All hail the majestic vulva!
If you have experienced a vaginal birth, then you know that from vulva to cervix, your whole vaginal "zone" is pretty amazing. Your vagina did things that you may not have thought were possible like... oh, I don't know... have a WHOLE human pass through it!
Show your vulva some lovin'
After giving birth, it is very important to be kind to yourself but especially to your "lady parts" because they will almost certainly be sore and in need of a little TLC. Almost every woman experiences bleeding (lochia), stitches, swelling & soreness, and anxiety about urinating and passing bowel movements after giving birth. You are also more at risk for developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections because of the added stress on your body.
Your vulva has been through a lot! It may look different than it did before and for a while, it will certainly feel a bit different. But postpartum vulvas need some lovin'. Let's talk about how you can make your vulva happy after giving birth.
Caring for your vulva after birth is a must.
As doulas, me make it our business (literally!) to learn a lot about taking care "down there" and We spend a shocking amount of time reading and talking about yonis and how to make them happy after birth. So let's take a minute and talk about how to make your vulva happy after birth.
Treat your vulva to some nice undies!
Bacteria thrives in environments which are warm and moist and a postpartum vagina is definitely both of those things. By choosing cotton or silk underwear (both are very breathable and allow moisture to be absorbed and then evaporate quickly away from the skin) you are helping to create an environment that will discourage bacteria from multiplying. Cotton and silk underwear are also very comfortable, which is great during the days and weeks postpartum when you and your vulva deserve a little extra lovin'.
Two words: Peri. Bottles.
These are a must have for women after giving birth. You will be sore, most women will have experienced some amount of tearing, you may have a few stitches, and you will absolutely not want to be using scratchy toilet paper after using the washroom. Basically, a peri bottle is a soft plastic bottle with a squirt top that you can fill with warm water and use to rinse yourself after changing pads or going to the washroom. They are commonly given to pregnant women by their care providers before birth but, if not, you can buy them easily from your local pharmacy or in many grocery stores. We recommend having a few on hand and simply running them through the dishwasher to ensure that they are clean and ready to use.
Sitz or Soak
A sitz bath is a shallow bath in which you submerge only your vulva, perineum, and buttocks for the purpose of cleaning or pain relief. For a postpartum woman, a sitz bath can be very refreshing. Stitches can be itchy and the tearing you experienced may be quite sore. Soaking in a warm sitz bath can soothe and refresh you. For an extra healing boost consider adding an herbal soak like Hello, Baby's Sitz or Soak (available locally at Play Cafe for only $17) to promote healing?
Break out the Padsicles!
Many women experience swelling or pain on their perineum after birth and applying an ice pack is a simple way to help relieve these discomforts. However, ice packs are not the most convenient shape for applying between your legs and, because of postpartum bleeding (lochia) they may not be the most sanitary or "mess free" way to go about things. So what is a postpartum woman to do?
Easy. Make a padsicle!
Generously wet a "long and strong" pad (my little nickname for an overnight type feminine hygiene pad) with water, or a healing solution, and place them in the freezer until needed. Make sure to keep the backing on your padsicles or they may stick together. Make these a dozen at a time and store them in a large, flat Tupperware container with layers separated by parchment or wax paper. After baby is born, you can wear these right in your underwear against your skin to provide much needed comfort and pain management.
When in doubt, hydrate.
Water is always a great tool for healing -- we are made up of about 73% water after all! While pregnant a woman will almost double the volume of blood in her body, retain fluids, and is often given IV fluids during birth. All of that extra needs to get flushed out after baby is born so drinking ample amounts of fresh water can really help your kidneys do their work! In terms of vaginal health, after birth women are particularly susceptible to both yeast and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Staying hydrated helps you pee more often which can be helpful in preventing UTIs.
We love our vulvas, how about you?
There are so many simple things you can do to take care of your vulva after birth. If you want to have some real conversations with us and a community of women just like you, why not join us on Facebook at Bump to Baby PTBO! It is a community based online support group where there is no such thing as TMI and everyone shows nothing but respect for the choices of others!
Most importantly, take good care of you, and don't forget: a happy vulva is ... well, a happy vulva!