By Dr Janice TUNG, Associate Consultant and Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Visiting Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital

woman smiling and doing planks on her bed

During your labour, your doctor may have performed an episiotomy: a surgical cut between your vagina and anus (an area called the perineum) to deliver your child, or you may have had a vaginal tear.

With the perineal wound, it takes a week for the pain to recede and two weeks to heal. Try these tips on how to care for your wound and help it heal:

Apply cooling packs: Cooling the sore area for short periods of time will help relieve the pain and swelling. These are available at most hospitals as perineal ice-pads or panties that you can wear for convenience.

Maintain good hygiene: Rinse the area gently with water after you pass urine or move your bowels. There is no need to use soap, but do clean gently from front to back to prevent any germs from the anus coming into contact with your wound.

Avoid sitting for prolonged periods: Try not to place direct pressure on the wound; you may want to sit on an inflated swimming ring.

Take prescribed painkillers: Your doctor may have prescribed you some oral painkillers which can be stronger and more effective than paracetamol.

Eat fibre-rich foods and drink more water: This will help you to have regular bowel movements and avoid constipation, which may delay healing as you will be applying pressure to the wound if you're straining. You may also take stool softeners. See your doctor if you still have problems.

Take a salt bath: Immerse only your hips and buttocks in warm water containing a handful of salt. This is known as a sitz bath and may help to relieve pain and keep the wound clean.

Do Kegel or pelvic floor exercises: These will promote healing by improving blood flow to the area. They are also very good for preventing pelvic floor weakness and incontinence later on.

See the doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms: heavy bleeding, severe abdominal pain, discharge from wound, swelling or fever.

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The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific

Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore