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To help prepare your body for delivery, reduce the risk of tearing and the likelihood you’ll need an episiotomy, eat well and try doing daily Kegel exercises and perineal massage starting five to six weeks before delivery. Good nutrition helps keep your tissues healthy and elastic, which will help them stretch to accommodate your baby.

Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. To do a Kegel, contract your pelvic floor muscles – these are the ones you use to stop the flow of urine – release and repeat. Perform a set of twenty five of these each day to tone the muscles you’ll use during delivery.

To perform perineal massage, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and make sure your fingernails are trimmed. Sit comfortably with your legs spread apart. Apply K-Y jelly or other lubricant to your thumbs and insert them in your vagina. Press downward toward your rectum, until you feel a gentle stretching. You may feel a slight burning or other discomfort; don’t be worried, this is normal. However, stop immediately if you feel any sharp pain. Repeat the massage daily for about 8 to 10 minutes per session.

If you do have an episiotomy, or you tear during delivery, your doctor will stitch you up and it will take some time to heal. Try the following to speed healing and ease the discomfort.

  • Twenty-four hours after delivery, you can start soaking in a warm tub or sitz bath. A sitz bath is a shallow plastic basin you fill with warm water and place on your toilet seat. This is a convenient way to soak your bottom without taking a full bath in the tub.

  • Keep the area dry and exposed to air as much as possible. Blow dry the area for a few minutes after bathing (on low heat and keep the dryer at least 12 inches away from the area), and limit the amount of time you spend sitting until the stitches heal.

  • Walking and Kegel exercises will stimulate circulation and promote healing. Perform Kegels every day. You may find it more comfortable to perform them when you are getting out of bed or rolling over, so you don’t feel like you are pulling on your stitches.

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