Recovery after vaginal birth

Our midwives are able to assist in recovery following birth to ensure you back feeling your normal self in no time.

Perineal care after normal vaginal birth

Some women will need stitches to repair tears or cuts of the perineum (the wedge of tissue between the vagina and the anus) or vagina, which may occur during birth. There are different levels of tears, including:

  • 1st degree: small tear, only involving skin
  • 2nd degree: a tear which includes skin and the muscle underneath
  • 3rd degree: a tear that goes into the anal sphincter – the muscle around the anus, this can be to differing degrees
  • 4th degree: a tear which goes through the perineum, anal sphincter and into the anal canal
  • Episiotomy: a cut made by the doctor or midwife through the vaginal wall and perineum to assist with the birth of the baby
  • Grazes: splits in the skin on other parts of the vulva, and may require stitches at times


  • Have frequent showers or pour lukewarm water over the perineum after each time at the toilet
  • Frequent, short baths
  • Avoid soaps, powders, disinfectant, salts and creams
  • Change pads two to four hourly to begin with, or as advised by midwife
  • RICEA – Rest (though not sitting for prolonged periods).
    • Ice – 10 mins every two hours for the first 24-72 hrs
    • Compression – firm fitting underwear with thick maternity pads
    • Elevation, you can lie flat with a pillow elevating your hips
    • Analgesia – paracetamol and anti-inflammatories can be taken if really uncomfortable
  • Avoid constipation and straining. Eat high fibre diet and drink lots of water. Use laxatives if necessary to soften bowel motions
  • Avoid straining and lifting for 6 weeks from birth
  • Stitches can take up to 60 days to dissolve completely
  • If you have an increase in pain or bleeding, smelly discharge, bladder burning or discomfort when passing urine, pain or difficulty opening your bowels or notice any sign of infection in the wound (you can look using a hand mirror), please let your midwife or doctor know
  • If you have a 3rd or 4th degree tear, you will be given further instructions for care before leaving the hospital

Vaginal Birth Discharge Pack

The resources below provide further information to assist you with your recovery.