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How long do new mum stitches take to heal?

Q: ‘I’ve had a third degree tear and had a lot of stitches. How long will it take to heal?’

Childbirth expert Dr Donald Gibb says: 

‘A third degree tear is a tear of the vagina and perineum that extends to the anus, so muscle is damaged.

‘It occurs in 9% of women and can be very painful and traumatic. Lower degree tears don’t involve the bottom area, so this type is severe and needs to be treated carefully. You’re more likely to have a third degree tear if the baby is big and prosterior (has the back of his head to the mother’s back). If you’re petite and have a small cervix, you’re more prone to tearing, too – it really depends on the size and position of the baby. It doesn’t make you more likely to tear if it’s your second, third or fourth child. 

‘In good hands, stitches can take up to 45 minutes and are always done within 30 minutes of the woman giving birth. The mother is always given pain relief, either a spinal anaesthesia or epidural. 

‘Stitches take about three to four weeks to heal. However, it will take approximately six weeks to feel fully back to normal. Make sure you have adequate pain relief during this time as it can be very painful. Volterol works well. A stool softener such as Lactulose is also important so that you don’t strain your stitches when going to the toilet. 

‘Sitting in a salt bath doesn’t help, even though myth has it that it aids recovery. Clean yourself two or three times a day with water and a very mild soap – Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby-Mild Castile Liquid Soap is good for this. Mums may need a comfy ring-shaped cushion to sit on, or a specialised ice pack to help alleviate the pain.’ 

Prevent or soothe stitches with these products:

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Natalia Perineal Massage Oil 60ml, £16.50,

Massaging the perineal area in the weeks before labour can help limit tearing. Ask your midwife for detailed instructions.
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Memory Foam Ring Cushion, £11.99,

Sitting can be incredibly uncomfortable after stitches. A foam ring can reduce the pressure, especially while you are feeding baby or resting.
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Smart Choice Feme Pad, £15.99,

If you’re struggling with pain after a tear and want to avoid medication – if breastfeeding, for example – cooling the area with an ice pack helps.

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