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How do you know if your stitches have ripped after birth?

View profile for Sahida Patel
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Welcoming a new life into the world is a beautiful experience, but it can come with physical changes and recovery. For some women, stitches may be necessary after childbirth to address birth injuries. In this article, we'll explore the world of postpartum stitches, focusing on why they might be needed, common injuries leading to stitches, their frequency, healing times, and signs of potential complications. 


What is birth injury? 

Birth injury refers to physical trauma that occurs to the mother during the process of childbirth. These injuries can vary in severity, and while some may heal on their own, others may require medical intervention, including stitches. Common birth injuries include tears or cuts to the perineum, the area between the vagina and the anus, which may occur naturally during delivery. 


Why are stitches  needed after birth & common injuries leading to stitches?

Stitches are often needed after birth to promote proper healing of tears or incisions and to prevent infection; however, not all tears will require stitches and this can depend on your personal circumstances. The most common injuries leading to stitches include perineal tears, episiotomies (surgical incisions made to widen the vaginal opening), and vaginal wall tears. These injuries can happen due to the baby's size, the use of forceps or vacuum extraction, or a rapid delivery


How often do these injuries occur and how often are stitches required? 

The occurrence of birth injuries and the subsequent need for stitches can be influenced by various factors, including the birthing process itself. Vaginal deliveries carry a risk of perineal tears, which occur in approximately 53-79% of cases. The likelihood of needing stitches is often associated with the size of the baby, prolonged labour, and the use of assisted delivery techniques such as forceps or vacuum extraction. Episiotomies, surgical incisions made to enlarge the vaginal opening, are performed in about 20% of deliveries. These intentional cuts are typically made when there's concern about potential tearing or complications during childbirth. While episiotomies can minimise the risk of severe tears, they also contribute to the need for stitches. 


How long do stitches take to heal after birth and how often do they rip? 

The healing time for stitches after birth depends on various factors, including the extent of the injury, the type of stitches used, and the individual's overall health. Generally, stitches start to dissolve or are removed within 1-2 weeks. While most stitches heal without complications, there is a possibility of them ripping, especially if the mother engages in strenuous activities too soon or does not follow proper postnatal care guidelines. 

While most stitches heal without complications, there is a possibility of tearing, especially if certain precautions are not taken. The frequency of stitches ripping can be influenced by factors such as the type of delivery, the extent of the original injury, and the adherence to postnatal care guidelines. Engaging in strenuous activities too soon after childbirth or neglecting proper hygiene practices may increase the risk of stitches tearing. 


How do you know if your stitches have ripped? 

In the postnatal period, it's crucial to be vigilant about potential signs that your stitches may have ripped. One noticeable symptom is an increase in pain around the stitched area. If you experience sudden or severe pain that wasn't present before, it may indicate a problem with the stitches. Swelling, redness, or an unusual warmth around the perineal region could also suggest complications. Additionally, any renewed bleeding or discharge, especially if it's accompanied by a foul odour, may be indicative of ripped stitches. If you observe these symptoms or have any concerns about the healing process, it's important to promptly reach out to your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation. Regular postpartum check-ups play a crucial role in monitoring the healing progress and addressing any issues that may arise, ensuring a smoother recovery for new mothers. 


What are the potential consequences of ripped stiches? 

Experiencing ripped stitches in the postpartum period can lead to various consequences, emphasising the importance of prompt medical attention. One potential consequence is an increased risk of infection. Ripped stitches expose the wound to external contaminants, creating an environment conducive to bacterial growth. This can result in localised infections, such as cellulitis, or more severe complications if left untreated. Furthermore, the healing process may be delayed, causing prolonged discomfort and hindering the overall recovery. Additionally, complications such as tissue damage or scarring may arise, affecting the long-term well-being of the perineal area. Moreover, the emotional toll on new mothers can be significant, as dealing with unexpected complications can contribute to increased stress and anxiety during an already challenging postnatal period. Therefore, seeking timely medical assistance is crucial to mitigate these potential consequences and ensure optimal healing and wellbeing for both the mother and the newborn. 


What to do if you think your stiches have ripped 

If you suspect that your stitches have ripped during the postnatal period, taking immediate action and seek medical attention. Contact your healthcare provider promptly to discuss your symptoms and schedule an evaluation. Treatment options will depend on the extent of the damage and may include re-suturing the wound, prescribing antibiotics to prevent or treat infections, and providing pain management strategies. It's crucial to follow your healthcare provider's advice diligently, which may include abstaining from strenuous activities and maintaining proper hygiene to minimise the risk of further complications. In some cases, additional tests, such as imaging studies, may be recommended to assess the severity of the damage. Open communication with your healthcare team is vital during this time, allowing for a collaborative approach to your recovery. Remember that each case is unique, and the recommended treatments will be tailored to your specific situation. Adhering to the prescribed care plan and attending follow-up appointments will ensure comprehensive monitoring of your recovery and help prevent potential long-term consequences. 



Understanding the need for stitches after birth, common injuries leading to stitches, their frequency, and potential complications is essential for new mothers. While stitches are a common part of postnatal recovery, being aware of signs indicating potential issues and following proper care guidelines will contribute to a smoother healing process. Always consult with healthcare professionals for personalised advice and guidance during this critical phase of postnatal care.