Healing Your Perineum After Giving Birth - 5 Tips

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Your baby is going to arrive soon and the chances are you have some nappies, a variety of nappy creams, some wipes all sorted - you are more than prepared for baby’s bottom. But what about your bottom?? Are you organised and prepared to help yourself heal following babys birth?

How your perineum is after baby’s birth will depend on how your labor unfolded. Some women experience no tearing, just swelling and discomfort after pushing out a baby and all that stretching. Others experience natural tears (from minor grazes that heal on their own to those needing stitches) or require episiotomies. Whether you experience minor discomfort, a natural tear or an episiotomy, there are several things that can offer relief and promote healing post natally and they are good to know about in advance so you can have supplied in and ready.

So here are 5 top tips to help your lady bits heal after birth:

Tip 1 – Take A Soak In A Healing Bath

A postpartum sitz bath is a special bath used in the early postpartum period to help ease the pain, promote healing, and give good hygiene to the perineal area. This is particularly helpful after an episiotomy or tearing during birth. But it can also help ease swelling in the perineum or a swollen labia when there is no cut or tearing.

This is a recipe from the wonderful Michaela Scott, a brilliant local Doula and a pregnancy massage ninja too!! Find out more about her here - http://www.yorkmothernurture.co.uk  Michaela’s recipe is here:

“I make up a blend of herbs which you brew up like a tea, approximately one cup of dried herbs per litre of boiling water and then leave to brew for 20 minutes before straining.  This can then be added to a regular bath, kept in a jug to pour over your vulva and perineum after going for a wee, or use a small amount soaked into a pad which is then chilled in the fridge before use (sooo good when you are sore down there!) . You can also create a shallow bath called a ‘sitz bath’ with a wide shallow bowl and sit in it if you prefer.

Ingredients:

Dried Calendula (Marigold) flowers - a natural antiseptic, promotes wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties

Dried Lavender flowers - promotes relaxation, and are anti-fungal and anti-inflaImmatory. If bathing alone (ir not with baby) you can add 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil if you like instead (pre mixed in some shampoo to disperse it). 

Rose petals -  rose petals are an astringent, i.e help skin cells to contract so can be used to staunch bleeding from cuts,  and they also evoke the spirit of love in your heart and mind. 

Chamomile - calming, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory

Epsom Salts - anti-inflammatory, improves circulation, regulates fluid retention, soothes aching muscles and regulates blood sugar. Or use Himilayan Salt if you prefer.

In York you can get these herbs from Tullivers on Colliergate, and Neals Yard too.

You can also add Red raspberry leaf, Yarrow flowers and Plantain leaf too. And you can also add comfrey leaf, Shepherd's purse or Uva ursi leaf, but these are better used after consulting with a medical herbalist. You don’t have to use ALL these ingredients, just a couple or what you have is also fine.

Method

Mix a ‘cup’ of each (just use a tea cup) in of the herbs and salts in a big bowl and store them in a jar or bag, ready for use when the time comes. Either ‘brewed’ or just sprinkled into the bath (as described above).

If this is too much faff for you, you can also buy herbal bath blends online too.

Tip 2 - Keep a soothing post natal spray in the fridge

You can also make a post-natal spray for using on the perineum after birth, this is a mixture of calendula tincture diluted in water, mixed with aloe vera gel and a few drops of blue chamomile essential oil and/or lavender oil.  You need to be careful to use 1% or less of essential oils or it may sting (that’s 1 drop of essential oil per 5ml).  If in doubt, leave them out and just use the calendula and aloe. This can be used an a spray bottle or applied to pads which are then chilled in the fridge before use. Thanks again to Michaela for this recipe.

Here’s another recipe too. Take an empty spray bottle, fill it with Witch Hazel, add 20 drops of lavender essential oil (use a good quality one such as Neals Yard or Boots). That’s it! 

Tip 3 – Apply Ice Packs

Cool compresses help reduce swelling associated with tears and pain. If you find that your labials are swollen, but not irritated, this can be normal and due to excess fluid. Ice will not help that swelling, but it can help swelling associated with tears and stitches.

You can also get ‘instant’ prepackaged perineal cool compresses. that do not require a freezer and activate when bent in half. But simply putting some water in a maxi pad and then freezing also makes a great cool compress.

Tip 4 – Poo Carefully

Pregnancy, birth, the postnatal period and your newborn can lead to lots of thoughts about poo! Prior to pregnancy it is likely something that rarely took much of your thoughts. Many women are very anxious about their first postnatal bowel movement, and it can be extremely uncomfortable, while for others it’s all about the anxiety.

Depending on how birth went, and if you are using pain medications, constipation can contribute to postnatal discomfort. This can be exacerbated by high strength iron tablets (as the excess iron will come out in your poo, making it turn black and making you constipated too). So staying well hydrated and eating foods naturally high in fibre and using any stool softeners recommended by care providers can help you get passed the first few postnatal movements.

Even if you are anxious, do not try to avoid using the bathroom when necessary. Holding it can make constipation and discomfort worse. For most, the anticipation is worse than actually going.

Tip 5 - Give Yourself Plenty Of Rest Time

Giving birth is a momentous task, and one worthy of lots and lots of rest to recover and replenish yourself. Really try to listen to your body, do not simply try to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible. Take all the help offered, this is such an important time. If you are using the stairs too often, or if walking or lifting causes more perineal discomfort then do really listen to your body and rest. It really is a several week recovery for this area, be gentle with yourself.

In the early days and weeks mamas should be focused on feeding, bonding and resting. The more you rest, the more opportunity you give your body to heal.

Most women find their perineum heals well within the initial postnatal period. Many women do not report a lot of pain, just discomfort as things heal. Postnatal healing isn’t something to fear, but it does help to be prepared to help minimize discomfort and speed up healing. It is a great thing to be well prepared for your baby’s bottom, just don’t forget to care for yours too!

Susan x