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Pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood can be exciting, overwhelming -- and painful. As you focus attention and energy on your new baby, it's important not to neglect yourself. Knowing how to care for problems like foot blisters, cesarean section incisions, sore breasts, cracked nipples, and other unexpected discomforts can make this exciting time in life a little less painful.

Aches and Pains After Delivery

The pain of childbirth doesn’t always end with the final push at delivery. Here are some other painful problems you may experience, as well as tips on how to care for them and feel more comfortable.

Episiotomy or perineal tear

During a vaginal delivery, the area between the vagina and anus, called the perineum, can tear or may be cut by the doctor so that the baby can be delivered more easily. If the doctor cuts the area, the procedure is called an episiotomy.

After delivery, this area may be very sensitive for several days or weeks. It may hurt when you sit, walk, cough, or sneeze. To relieve swelling, pain and/or itching, try the following:

  • Ice. In the first 24 hours after delivery, try placing an ice pack on the area to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Warm water. Stream warm water on the area while you are urinating to prevent stinging. When you’re discharged, the hospital may provide a squirt bottle especially for this purpose. If not, any clean bottle with a squirt top will work.
  • Anesthetic pads or ointments. Apply anesthetic spray, cream, or ointment with witch hazel pads to temporarily numb the area.
  • Sitz bath/Heat.No sooner than 24 hours after delivery, take warm sitz baths where only your hips and bottom are submerged. Taking these a few times each day and holding a warm compress against the area may help ease the pain.
  • Rest. Lie on your side as much as possible to relieve the pressure on the episiotomy site. Try not to sit or stand for too long. When you do sit, tense buttock muscles before you sit down and then relax them once you're seated. Sitting on a soft pillow may also help.
  • Kegel exercises. Perform exercises that strengthen the muscles near your incision or tear to help the area heal faster and feel better. To perform this exercise, tighten the area as if you were trying to stop your stream of urine. Hold that contraction for 10 seconds and then release. Try to repeat this 20 times daily. You can do these anytime.
  • Cleanliness. To keep the area dry and clean, pat the area with clean tissue or gauze, being careful to not rub. The more gentle you are, the less it will hurt. Change pads often, at least every four hours, and try to avoid touching the site.
  • Loose clothing. Avoid tight pants and tight underwear, which can cause friction and irritate the wound.
  • Fiber-rich diet. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods and drink plenty of water to ensure that you have regular, soft bowel movements. Taking a stool softener may help as well.

With these self-care tips, the tear or incision should heal well. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection such as fever, chills, swelling, redness, pain that does not get better, or foul-smelling discharge or excessive bleeding from the episiotomy site
  • New or worsening pain
  • Problems with loss of urinary or bowel control