increases passive support of the internal organs.

Regardless of the severity of the condition, it’s good to keep toilet visits short and unstrained to avoid putting pressure on the pelvic floor. One way to do this is to use a squatty potty. A squatty potty prevents compression of the rectal canal by keeping you in a squatting position. It helps to move bowel movement quickly.

Exercises That Are Gentle on the Pelvic Floor

Your pelvic floor is part of your core. As such, any low impact core-strengthening exercises are advised for healing when it comes to POP:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Spinning
  • Swimming
  • Stair walking

These are all great ways to strengthen your core, including your pelvic floor without risking your pelvic organs falling out of your body. Personally, I found complete healing through Pilates.

 

How to exercise after childbirth

How to exercise after childbirth

There is something special and beautiful about the pregnant body. It is a wonder and a miracle and during each of my six pregnancies, I often found myself feeling like I was “glowing”. This glow quickly faded in the shadow of my post pregnancy body. What a letdown!

The body that had served me well and brought life to each of my precious children, struggle postpartum. With each consecutive pregnancy, it became more evident that my pelvic floor was weakening. There was a constant feeling of pressure and a feeling that the baby was simply going to drop out while I was pregnant.

exercise after childbirth

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT EXERCISE AFTER CHILDBIRTH

After my first baby was born I consulted my doctor about recovery options. Thankfully, my case was not considered severe and my doctor assured me that with the proper post pregnancy exercise and care for my body, I would soon feel like myself again (though, I was skeptical that this was even possible).

Doctors recommend that you wait six weeks before resuming exercises after childbirth to allow your body to heal. At six weeks, my condition had not improved and I was anxious to get started. As with everything else in life, I dove in.

SLOW AND EASY IN THE BEGINNING

I have always enjoyed yoga and I eased back into it carefully. My doctor recommended low impact exercises that targeted the core such as Kegel exercises, pelvic tilts, and the plank. I started very slowly with just the Kegel exercises and in a couple of weeks, worked my way to include the others in a ten-minute routine a day.

WALKING IS AN EASY CHOICE

One of my favorite activities to do with my newborn is walking. I just put her in a stroller and head out. Although walking is uncomfortable with a weakened pelvic floor and I had to start with just minutes at a time, my condition did begin to improve after a couple of months of kegel exercises and yoga. I walked slow and gradually built up to a half hour by the time my baby was three months old.

EXERCISES THAT CAN HELP

There are other exercises that can be of great benefit, too. Pilates, stair walking, and swimming are all low impact exercises that are recommended for postpartum. As you advance, spinning is a wonderful way to get back into shape, especially after a postpartum prolapsed.

A LITTLE SUPPORT

Postpartum prolapsed is a when the organs in the pelvis drop because of weakened muscles to hold them in place. Pessary can be used to add support to the pelvic organs when doing certain exercises. This is a removable plastic ring that acts like a brace, holding up the pelvic wall. It can aid in healing and help with the discomfort until you are healed.

WHY EXERCISE AFTER CHILDBIRTH IS IMPORTANT

Finally, when my baby was five months old, I went out for a walk one day and noticed that the discomfort had lessened significantly, my hard work had paid off and I was beginning to heal. It was not the end of my journey and I had to continue to exercise, eat right, and care for myself but my body did return.

For me, the key element to full recovery was hope. Yes, you can get your life and your body back. Be diligent and don’t give up and in the meantime, enjoy your precious little one and your yoga. Time flies and before you know it they’ll be doing yoga with you.

Dealing with clogged ducts or Mastitis

Dealing with clogged ducts or Mastitis

Oh the joy of motherhood! Sometimes I wonder in all the time our mothers had to prepare us for it, why are there still so many things we never even heard of. It is as though everything is just smiles and happiness with no obstacles on the road. One of these obstacles I encountered is clogged ducts or Mastitis.

Clogged ducts symptoms and mastitis treatment

CLOGGED DUCTS DURING BREASTFEEDING

To be clear, breastfeeding was not easy for me. Unlike some moms who in a moment of bliss hold their babies to their breast, baby immediately latching, no effort to mom or baby; my journey was nothing like this.

My first child was a post-term pregnancy. He was helped into life with ventouse suction and in the process swallowed massive amounts of amniotic fluid. All seemed well at first glance. But after his first feed, he started convulsing and throwing up and was immediately taken to ICU. This left me, a first time mom, with no idea of what to do next. All my attention and energy went into my sick baby with no thought to myself. Vaguely, I remember the nurses advising me to milk myself out. But as I had no baby to demand feeds, I often forgot. And when I remembered it was so painful that I did not persist and rather focused on my sick child.

I was overjoyed when my child was released. Then, the reality set in that I was now responsible to feed this child with breasts that was so sore it was pure agony to touch them. Like all good daughters I phoned the source of all wisdom, my mom. She immediately suspected a clogged duct, and advised warm cabbage leaves over my breast till I could see my doctor. Although this did bring some relief, it was not a permanent solution and not a comfortable one either.

CLOGGED MILK DUCT SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of a blocked duct or mastitis are a lump or wedge in the area of the breast where milk flow is then obstructed. It is usually only in one breast, and can be very painful at feeding times. A slight fever might accompany the symptoms; which is a sure sign to visit your doctor.

CLOGGED DUCTS OR MASTITIS TREATMENT

Antibiotics are usually not prescribed for clogged ducts or a mild case of Mastitis. A pain killer with an anti-inflammatory can be very useful. There is not much more your GP can do for you, and generally this condition does not get a lot of sympathy. Nobody seems to consider that you just gave birth, still feeling sore, hovering on the verge of baby blues, and your hormones and emotions are out of control. Take a deep breath, you will get through this.

Some practical advice I can give you from mom to mom is to really be proactive. You will have to milk the infected breast as often as you possibly can, at least every two hours. It is safe to let your baby drink from it, although some babies refuse the infected breast as the milk taste slightly different. Before you feed or pump out, keep the breast warm. You can do this by taking a disposable diaper (you should have plenty of these) and filling it with warm water. After emptying the diaper and squeezing out access water you place it over the breast. It will keep the heat for longer than a hot cloth. Something else you can try to relieve the pain before feeding is to soak the affected breast in hot water with Epson salts. Just remember to rinse the breast thoroughly before feeding. Massaging of the lump will also help the condition pass, and cold compressions between feeds might help the swelling and pain.

Lastly you should really speak to your doctor about antibiotics if there is blood or pus present in the milk or you have red streaking over the breast. Any obvious signs of infection need medical advice for the safety of you and your baby.

Hair loss after birth – the untold secret of motherhood

Hair loss after birth – the untold secret of motherhood

Like all other moms, I counted down the days until my son was born. Not just because I was excited to meet my little guy, but I could finally look forward to feeling normal again and kiss the aches and pains of pregnancy goodbye. Little did I know that the consequences of having the surplus of hormones during pregnancy suddenly disappear after birth would only bring on a new set of problems.

Hair loss after birth and post pregnancy hair loss treatment

HAIR LOSS AFTER BIRTH

It started out with my husband complaining that my hair was clogging up the shower drain more often. I put this down as me losing my summer curls, not having much time to worry about how enjoyable his showers were while I was on the bed fighting with my new-born to breastfeed. Eventually it got to the point where I was sweeping up mounds of hair from my bedroom floor after brushing or drying my hair every morning. This is when I started panicking. So, I did what any normal person would do and called on Doctor Google. I know this is usually terrible advice and leaves one convinced they have some form of rare and dreaded disease, but for once it actually left me hopeful.

I found many, many other moms out there who were all going through the same thing – they all started losing copious amounts of hair in the first few months after giving birth. What it boils down to is pretty simple: hormones.

CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS AFTER PREGNANCY

Outside of pregnancy, our hair grows at different rates. 85-95 percent of your hair will be growing while the left over 5-15 percent is in resting stage. Your hair falls out during resting stage. During pregnancy the growing stage of our hair is extended due to an increase in estrogen, which is why we experience minimal hair loss and have thick and fabulous locks. Once our baby is born and this extra dose of estrogen disappears, our rate of growth goes back to normal and we are left with a lot more hair in the resting stage – hence the increased hair loss.

HOW TO PREVENT HAIR LOSS AFTER BIRTH

There really isn’t anything you can do to prevent this. Some moms say that taking extra vitamins helped them, while others get fed up and chop off their hair for a new ‘mom-cut’. As frustrating as this might be, it is only temporary. Your hair should return back to normal by your baby’s first birthday.

I carried on with my postnatal vitamins and went for regular haircuts and pretty much just waited it out (and promised to not clog up the shower drain each day). Keeping up with vitamins B, C, E and Zinc can only do your body good and some moms say this actually helped reduce the hair loss.

DEALING WITH POST PREGNANCY HAIR LOSS

It can be really stressful having to deal with something like this while you are getting used to motherhood, but remember you are not alone. Look to other moms for guidance and support when you feel a little hopeless and remember your body will always bounce back – it just takes a little bit of time.