After Bubs2 made her very fast entrance into this world via an assisted forceps delivery, everyone told me it was great I did not have the planned C-section I was booked in for, as now my recovery time would be quicker and I could get back to normal life especially with a toddler in tow. Having always believed giving birth was the difficult part, I was about to be proved very wrong in the days that followed Bubs2 birth.
With my first birth being quite eventful, my recovery although the majority was done in hospital it was fairly straight forward. Despite having both an episiotomy and c-section I was back to feeling normal and up and about within a few days. With the second though it was a different story, one which I feel needs to be shared. Once I started explaining to people what had happened I heard so many similar stories, but no one had ever talked about this before when I was pregnant either time.
We were discharged from hospital the day after Bubs2 was born in the afternoon, which was great for me as I could not wait to get back to my mums and see Bubs, very glad to not have the week long stay like I did first day around. On Monday things were sore like I expected they would be after pushing out a baby from that region with the help of forceps and an epistomoy but I continued taking regular pain killers and it was uncomfortable but bearable.
By Tuesday I thought the pain would have improved but it still felt the same and when the community midwife visited I mentioned I felt as if I may have any infection, she checked and said she could not see any signs of one, but if anything changed to visit my GP as there maybe an internal infection.
Lying awake in bed on Tuesday night whilst feeding I just felt something was not quite right, through work we have access to Babylon which gives you a GP appointment via a phone consulation straight from your phone, so I booked one for first thing Wednesday morning at 9am.
Although modern technology is great, this GP told me to book into see my actual GP asap as I had just given birth so should be seen straight away. Thankfully I was able to get an emergency appointment with a great GP who confirmed I did definitely have an infection and that some of my stitches had already started to fall out. She immediately phoned triage at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital and arranged for me to be seen in addition to prescribing me antibiotics to start taking.
It was time for Bubs2 first ever outing at 3 days old, we went back to the hospital she was born at. It was very strange walking around holding a tiny baby in my arms rather than in my stomach like at all those appointments during my pregnancy.
The doctors and midwives in triage could only give me strong painkillers, they were unable to do anything else until the infection cleared. They arranged for me to come back the following week to see a perennial tear specialist to decide the next course of action. My initial worry was how I would last for a week in this much agony and how I would continue to feed. Thanks to amazon prime one of the first things I did was order a special post recovery cushion to enable me to sit. This cushion ended up being my best friend over the following weeks, wherever I went she went too, it was a long time before I could sit down and stand up without wincing.
Wednesday also coincided with Day 3 after giving birth, the day otherwise know as when your milk comes in and you cry. It didn't take much for me to cry that evening. I would say on a scale of 1-10, giving birth for me is around a 7, this pain I was in from the infection was around a 12 and unlike contractions it was constant.
I ended up calling triage back again in the middle of the night unable to handle it any longer, but they explained the only thing they could do would be give me strong painkillers in the morning once the hospital pharmacy opened up. I drugged myself up that night and some how managed to keep feeding Bubs2 through the night by lying down.
Luckily we were still staying with my parents after I came home from hospital, so we had lots of extra help with both kids. Without this I do not think I would have survived, I even got breakfast in bed on Thursday morning and I spent the entire day in bed asleep. Only leaving to feed myself or Bubs2. The extra help was great to help me rest and recovery especially with a toddler to look after too. I recently read a blog post on closing the drawbridge after giving birth and spending the first week in bed followed by the second week on the sofa, this is what I ended up doing but without support and help I do not think its so easy to do.
By Friday the pain had reduced a little, around a 8-9 now on the scale and I had my five day midwife check, she explained everything in more detail to me.
The infection may have been caused during the episiotomy incision, especially since this was my second time meaning there was already scar tissue in that area, or due to the forces or restitching equipment. By Friday all of my stitches had come out, meaning the entire wound was now open. She explained they often do not restitch and instead allow the skin to naturally build up over time to heal, which can take up to 4 months. An active toddler and 4 months of discomfort just was not going to work for me. She also gave me some great practical advice which I have listed at the end of my story. The highlight of the whole week however was when Bubs2 had her first weighing in and had amazingly put on weight rather than losing it from her birth weight. It was a great feeling of achievement to know that despite all the pain, she was thriving and chubbing out each day, made everything seem worthwhile.
Thursday + week
The following Thursday I had my follow up appointment at the hospital with a specialist. At the clinic there was nearly 10 other women all with similar symptoms and problems, most of whom had had an instrumental birth too, this showed me again how common this is after given birth. I heard so many stories from friends and family regarding complications with stitches, and although it is pretty hard to prevent an infection I wish I had known about this to be mentally prepared that the journey doesn't always end just after labour.
Back to the hospital, after examining me the consultant believed the best course of action to speed up recovery would be to restitch me. Just the idea of this scared the sizzle out of me, but she assured me it would not be as painful as the first time around and the most painful part would be administering the local anaesthetic I agreed to go ahead ( well I didn't have much choice) with the promise of being allowed gas&air throughout.
The doctor was right again after all and it was no where near as painful as the first time around. I had a great conversation with the doctor and midwife whilst completely high on gas & air. Immediately after being restitched I was given dicofenlac painkiller and reunited with Bubs who had been patiently sleeping in the waiting area with my mum. Whilst feeding her my palms became really itchy which I thought was strange but the doctor did not seem worried. As I was getting ready to leave the hospital and Mr S went out to get the car my whole body started itching and my throat became very tight, I went back to triage and they confirmed I was having an allergic reaction. Before I knew it I was back in the bay I had just been in hooked up to a steroid drip and antihistamines.
I do not want to scare anyone with the above and obviously every birth is different. I have a fairly high pain threshold and the pain I was in post recovery was probably the worst I have felt in my life, way worse than labour, vaginal delivery or a c-section. Whatever type of birth you have their is always a chance of infection. In addition to my top tips below I would advise you to try and catch it early and get those antibiotics into you as soon as you can.
The most important thing when pregnant is for the baby and you to be healthy and safe, so remember to pay attention to your body too. As much as you can try and plan and prepare, with giving birth you never know what will happen. Rest and recovery is so important in those early days.
My restitches were a lot stronger than the standard ones first given and took around 4 -5 weeks to dissolve completely, so my recovery time ended up being the same as having a C-section in the end. I am now completely back to normal, have forgotten the pain and can't wait for baby number 3 - just kidding, I just wanted to check who was still reading this far.
Top Tips for Recovering from Post-Partum Perineal Tears and Infections
1.Foam Ring Doughnut Cushion - buy one of these - you will love - it will love you
2.Frozen Sanitary Towels - sprinkle some water and aloe vera gel and place into the freezer
3. Jug or Water Bottle in the Toilet - use when passing urine and to ensure everything is clean
4.Kitchen Roll - use this to dry yourself instead of toilet roll - much more absorbent - keeps things dry
5.Hairdryer - for a extra layer of dryness - prevents infection spreading
6.No products - just water when bathing
7.Shower not bath - shower instead of lying in a bath again to prevent infection
8.Arnicha tablets - speeds up recovery
9.Diet - lots of water, fruit, veg and fibre - to keep up your strength and improve recovery time
10.Movement - as much as you can - improves blood flow and speeds up recovery