To quote an amazing pelvic floor physiotherapist Robin Kerr, “giving birth is a full contact sport, no one comes out unscathed”
The vulva, vagina & pelvic floor are miraculous when it comes to birth but they do endure a lot during the process, so it is not surprising that the whole area is going to be swollen, tender, bruised and very inflamed post birth.
The vulva often appears very swollen and bruised and comes as quite a shock to many women. It does not stay permanently like this but during this phase there are some simple tips to follow to help reduce the pain and swelling.
The first and most obvious is to take what ever pain medication has been prescribed by your doctor for the level of pain you have. This varies between people and your gynaecologist will advise and prescribe what you need.
Frozen Sanitary Towels
This is a simple yet very effective tool to aid with the swelling and discomfort. Take a large sanitary towel, pour clean/sterilised water into it fold it over and place it in the freezer. Once frozen you can wear it for up to 15 minutes. Once it has melted dispose of it as you do not want it wet and soggy against the vulva. Some women like to add witch hazel if they do not have any sensitivities to it.
For the first couple of weeks post birth gravity is not your friend. If you sit directly onto your vulva most women find it too painful so an easy way around this is to sit in a way that doesn’t place any direct contact onto the vulva. Either by sitting in a side seated or on one bottom sitting. Using a towel rolled up from the ends to allow space for the vulva. Or using a donut cushion. When sitting on either the towel or rolled up cushion we advise not to sit for too long as gravity will cause pooling of liquid in and around the vulva causing more discomfort. Where possible especially in the first week spend more time lying down rather than sitting down, as the swelling and bruising subside so will it become easier to sit for longer periods and directly onto the vulva itself.
Pelvic floor activation exercises
While we do not want to over exert a very fatigued and (depending on whether you have torn or had an episiotomy) damaged pelvic floor; using the muscles can be like a pump action which gently pushes out the fluids gathered. Gentle pelvic floor squeezes where you try to “stop passing wind” and then relax. You can repeat this 3-5 times depending on whether you can activate the muscles. You can do this interspersed through the day.