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Recovery From an Episiotomy or Perineal Tear

Recovery From an Episiotomy or Perineal Tear

If you had an incision (episiotomy) or a tear in the area between your vagina and anus (perineum) during delivery, your doctor or nurse-midwife will repair it with stitches, using a local anesthetic. An ice pack will be placed against your perineum to ease pain and swelling.

Recovery from an episiotomy or tear can be uncomfortable or quite painful, depending on how deep and long the incision or tear is. Pain typically affects sitting, walking, urinating, and bowel movements for at least a week. Your first bowel movement may be quite painful. An episiotomy or tear is usually firmly healed within 3 weeks but can take longer.

To reduce pain and promote healing:

  • Keep an ice pack on your perineal area.
  • Try an anesthetic spray.
  • Have regular sitz baths in a tub of warm, shallow water.
  • Take pain medicine. Some pain medicines can be constipating, so ask your health professional for a formulation that includes a stool softener.
  • Take stool softeners and drink lots of fluids to help soften stools and ease pain.
  • Use warm water from a squeeze bottle to keep the perineal area clean. Pat it dry with gauze or a sanitary wipe. Only wipe your perineal area from front to back.

When to call a doctor

Call your health professional immediately if you develop severe pain, fever, or uneven swelling, or if the wound begins to weep fluid, separate, or smell bad.

Call your health professional today if you develop moderate pain, a low-grade fever below 100°F (37.8°C), increased redness or swelling, or increased pain when urinating or having a bowel movement.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised November 2, 2011

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