You knew that labour and delivery of your baby was going to hurt – you probably spent the last nine months worrying about it. But what may not have considered is that the aches and pains don’t vanish immediately after birth. In fact, the pain in your vaginal area may last for days or even weeks afterwards. The good thing is that we have some great remedies, loved by moms and recommended by experts, to help ease those niggles. But, like with anything, consult your doctor before trying any home remedies.
Protecting down there
You may have experienced some tearing of the perineum, or needed an episiotomy during labour. Most of these tears are minor, but it’s not uncommon to require stitches. Experts from the Oxford University Hospital Trust recommend keeping the perineal area clean. Change your maternity pads regularly and try to avoid sitting still for too long. It is also a good idea to lie on your side if you are uncomfortable. It will take between two to four weeks for your stitches to heal.
- Cool temperatures will help ease the pain and reduce swelling. One way to do this is to sit in a shallow bath of cool water, but make sure you pat the stitches dry afterwards. You can also use a cold gel pack wrapped in a soft cloth or towel. Alternatively, use a small bag of frozen peas or corn, or fill a condom with water and freeze it.
- Epsom salt sitz baths can also help speed healing and reduce swelling. These can help you relax, while soothing discomfort. Try adding herbs such as calendula or lavender in your sitz bath, which involves adding about a cup of salt to a shallow bath.
- Good old-fashioned witch hazel can help to reduce inflammation. Its astringent properties work as an antiseptic and helps prevent infection. Soak circular cotton pads in the witch hazel, or apply a water and witch hazel solution to the area using a small spray bottle. This can also be used to rinse the area after urinating if toilet paper causes discomfort.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil to lukewarm water in a spray bottle. Tea tree has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antiseptic properties. However, avoid using this if you are breastfeeding.
- Black tea also has anti-inflammatory properties. Dunk a tea bag in a quarter cup of boiling water and steep until cooled. Wring out the bag and place against your skin.
- Ibuprofen is a great anti-inflammatory that can help decrease cramping and help ease the pain. While this is considered to be safe to take while breastfeeding, check with your healthcare provider first.
- Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and water, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Not only do you want to stay hydrated, but you want to avoid constipation and ensure that you urinate regularly. It is recommended that you should need to urinate every two to three hours (even if this is uncomfortable).
- Short sessions of gentle exercise will be of benefit. Go for a walk and do some pelvic floor exercises to help reduce swelling, increase blood flow and improve healing. Find a comfortable position, such as lying down. Imagine you are trying to stop yourself from passing urine by tightening your pelvic floor muscles. Try to lift the pelvic floor muscles up into your pelvis. Clench, relax and repeat.
- You need to keep your stitches as clean and dry as possible. This means washing more frequently, changing your maternity pads regularly, and rinsing and patting dry your stitches each time you use the toilet. Wear soft cotton underwear or disposable mesh maternity panties that allow air flow while still keeping the maternity pad in place.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.