Personal Care For Down There After Baby
Wisdom and recovery advice from Dr. Lily Hanna, OB/GYN, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City, and other medical guidance.
You’re stocked with onesies, diaper cream, have themonitor and a decked-out stroller that’s near celebrity status. You’re all set, right? Well, the baby is set at least. You’ve got all the equipment to make her life (his life or their lives) happy, healthy and joyful. But let’s talk about your joy and not-so-joyful care taking of your down there. Your vagina, perineum (area between your vagina and rectum) and rectum are going to need some serious TLC during your postpartum recovery. Indeed your uterus has been enlarged to the size of a watermelon, your hormones took the front seat on the roller coaster and your precious privates feel like a hot mess, but get ready for candid advice from medical experts and medical wisdom dispensed by Dr. Hanna on ways to care for your tender parts during this time, insight on the delicate vaginal ecosystem, and everyday ways to keep your vaginal health, well, healthy.
How do late trimester expectant moms stay comfortable and keep in good health down there?
It takes extra time and, frankly can be challenging by the sheer nature of having a pregnant belly between you and what needs tending. Unfortunately, with pregnancy, there tends to be increased vaginal discharge. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad vaginal discharge; it’s very normal and very healthy. However, sometimes because of this excessive fluid and because of other activities of life, whether it’s exercising or having sex, these things can trigger increased vaginal infections.
What are some of the cleaning challenges late pregnancy expectant moms experience?
It’s a reaching problem. The reality of carrying a baby in the last trimester makes many things awkward. Cleaning is one of the biggest hygiene issues. So, you sometimes need assistance. Washing is very helpful; you can use a peri-bottle or some other cleansing process to help clean. Some women use the shower head in order to make sure that they’ve cleaned after having a bowel movement.
I never thought I’d have hemorrhoids. How did this happen and what do I do?
First of all, you’re not alone. This is total mommy-land stuff. Hemorrhoids are very common in late pregnancy because of constipation. Because of increased pressure on the rectum and perineum, and the increased blood volume, there’s a likelihood of becoming constipated as the pregnancy progresses. Also, increased pressure from the pregnancy on the rectum and intestines can interfere with digestion and subsequent bowel movements. Hormone changes also slow down the food being processed by the body. This is all normal. To help, increase fluids, do light exercise and increase the fiber in your diet.
Experienced moms say witch hazel soothes sensitive hemorrhoids before and after delivery. Witch hazel is an herbal remedy with tannins and oils that can help reduce inflammation. Apply it to a pad to ensure this treatment comes in contact with your rectum.
What kinds of vaginal infections can pregnant women experience?
Pregnant women experience the same types of vaginal infections as non-pregnant women. Those infections can be bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and more.
The vaginal ecosystem is a delicate balance of bacteria. Between 10% and 30% of pregnant women experience bacterial vaginosis (BV), an overgrowth of some bad bacteria. Because some studies link BV to preterm labor and low birth weight, cleaning with water, not soap, is recommended.
Would warm water cleansing be preferred over paper for keeping the vaginal ecosystem in balance?
Yes, water is always better. Paper is just within reach. The theory with paper is that it wipes to remove any visible residue or fecal matter after having a bowel movement. But and removes what we don’t see. Water can remove any excess bacteria from the vulva. And it can lower the risk of having some bacteria pushed up into the bladder causing a UTI after sex. While bidets are not as well known in the United States, bidets are used daily for cleanliness and hygiene in most other parts of the world.
Washing with water truly gives a better clean
After baby, what’s happening down there?
For up to six weeks, you can expect vaginal bleeding. The doctors call it discharge, but it feels like a heavy menstrual period. After not having a period for 40 weeks, you’re back in the game, sort of. This discharge is called lochia. Super-absorbent maxi pads, like the kind you wore in junior high, will be your new best friend. If you’ve torn during a vaginal delivery, this can mean great blood flow and swelling. It’ll be uncomfortable for four to six weeks. If you’ve had an episiotomy, stitches can be sore and then they might get itchy.
After delivery, will it be hard to go the bathroom?
Hard being the operative word, yes, it can be. During labor, blood is diverted away from your digestive system, and going number two might not happen for a couple of days. When it happens, it might feel like a miracle, and yet not feel so great too – ouch! Equally surprising is that peeing might be difficult too. Tissues around the bladder and urethra can be swollen and bruised for weeks. Be patient mama.
On the flip side, after a quick laugh or sneeze, you could feel leakage. Mild urinary incontinence after delivery can happen. Pelvic floor muscles temporarily can weaken after childbirth. Keep laughing; it’s good medicine. But don’t worry. This kind of urinary incontinence improves as your body recovers.
What’s ideal after-care? How does a spray bottle or warm water bidet relieve discomfort from an episiotomy, uterine bleeding and swollen vaginal tissue?
These are very sensitive tissues. To decrease risk of infection, doctors recommend keeping the vaginal region clean and dry. With vaginal tears or episiotomies, keep the area as clean as possible and remove any excessive blood or bacteria that’s built up in the vulvar area after delivery. For improved comfort, using a warm water bidet for cleansing improves the vaginal environment. Always pat dry your privates after a rinse, using a soft, absorbent towel. (Paper can adhere to stitches.) A spray bottle is an alternative to a bidet.
How long does mending take?
Whether it’s a cesarian section or a vaginal delivery, at least a six-week recovery after delivery should be expected. Speaking strictly on vaginal health ... it takes about six weeks for recovery of the vulva and vaginal tissues after having a vaginal delivery. But after having a baby in general, the vagina’s not quite the same for several months. For C-section moms, recovery also means mending from major surgery and protecting their tender tummies too.
How long does it take to feel like you’re getting back to yourself down there?
Longer than you may think. Whether delivery is by C-section or vaginally, the vagina is essentially completely changed. The hormones have dropped significantly; the vagina almost feels like you’re going through menopause. And with that comes all sorts of new discomfort, new swelling, new dryness that you may not have ever experienced. Breastfeeding, unfortunately, makes it worse. Hormones don’t return to normal levels until six months after you’ve stopped breastfeeding. At that point, you’ll be feeling more like yourself, hormonally speaking.
Any advice for how to get back to feeling normal again?
Dr. Hanna suggests that you engage in your routine activity at a slower pace when you first are cleared to have sex or to exercise. It’s important to go slow and to listen to your body with the recovery period. There is no need to be heroic, to be supermom at home, at the office, at school and in fulfilling all those commitments.
Depending on if you have other children and their ages, your energy might be zapped. Childbirth, along with current parenting duties, may take you longer to recover. It’s OK. There’s no judgment. Be sure you get the sleep you can, although that may seem laughable because babies wake up in the middle of the night. Take catnaps when possible. Consider yoga for relaxation. Taking care of you, eating wisely, getting rest and focusing on vaginal health will contribute to recovery.
After Childbirth Self-care tips from wise moms to new moms.
- Here’s some nurturing advice from experienced moms and OB/GYN nurses who know:
- Limit your visitors and don’t be afraid to tell visitors you’re tired and it’s time to leave.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Eat nutritiously to nourish your body.
- Use Dermoplast (benzocaine topical) spray before having a bowel movement … it’ll make the process a whole lot more comfortable and a lot less scary.
- For C-sections, take a pillow with you in the car to support your incision going over bumps.
What about maintaining general vaginal health? And is the vagina acidic or what?
Alkalinity and acidity? Good bacteria and bad bacteria? The vaginal ecosystem can be confusing. Here’s the lowdown. The vagina has its own delicate microbiome. A healthy vagina is acidic, full of friendly bacteria, mainly the lactobacillus species. Lactobacillus, the “good” bacteria, regulates vaginal pH by producing lactic acid; this lactic acid keeps yeasts, bad bacteria and other organisms out of where they don’t belong. Lactobacillus bacteria promotes healthy mucus production (discharge). That discharge is good; it provides a protective barrier against other bad bacteria, yeasts and viruses.
To keep it as healthy down there as possible, don’t use soap, gels or antiseptics to wash that bacteria! Your vagina is like a self-cleaning oven; our natural discharge ejects germs and bacteria. Some experts also say that foods high in sugar, processed foods, alcohol, certain medications, douching, sprays, scented tampons and detergents can disrupt the bacterial balance of power.
Looking after your privates helps keep your personal life better, for intimacy and feeling confident. Dr. Hanna recommends washing with water only, after voids and bowel movements (number one and number two). If you’re menstruating, change menstrual pads often enough to avoid excessive moisture. For excessive bleeding, cleansing the area is helpful. Last, if you’re prone to urinary infections or vaginal infections, it’s best if you have the ability to rinse off after intercourse.
We love our moms.
We know how much heart you put into family. You nurture your little one, manage the family calendar, struggle to push more broccoli onto dinner plates and fix boo-boos every single day. You look after everyone else, so, we’re looking after you. We love our moms, our wives, our sisters and our daughters, and we see them putting their own health and personal care needs second to everyone else. That’s why we created the SpaLet® Bidet Seat, with a mission to help all new moms with healthy personal care down there after baby – and beyond. SpaLet uses water to gently rinse, cleanse and comfort tender parts, incisions, tears and hemorrhoids. Affordable and easy to install on an existing toilet, a SpaLet Bidet Seat is for the whole family. As the kids use the toilet themselves, it eliminates quality control checks. You’ll know little ones have nothing left behind, on the behind. Until there are 25 hours in a day, until household robots pick up dirty socks and smelly shorts, until bruises miraculously mend without a kiss, American Standard will be there to make moms’ lives easier, better and healthier.
Find SpaLet® Bidet Seats at americanstandard.com/spalet.
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