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Episiotomy and Stitches

doctor looking at pregnant ladies abdomen

When you give birth there are some occasions where you may require an episiotomy, this means that you may need to have episiotomy stitches which will need special care and attention after you have given birth. In this article we’ll answer some of the questions many pregnant women want to know such as what is an episiotomy, what happens if you have stitches after childbirth and what they can do to help promote episiotomy healing.

What is an episiotomy?

If you have been labouring for a long time and either you are struggling to push the baby out in the final stages, or if your baby is showing signs of distress, doctors might choose to perform an episiotomy to help your baby come out of the birth canal more easily.  An episiotomy is a simple procedure that is usually done by a doctor or midwife. If you have not had an epidural they will give you a local anaesthetic and will then make a small cut in your perineum – this is the piece of skin between your vagina and anus. Once you have had an episiotomy it is likely that you will need surgical stitches in the wound to help with your episiotomy healing.

How is an episiotomy repair done and what are perineal stitches?

Many women need stitches after giving birth. This could be due to a natural tear or an episiotomy. Your episiotomy is usually carefully stitched up by a professional after you have given birth to ensure that the correct episiotomy healing process takes place.  These episiotomy stitches are usually dissolvable stitches which will automatically start to dissolve as your wound heals over. Although stitches after childbirth are common we know that a lot of women worry about episiotomy care. Often women won’t have had any experience of dissolving stitches before and they often ask how long do stitches take to dissolve after birth.  Whilst how long it takes for stitches to dissolve can vary depending on the products they are made from they usually last around 4-6 weeks.  Episiotomy stitches should usually start to heal quickly but it is important to use the right episiotomy care to make sure that they stay clean and you don’t end up with an infected episiotomy.

What can I do to promote episiotomy healing and prevent infection?

The good news is that there is lots that you can do at home to prevent an episiotomy infection, to promote episiotomy healing and to treat infected stitches after birth.  The best way to prevent infection is to keep your surgical stitches clean. However as the stiches are in a delicate and hard to reach area this is not always as easy as it sounds! When talking about episiotomy care most midwives recommend washing the area after going to the toilet to stop harmful bacteria entering the wound. They usually tell new mums to keep a jug of water in the bathroom but this can be messy and impractical. However the revolutionary Femette is the ideal solution as it has angled nozzle that helps you control the water spray and direction. It’s also portable so it means that you can get out and about easily even if you have had an episiotomy. You can also support episiotomy healing by taking regular baths and, if your wound feels sore, then try cooling witch hazel gel or cream, but best to check with your mid-wife before to see what is safe to use for you.

However if you feel your episiotomy is not healing correctly or you notice any signs of infection then do contact your GP or health visitor straight away as you may need antibiotics.

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