Baby is set to arrive soon and chances are, you have baby wipes set to go, nappies/diapers galore and five varieties of organic nappy cream.
You are more than prepared for baby's bottom.
But what about your bottom?
Are you organised and prepared to help yourself heal following your birth?
The state of your perineum after your birth will depend on how your labor unfolded. Some women experience no tearing, just swelling and discomfort. Others experience natural tears (from minor lacerations to needing several 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.
Here are 6 ways to help you heal after your birth:
#1: Apply Witch Hazel
If you're like many pregnant women, you might already be stocked with witch hazel. Witch hazel offers relief for pesky pregnancy hemorrhoids. It also offers soothing relief from postnatal swelling, painful or irritated stitches and any hemorrhoids that worsened or arrived with birth.
Many women find freezing witch hazel pads and sticking them in their panties offers tremendous relief. The herbal remedy plus the coolness offers double the soothing power.
#2 – Take A Healing Soak In A Bath
A sitz bath sits on top of the toilet and allows you to soak your bottom in a few inches of water. Sitz baths can help soothe swelling, irritated stitches and hemorrhoids. Sitz baths can also help to speed up postnatal healing.
Many women like to add herbs, Epsom salts (which contains magnesium, and is also good for cramps, aches and pains) and essential oils to their sitz baths. There are many recipes online as well as pre-made postnatal herbal bath products. You can also ask your midwife or doctor if they have any recommendations.
#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.
Some facilities give new mamas prepackaged perineal cool compresses. These items do not require a freezer and activate when bent in half. Putting some water in a newborn diaper/nappy or a maxi pad and then freezing also makes a great cool compress.
#4 – Poop Carefully
Pregnancy, birth, the postnatal period and your newborn can lead to lots of thoughts about poop. Prior to pregnancy it is likely something that rarely took much thought. Many women are very anxious about their first postnatal bowel movement. Some find it 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. Many providers recommend stool softeners. If your provider recommends it, many women would say listen! Just bear in mind that some preparations like Metamucil contain aspartame (artificial sweetener).
Staying well hydrated, eating foods naturally high in fiber (choose to get fibre from fruit and veg, rather than processed cereals) and using any stool softeners recommended by 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.
#5: Use A Peri Bottle
A peri bottle (a little squirt bottle) given at many birthing facilities, can be very helpful in the postnatal period. Wiping after urinating or having a bowel movement needs to be done with care. Using a peri bottle to rinse before wiping can make gentle wiping more efficient.
Some women find they have difficulty urinating in the immediate postnatal period. Using a peri bottle with warm water can help some women better empty the bladder by triggering them to relax and release.
#6: Give Yourself Plenty Of Rest Time
Giving birth is a big task and one worthy of lots of rest to recover. Listen to your body. If using the stairs too often, walking or lifting causes more perineal discomfort, listen to your body and rest. It really is a several week recovery, 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.
Resuming Sexual Activity
As your body begins to heal, postnatal bleeding stops and your provider gives the okay, remember to take it slow when you resume sexual activity. It isn't uncommon to experience tightness, strong nerve sensations/pain, and pain/discomfort where any tears or stitches healed the first few times you have sex.
Many postnatal and breastfeeding mothers need more lubrication than prior to having a baby due to vaginal dryness. Some of this is due to hormonal changes and some due to healing tissue. Be sure to use a lot to help ease any discomfort from dryness.
If you find that intercourse is too uncomfortable, it's okay to wait a few more weeks to allow your body more time to heal. If you are well beyond the postnatal period and still experiencing discomfort be sure to reach out to your provider, or even a pelvic specialist if pain and discomfort persists. Most women heal very well from childbirth, but a few require extra support for healing.
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!