I don’t think I’m saying anything you don’t already know, but after a vaginal birth, things are likely to be at least a little sore and swollen down there. You might have some tearing, an episostomy incision, or if you’re really unlucky, a third or fourth-degree tear (the kind that extend down into the anal sphincter or rectum – OUCH!).
Giving birth is a physical ordeal and it will take time to heal. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to manage pain, soothe the area, and help speed healing.
Take Daily Sitz Baths
A sitz bath (from the German Sitzbad, meaning a bath or bad in which one sits or sitzen) is a fancy name for a warm, shallow bath. Sitz baths helps soothe and speed up healing in your lady parts by increasing blood flow to your perineum and labia and keeping the whole area clean.
Now, for the least fuss, you can absolutely buy a sitz bath pan that fits over your toilet, but personally, I think you’d be missing a golden opportunity. For me, sitting on the toilet for 20 minutes was nowhere near as relaxing as hanging out in the bathtub with a good book. When you have a newborn, you’re on call 24 hours a day, and taking a therapeutic bath may be the only time you have to yourself.
Another name for a sitz bath is a hip bath, meaning the water comes up to your hips, but of course your bath doesn’t have to be shallow to have the same benefits. There’s no reason you can’t lounge in a deeper bath for relaxation and healing.
The first step is to make sure the tub is thoroughly clean. This is something your partner should help with. After all, you’ve just given birth! Next run warm water. The water should be comfortably warm, but not too hot. Add a cup of Epsom salts and a quarter cup of witch hazel and/or baking soda to the tub to help reduce swelling and inflammation, inhibit infection, and promote quicker healing. For an extra relaxing sitz bath, add 3-5 drops of lavender essential oil and a good book.
Simple Sitz Bath Recipe
I didn’t discover the joy of sitz baths until after having my second baby. After Kay was born I took daily sitz baths for the first 3-4 weeks, and the difference in how quickly I healed was night and day. You can take a sitz bath as often as you’d like, though if you have low blood pressure, you may want to have someone on standby the first couple of times in case you get dizzy.
Make Your Own Icy Pads
Don’t knock this one until you’ve tried it! Keep a stash of icy pads in your freezer and place one in your underwear as often as needed to reduce pain and swelling.
It’s easy to make your own icy pads with either disposable or cloth pads. Moisten your pads with witch hazel and lay them flat in the freezer for a couple of hours. Don’t soak them or they’ll be too stiff and make a mess when they thaw. An easy way to dampen them without soaking is to use a small spray bottle to apply the witch hazel.
Take a Peri Bottle with You Wherever You “Go”
Be sure you keep the peri bottle (short for perineal irrigation bottle) they give you at the hospital, or if you’re planning a home birth, pick up one or two from Amazon. These are a lifesaver when you’re trying to pee the first couple of weeks, especially if you have stitches.
Fill the bottle with warm tap water before sitting down and gently spray your perineal area at the same time as you’re urinating. The warm water will dilute the urine so it doesn’t sting or irritate your delicate, healing tissues.
Use these tips to encourage healing and reduce pain and swelling so you can enjoy new motherhood a little bit more. Congratulations, mama!
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