I didn’t really know where my perineum was before I had my first baby. Heck, I still have trouble spelling it! But after my son was born, I became painfully aware of the skin and muscle in between my vagina and anus. Painfully aware.
Well you know how they say “forewarned is forearmed” and “knowledge is power”? Consider this post your tactical guide to the power of pampering your perineum.
All three of the bathrooms in my three maternity ward rooms had non-functioning bidets. I’m pretty sure all three had laminated “do not use” signs on them. I bet some people might have even mistaken them for water fountains … bidets aren’t super common in North America.
So instead of a bidet, most hospitals provide you with a peri bottle, which is essentially a squirt bottle. If you don’t get one or want to be extra sure you have one, you can certainly purchase one from a medical supply store. There’s even the Fridababy MomWasher, with an ingeniously designed spout so you can hold it upside down while you’re on the pot.
After giving birth, you want to speed up healing by avoiding infection and keeping your perineum clean. You don’t want any fecal matter wandering astray, and honestly there’s a lot of bleeding, and I don’t know anyone who enjoys the sticky, gooey, gummy feeling of blood between their legs, so you want to wash it away every time you go to the bathroom.
Filling your peri bottle with bath-temperature water and using it to rinse away the blood while you’re still sitting on the toilet is both soothing and effective. (Let me tell you that my brother returned from Thailand and promptly installed a bidet attachment on his toilet.) WASHING YOUR BITS WITH WATER AFTER YOU GO FEELS AWESOME!
Get a peri bottle via my affiliate links: Lagoon Baby | Well.ca
Hospital toilet paper—heck, even luxurious, 3-ply toilet paper—feels like sand paper as you wipe the tender regions between your legs postpartum. After you rinse with a peri bottle, blotting with toilet paper leaves little flecks of toilet paper behind, especially if you’ve had stitches. Gently drying yourself with soft cloth wipes is the only solution.
You might not be into “family cloth” in lieu of toilet paper as a full-time, zero-waste solution, but I propose cloth wipes here not because I’m green, but because I don’t want you to see red every time you do a code yellow or a code brown. Gingerly wiping with a soft cloth (the cheapest option would be cutting squares out of old flannel pajamas or an old receiving blanket) is a million times more comfortable than using TP. Collect your used cloths in a little wetbag and dump them in the wash with your baby’s cloths or whatever laundry you’re doing.
Thank you to Omaïki for sending me their Tushy Wipes to use as postpartum un-toilet-paper!
This might be a tough sell for some, but hear me out. (If you already use reusable menstrual products, you can skip this spiel.) I think every bleeder has had the pleasure of experiencing “swamp crotch.” I shall define this sensation as a sweaty, sticky, itchy, plasticky, bloody mess between one’s legs. Add to this equation painful swelling, tearing or even stitches, and you’ve got a swamp monster. Using soft, plastic-free cloth pads prevents the swamp monster from ever forming. Just as soft cloth wipes are gentler than toilet paper, soft, cloth pads are gentler than disposable ones.
If you don’t plan to use cloth pads once your period comes back, or prefer a cup, you do not need to invest in a massive stash of pads. You can literally use rags. (How old were you when you realized where the expression “on the rag” came from? Today days old?! Did I just blow your mind?!) If you use cloth diapers, you can use prefold diapers in your underwear. You can use folded flannel burp cloths or the cotton ones they sell at IKEA; flour sack towels would also do the trick!
Obviously, this would just be for when you’re at home, but while you aren’t out in public, take the opportunity to heal without that sticky icky feeling!
Check out my reviews of postpartum clod pads.
Whether store-bought or homemade, a peri-spray is a refreshing and soothing solution that you spritz on your perineum whenever you desire. I typically sprayed it after cleaning myself up post-bathroom break.
Because this spray is designed to reduce inflammation and be refreshing and soothing, it’s also really great on your face and neck and chest … or other parts of your body you never knew would sweat until your postpartum hormones kicked in. (I used it ALL OVER after my summer baby.)
Thank you to Red Deere’s MoonLily Wellness for sending me their delightful PeriCare Spray!
5- Posterior Pampering Sitz Bath
It was my first OBGYN who introduced me to the =beauty of the sitz bath. What’s it for? It’s for sitzing! She actually prescribed sitzing multiple times a day, and the hospital sent me home with a sitz bath. (I had to buy my own for the next two births!) Bath-temperature water feels ever so soothing on your perineum, but no new mom has time to draw herself a bath every few hours … or even once a day. A sitz bath is filled with water and placed on the toilet. Then, you literally sit in it … it’s a bath for your bum and your bum only.
Pooping after giving birth is notoriously challenging, and for me a warm sitz bath was about the only thing that got things moving for the first few weeks post partum! (And it’s better to get things moving when you’re already sitting on the toilet than when you’re comfortably relaxed in your bathtub.)
Buy a Sitz Bath via my affiliate link: Well.ca
Usually made with a base of magnesium-rich Epsom salts, essential oils and herbs, a peri-soak can be done in the bathtub or your sitz bath. I personally prefer the sitz bath method because you don’t need to use as much to target the area in question! The natural ingredients in a peri-soak will help with pain and swelling and speed healing.
Thank you to MoonLily for the Postpartum Soak they sent me!
Ice, ice (your) baby (maker)! Just like any other swollen, sore body part, ice is soothing on your perineum. It’s just awkward to hold a cooler pack between your legs (although you absolutely may be given an ice pack for this purpose while you’re in the hospital).
Lots of mamas make padsicles (or postpartum cold packs, if you want to be mature about it) ahead of time so they’re ready to use after giving birth. A padsicle is a disposable or reusable menstrual pad that has been moistened—typically with a soothing blend of witch hazel, aloe and essential oils—and then frozen. I personally did something like this, but with reusable pads.
YES your pants will get wet. NO you will not care. Don’t slap on a padsicle and pop out to the grocery store; slap one on and return to the comfort of your bed or couch with a waterproof mat or a towel beneath you.
Ah, the many uses of the PeapodMat. I now own six. While a PeapodMat doesn’t directly speed up healing, it does help prevent accidental leaks staining your bed, sofa or even your vehicle seat. Plus, if you’re relaxing with a padsicle, no worries about soaking through!
There is SO much laundry in those first weeks home (and honestly, it doesn’t really stop), but sleeping and sitting on a PeapodMat prevents having to strip your bed or wash your couch cushions because of leaks (be they postpartum bleeding, baby spit up, spilled bottles, sprayed breastmilk or diaper fiascos).
The *best* thing for my perineum was my midwife with baby #2! She applied counter pressure on it while I pushed. My baby was face up and I did not tear, which I fully attribute to my midwife. Recovery was *so* much easier than for my hospital baby. (I had an epidural with him and ended up tearing)
Also, for my second baby I was inspired by you to try cloth. I made my own pads from a thrift store sheet, fleece, and dollar store microfiber. They were awesome! My only regret is that I had only made them in giant postpartum size, and not some small or medium ones for when the bleeding got lighter.
You are so right! My birth experience with my midwife was SO different. I had an episiotomy with my first!
Rose McDonald says
I agree with all of he above and I propose that prune juice be added to the list! It is one of my post partum must-haves. A bowel movement can be a very scary thing after having a tear and Colace doesn’t work for me. Prune juice works as advertised, adds to your liquid instake, and gives you a little natural iron boost which is always important during that time of bleeding, The No Name brand at Loblaws/Independent has 90% of your daily recommended iron needs according to the nutrition label! I just drink one full glass a day and have no bowel issues after my babies. I had a terrible time in that department for a very long time after my first was born.
I’d never even SEEN a hospital use their sitz bath (the “upside down sprayer on the back of the toilet) until baby #4! By then it was too weird. But I showered (just water) frequently (ok every time I pee’d, it hurts).