You’ve probably heard of a sitz bath being part of your postpartum care routine, but you’re also probably wondering what the heck it actually is.
Allow me to explain:
Your perineum is the space between your vaginal opening and your anus. It’s a sensitive spot (as to be expected) and is also the most ravaged spot of your body as you push your baby out of your vagina. While your perineum is meant to stretch to accommodate for large things going out (i.e. baby) or large things going in (i.e. *insert raised eyebrows and knowing smile*) it is apt to tear.
You can prepare your perineum by following the guidelines in this post but even then you may suffer some pretty severe tears, or, at the very least, discomfort from the significant stretching that was required to push that baby of yours out.
Your perineum is a rockstar and after the birth of your baby it needs an extra little bit of tender loving care. Enter: Sitz bath!
Who needs a sitz bath?
Well, I mean, ANYONE really can use a sitz bath. It’s meant to clean the perineum and provide relief from any discomfort, itching, or irritation. Some folks who have just given birth may opt to use one, as well as someone who’s enjoying the wonder that is haemorrhoids.
What do you need for a sitz bath?
There are very few things that you need for a sitz bath, however, it’s nice to have it prepared before baby comes so that you have these things ready and available for the exact time that you need them:
-clean bathtub (get your partner or support person to give it a good scrub before you go in. Use a little bit of bleach to make sure that you’ve killed all bacteria that may be in there. The last thing you’re going to need right now is an infection!)
-additives to the bath (optional) that you can purchase here or make on your own using ingredients such as witch hazel, calendula, lavender essential oil, epsom salts, salt, chamomile.
How to have a sitz bath
First things first: this is your self-care time! You’re taking care of the lovely perineum of yours but you can also turn this into a pleasant experience for yourself.
Hand the baby off to someone else if you are able to do so. If not, bring baby into the bathroom and either lay them on a blanket beside the bathtub or in a bassinet-wherever you can reach them if you need to and however you feel most comfortable.
Fill the bathtub about 1/3 of the way full with warm water. Avoid making this too hot or you’ll probably feel some discomfort.
Add the various herbs if you’ve chosen to do so.
Sit in the bathtub for about 20 minutes. Add some more warm water if you feel like it’s getting too cold for you.
Once you get out make sure to pat dry (don’t rub….ouch!!) or wear your birthday suit for a while and dry off au naturel.
Do this 3-4 times a day unless you’re finding it irritating to your perineum
While a sitz bath can promote healing in your postpartum body if you aren’t enjoying them try and find another way to let your body heal. The key to healing your perineum is to make sure that it’s clean, dry, and not irritated. There are many ways that you can do this so a sitz bath is only one option.
Did you use sitz baths after your birth? What were your favourite things to add? Please share recipes in the comments below to share with fellow new parents!
Chances are you’re not going to feel like having sex after childbirth for quite some time.
Some partners understand this (particularly the ones that witnessed a vaginal birth, while others may be having a more difficult time coming to terms with waiting 6 weeks. Not that you need to justify yourself but there are some physical and mental reasons that you can fill them in on.
Most healthcare providers are going to tell you to wait 4-6 weeks until having sex after childbirth and these are the reasons why:
7 Reasons to wait for sex after childbirth
Okay, so you just pushed a BABY out of your vagina. That means that you pushed a watermelon-sized head out of a loonie sized vagina. #proudcanadianwoman
Even if you didn’t have any sort of tearing or episiotomy you probably are feeling a little stretched thin-yes, literally and figuratively, but we’ll get to the figurative part later. Your labia has been stretched and is likely feeling a little tender. It will take a few weeks for everything to be a little less sensitive and may need some being left alone during that time.
If you’ve had a cesarean birth you will have stitches or staples in your lower abdomen. If you’ve had a tear or episiotomy you likely have stitches in your perineum.
Neither of these healing wounds should be irritated until, well, they’re healed. Depending on the severity of the wound this will take at least two weeks.
Before approximately the 6 week mark your cervix is still dilated from childbirth. This leaves your body open to infection that may occur from a penis or other objects being inserted into the vagina. You’ll know that your cervix is still open if you’re bleeding or by going to see your healthcare professional for a check-up.
Be careful with taking chances on infection; truthfully, the last thing you’re going to want to deal with on top of your healing body and a newborn baby is a vaginal infection.
Your entire body is going to be experiencing a world of change: back pain from 9 million months of pregnancy, excess fluid, shoulder pain from nursing, aching breasts, sore feet, tired body, etc. etc. etc..
You’ve just had a workout of a lifetime and you may not be up to a romp session.
This is 100% okay.
You, my friend, have a lot of stuff coming out of your vagina. Blood, mucus, uterine tissue will come out strong for about 10 days after birth and then taper off somewhat until around the 6-week mark when it stops.
This is your body’s way of expelling all of the now unnecessary fluid, so if you have sex after childbirth when this discharge is being, well, discharged it will be quite akin to having sex while on your period.
*One thing to note is that the smell of the discharge after childbirth is different than when you have your period-it’s stronger and just plain different. This can be hard to get around when trying to get in the mood.
**One thing to note on the one thing to note is that if your discharge is foul-smelling you should see your healthcare provider to rule out an existing infection.
Decreased sex drive
Ohhhhh hormones, you bastards.
Your body is a tornado of hormones from the remaining pregnancy ones to the breastfeeding ones to the childbirth ones. What a mix.
Oh! Ya! I almost forgot to mention the inevitable sleep loss that you can factor in, too, and right there you’ve got yourself the makings of a (probably) decreased sex drive. It can also lead to decreased lubrication regardless of if you’re aroused or not. You may not have had to use lubricant before but having a water-based one on hand now is a good idea.
Changes in breasts
Breastfeeding causes higher levels of prolactin and lower levels of estrogen in the nursing parent. This can, like above, lead to a lower sexual desire.
Some folks find it very uncomfortable to have their breasts touched in a sexual manner when they’re breastfeeding while others find it to be a turn on. This is a conversation that you and your partner should have before resuming sexual activity.
For breastfeeding parents, there may be leaking or even spraying (!) during an orgasm. Some partners find this arousing while others find it unnerving. If it’s something that’s not for either of you it can be a quick fix with a nursing bra and nursing pads.
You just fed the baby. They’re snug as a bug in a rug and you’re certain they’re going to be asleep for at least a couple hours while you and your partner(s) give this sex after childbirth thing a go.
You do a half happy, half sexy dance, take off your clothes, start getting frisky, and….WAHHHHHHHHHHH!
Baby wakes up and the mood is killed.
It takes a few weeks to really get into the groove of having a newborn. That’s not to say that at the 6 week mark your baby is suddenly entirely predictable, but you’ll likely have a bit more awareness to their patterns.
There are so many variables when it comes to a person’s sexuality, especially after they’ve given birth.
Getting back into having sex after childbirth is something that should be given great care and consideration. Your first priority is making sure that your body is healthy and able to engage in sex after childbirth-you can be sure of this by allowing yourself time to heal and by checking in with your healthcare professional for medical clearance before jumping your partner(s).
When you do decide that you’re ready try and keep these few things in mind.
Begin with an open dialogue about how and when to resume sex after childbirth. Make sure that each partner is on the same page and comfortable with plans going forward.
Lower expectations. If things don’t go smoothly the first time give it some time before trying again.
Start small. Try masturbation first to become re-acquainted with your body. Then, finger penetration with your partner a couple of times. Then, give penetrative sex a go when you’re ready.
Midwife: “Okay, I’m going to give you a fundal massage now.”
Oooh a massage right after delivering your baby? Sounds absolutely divine, right?!
The word “massage” being paired with the word “fundal” is about as misleading as “FREE!!! (with $6000 purchase).
(Hey, before you read on please remember that I am not a medical healthcare professional. I obtain this knowledge from my personal experiences and research that I do. If you have questions or concerns please refer to your healthcare provider. This is meant to be as an awareness and starting point of education.)
What is a fundal massage?
Other than a super uncomfortable assault on your poor tummy immediately after birthing your placenta, a fundal massage is a firm pressing and “massaging” of your fundus (the top of your uterus) to get rid of blood, clots, and everything else that needs to not be in your body after birth. If this is not done your chance of postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after birth) is increased.
Your midwife or doctor will warn you that they’re going to give you a fundal massage. They’ll basically knead your belly right above the pubic bone while having fingers in your vagina to compress the uterine arteries. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily a gentle process. In order to make sure that all the excess bits and bobs are expelled from your body your healthcare professional will need to use a bit of force.
While postpartum hemorrhaging is not very common the preventative measure that is fundal massage helps to reduce the risk of it happening. Basically, if your uterus doesn’t contract on its own you may end up hemorrhaging, especially if you’ve delivered a large baby, had multiple babies, had an infection, had a history of hemorrhaging, amongst other variables. The fundal massage technique is used to simulate the contracting uterus to help your body.
It’s not pleasant, but it is important.
What do you do during a fundal massage?
Getting a fundal massage doesn’t really require much of you. You’ll likely be able to hold your baby but you may find it more comfortable to pass baby to someone else so you can put your mind in a happy place. You’ll not only be feeling the pressure of the fundal massage on your body, but you’ll also be feeling the gushing from your vagina.
Don’t worry about that last part. I promise you that your midwife or doctor has made the necessary arrangements with pads and clean up items so that your bed won’t be saturated. In fact, when all is said and done there won’t be any evidence that it even happened.
Do I have to have a fundal massage?
Postpartum hemorrhage is when a person loses 500ml to 1 liter of blood in the first 24 hours after birth. That’s a lot of blood. In fact, that’s a life-threatening amount of blood to lose. That level of blood loss can cause a dramatic drop in your heart rate leading to shock and potentially death.
1-5% of people who give birth will experience a postpartum hemorrhage. It usually happens shortly after delivery but it can happen up to two weeks postpartum.
Some common symptoms of postpartum hemorrhaging are:
-Decreased blood pressure
-Increased heart rate
However, some of the other symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage can resemble other health concerns. If something doesn’t feel right make sure to make an appointment with your healthcare professional immediately or seek immediate medical assistance. Tune into your body. You’re going to be experiencing a lot of new and different sensations, especially if this is your first birth, but listen to your body and be in tune when something doesn’t feel right. Always err on the side of caution if you are concerned-you’re taking care of yourself and most healthcare professionals are happy to investigate further into your concerns.
None of the above sounds terribly appealing, does it? Fundal massage is the first defense towards having to deal with this both immediately after birth or in the near future. This is not something you want to have to deal with once you’ve brought baby home.
While it may not be the most glamorous massage you’ve ever gotten it’s nothing in comparison to what you just experienced while delivering your baby. Besides, you’ll be able to use your fundal massage as leverage for quite some time when you explain to your partner that you need a real, pleasant massage to negate the trauma that you endured and to make sure that your perception of what a “massage” is isn’t forever skewed!
You’ve probably heard of a birth doula, but have you heard of a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula, as I like to put it, is a magical unicorn. I mean, we come and help out with baby, take care of Mom, and make sure that all is well at your home. It is pretty magical (and the whole unicorn thing just kinda sounds good alongside it).
Why have one?
Basically, a postpartum doula is there to “mother the mother”. The postpartum period is a really, really, REALLY hard one-you’re navigating hormones while learning how to take care of your baby while dealing with the physical aftermath of birth.
This is not something that any person should have to deal with alone. Ever. Even when there is a partner(s) available to help out they’re often dealing with the same “newness” themselves and are also depleted and overwhelmed. Having a postpartum doula come in can alleviate the pressure for both/all parents and allow them to get some rest.
Your postpartum doula will be able to refer you to community programs and provide you with resources. They are also keenly aware of what the symptoms of Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety look like in parents and can offer assistance in finding professional help if need be.
What will they do?
Every family has their own unique list of needs. What might work for one family might not work for another. This is a conversation that your postpartum doula and your family need to have to ensure that you’re getting the most of having your postpartum doula there.
Some of the tasks that your postpartum doula might do are:
-newborn care support (diapering, burping, bathing, etc.)
-assist with household organization for ease of transition into life with a newborn
-emotional support and mental health check-ins for parents
-help with older siblings transitioning to having a baby sibling
-care for baby while parent(s) nap, involve themselves in self care, or step out of the home
-provide resources for local community services
-meal prep, planning, and/or grocery shopping
-light pet care
Who needs a postpartum doula?
It doesn’t matter if this is your first baby or 14th baby (actually, a postpartum doula is highly recommended in both of these situations)! Vaginal birth or cesarean birth. Parents with twins. Parents who have adopted.
Everyone who has a newborn can benefit immensely from having a postpartum doula come to their home.
Folks who are lacking familial or partner support, are trying to maintain a business during their postpartum period, have had traumatic births or experiences, are having breastfeeding struggles, or are at high risk for Postpartum mood disorders can potentially benefit most from having postpartum doula services.
What education is required?
In order to be considered a Postpartum doula, you have to take a course through an accredited Doula agency. For example, I took my course through DONA as theirs were the values that I most related with and felt most comfortable advocating.
Within this course a postpartum doula will learn about:
Breastfeeding-how to help a new parent establish a breastfeeding relationship with their child, the physiological responses that occur in the body while a milk supply is being established, breastfeeding positions, the hormones that contribute to various aspects of breastfeeding, potential challenges that can arise with breastfeeding and how to problem solve to create a positive and effective breastfeeding relationship between parent and child.
Birth- what is entailed in each form of birth and how to best help in the recovery of the birthing person, what is normal healing, what is abnormal, and when to suggest seeing a doctor. (**Postpartum doulas DO NOT administer any medical tasks nor do they offer medical advice or make diagnoses. They are aware of what is typical but will always encourage you to see your midwife or doctor if you are concerned).
Newborn care-bathing, differences between types/brands of diapers, diapering, bottle feeding, differences between baby carriers, soothing techniques, teaching strategies for new parents, developmental milestone awareness, burping, getting baby dressed, newborn characteristics.
Emotional support-listening to new parents as they divulge their struggles, assess new parents for postpartum mood disorders, encouraging new parents to rest, understanding what needs to be done without being asked to do it (i.e. making meals, getting groceries, light housekeeping), nurturing new parents, providing resources that could be beneficial for the parents.
Family dynamics-introducing baby to older siblings, helping older siblings adjust to their new role, walking pets, feeding pets.
Professionalism-providing care with no judgment or personal bias, maintaining confidentiality with each client, not offering medical advice, respecting the needs and requests of the parent(s), accepting various family dynamics, communicating effectively with clients so that everyone benefits from the interaction between family and postpartum doula.
Questions to ask
Your search for your postpartum doula should begin while you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy to ensure that you have found someone to begin right away when baby arrives.
You can do a quick Google search to find out what postpartum doulas are available in your area. Check their websites to see if you might be able to establish a connection with them, and then consider asking these questions that are recommended by DONA:
-What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization.)
-Have you had a criminal background check, a recent TB test, current CPT certification?
-Tell me about your experience as a postpartum doula.
-What is your philosophy about parenting supporting women and their families during postpartum?
-May we meet to discuss our postpartum needs and the role you will play in supporting us in the postpartum period?
-What different types of services do you offer?
-May we call you with postpartum questions or concerns before the birth?
-When do your services begin after birth?
-What is your experience in breastfeeding support?
-Do you work with one or more back up doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet them?
-What are your fee and refund policies?
These are all reasonable questions to ask your potential postpartum doula. You may also ask:
-How far are you willing to travel (if you live outside of their service area) and will there be a travel fee?
-What is your general availability?
-Do you offer a night service? What are the fees for that?
The postpartum period is a very intimate one and you will be at your most vulnerable. If you have an interview with a potential postpartum doula and decide that they’re not for you don’t feel bad about kindly declining their services and continuing on your search.
Hiring a postpartum doula is a very personal endeavor. It takes time and energy to find someone that you feel will fit in best with your family in this postpartum period. Often times, postpartum doulas will offer introductory meetings free of charge so make sure you take them up on that. While it’s possible to get a feel for someone via text it’s worthwhile to meet up and see if you jive together in person!
Do you have experience with a postpartum doula aiding you when you welcomed your baby? I’d love to hear about how your experience went.
You just had yourself a roughly 9-month reprieve from your monthly visit from Aunt Flo, but now that baby is here you have to worry about your first period after childbirth.
Don’t be too scared of your postpartum period; once it comes back you’ll remember what to do. It’s kind of like riding a bike (but with more menstrual blood and discomfort, you know?!)
Your first period after childbirth isn’t quite the same as the regular, consistent period that you were once (possibly) used to and there are a few things you need to consider.
What you need to know about your first period after childbirth
“Most” folks get their first period after childbirth at around the 6-8 week postpartum mark. However, this is different for each and every person and things like breastfeeding and stress may change that.
It’s going to be unpredictable. Some folks can mark it in the calendar exactly when they’re going to be getting their period or they have sure-fire signs that it’s about to grace them with its presence. Your body is still in the process of returning organs back to their original place before baby moved them, so things internally are a little out of whack. You may end up with some symptoms that you think are premenstrual but are just normal post-baby body things. You may find that your periods are off-track for quite some time and take a while to regulate again. For the first year especially you may experience some periods that are longer than others, fluctuating lengths of your cycle, and periods that are heavier than others.
Your first period after childbirth may take longer to come back if you’re breastfeeding. Your hormone levels continue to fluctuate significantly when you’re breastfeeding. This can have an impact on when your menses might start up again after having baby.
Depending on when you get your first period after childbirth you may not want to jump back into using tampons, especially if you’re closer to the 6-8 week postpartum mark. This is something that you’ll need to base on your comfort level, but it’s also worthwhile having a chat with your midwife or doctor in one of your postpartum visits to get their insight on when tampons are appropriate.
**If this is your first baby and you wanted to give the Diva Cup a go-round make sure you read about which one is going to be best for your vagina now that you’ve had a baby or if you’re over 30. I highly recommend the Diva Cup but recommend you have a bit of patience learning how to get that sucker in properly. It takes a bit of practice but at the end of it you won’t be afraid of getting all up in yourself-I promise.**
You don’t need to be as prepared for your first period after childbirth as you might think you do! If you’re used to unpredictable periods you probably have gotten into the habit of carrying hygiene products around with you wherever you go. Now that you’re carrying around a BABY and everything that they need you may have gotten out of that routine. Fortunately for you, you’re likely carrying around the ultimate premenstrual pad with you at all times: a diaper! (Unless you’re me and you forgot diapers all the friggin’ time and had to ask random folks with or without babies if they happened to have a spare diaper on them. It worked better than you might think). Seriously, if you’re in a pinch take that tiny little diaper out, remove the tabs, and shove it down your pants. It’s less bulky than you imagine and is way more absorbent than any pad I’ve ever encountered.
Your first period after childbirth may affect your breastmilk! Okay, don’t freak out. It’s usually not a major impact, but you may notice that your baby is acting a bit out of sorts. Your menses can alter the taste of your breastmilk, as well as the quantity you make. These slight changes shouldn’t shift your ability to breastfeed.
Your first period after childbirth may be a little more intense than you’re used to. You may find that your cramping is a little more than before (you have a uterine lining that is still being shed) and you may have some small blood clots that can be a bit alarming. If you feel that it’s too intense and you’re concerned don’t ever hesitate to go to your midwife or doctor as soon as possible.
Lochia is not our first period after childbirth. Lochia is vaginal discharge after you’ve given birth that consists of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. This is a normal output after a vaginal birth or cesarean birth and can last up to around 10 days with continued spotting up to 6 weeks.
There are some things that you need to watch out for with your first period after childbirth (as per Healthline Parents): -soaking through a pad every hour -sudden fever -bleeding continuously for more than 7 days -bleeding that’s accompanied with sudden, severe pain -blood clots that are bigger than a softball -foul-smelling discharge -severe headache -trouble breathing -pain while urinating These symptoms may indicate an infection and require immediate medical attention.
I got my first period after childbirth with my fourth baby in the middle of my Grandmother’s funeral. Thank Goddess I was wearing black and THANK GODDESS I actually had diapers with me that day. That little tidbit of info about the shoving the diaper down the pants thing…ya, that came from experience.
Do you have a funny “first period after childbirth” story?
Now that you’ve had your baby you can’t help but be reminded that your baby did come out of your vagina and you’re looking for some relief.
When it comes to postpartum care of your wonderful vagina after a vaginal birth there are some do’s and don’t’s. Of course, these are suggestions from a person who’s experienced vaginal birth, but I’m not a midwife or doctor. If you have concerns PLEASE go to your healthcare professional.
Do’s and Don’ts of taking care of your vagina after vaginal birth
–Use tampons or a diva cup for around 6 weeks and after the a-ok from your health care provider. Once you’ve got the all clear you may not even have to worry about your period for quite some time like some incredibly fortunate folks with a uterus….but if you’re like some other less fortunate folks (ahem) you’re looking at a super 3 months before you’re right back to your monthly blessing. Anyways, I digress…
–Use scented products. These can be bothersome to your bits and your body truly doesn’t need any more irritation.
–Overexert yourself physically. Your body JUST PUSHED A BABY OUT OF IT. Allow yourself some time to rest. If you don’t you may find that your lochia flow (the discharge experienced after giving birth) may increase, which is your body’s way of asking you to slow down. You may also find that if you don’t have some time to recover you may irritate any stitches you have…it’s just not worth it.
-Use toilet paper. You got yourself a neato Peri-bottle from the hospital or midwife and that baby works like a mini bidet. Even the softest toilet paper can feel like sandpaper on your poor vagina, so some warm water to rinse yourself off after using the toilet will be absolutely heavenly.
–Use organic cotton menstrual pads if possible. I mentioned above about heavily scented products being irritating. Heavily chemical-laden products can have the same effect. Even if you don’t normally use organic products for your menses it’s a good idea to do so immediately after vaginal birth; you’re likely a little lot tender and possibly torn up. It’s worth a bit of a splurge for your bad-ass vagina to have some organic comfort.
-Have sitz baths as often as you can. Pass off that baby to the nearest bystander (or, ya know, the Postpartum Doula that you hired) and get yourself to the bathroom. You can have a sitz bath in your bathtub or with a kit that attaches to the toilet. Either way you do it you’ll likely find some relief from any swelling and discomfort.
There are some folks who add botanicals and such to their sitz bath but make sure to talk to your healthcare professional before doing that. However, if you’re looking for a good brand “Earth Mama Angel” has a great reputation. I’ve used a few of their products and have enjoyed the simplicity of the ingredients.
-Use stool softeners, if necessary. Don’t use them if not necessary, because, why would you? However, if you’re finding it difficult to have those first postpartum poos you may want to consider talking to your healthcare provider about some stool softeners if the classic: loads of water, prunes, fruits and vegetables, a bit of wine, and flax seeds aren’t doing the trick.
Bearing down while you’re trying to poop will just add more pressure to your perineum which will ultimately cause more pain and swelling.
–Use Witch hazel. Witch hazel saved my perineum. I found that dabbing a bit directly on my perineum or wearing a pad with Witch hazel on it gave me some relief. You can grab standard Witch hazel from your local pharmacy or buy premade pads (along with everything else you’d ever need for relief through the suggested products).
**If you have extra Witch hazel left over you can use it as a toner on your face:)
–Use cooling pads or ice packs. Or, if you’re a bit of a baby like me, run a cloth under cold water, ring it out, and apply it to your perineum. I hated using ice and that was a happy compromise between my preferences and what Google was telling me I should be doing.
–Wear loose, comfortable undies. I know, I know…you’re saying: “Oh, but I was SO looking forward to wearing my sexiest negligee and thong combo that I just couldn’t fit into until the baby was born”, but trust me on this one.
If you didn’t manage to grab some of those super sexy disposable mesh undies from someone at your birth you can grab them on Amazon. If mesh undies don’t tickle your fancy make sure to wear cotton undies so that your vagina can BREATHE! Once again, the irritation potential is strong after you’ve had a vaginal birth, so doing everything you can to avoid it is vital.
Also, don’t get too attached to your postpartum panty possessions (this post was lacking alliteration) as they’ll likely get quite soiled.
– Complain loudly because that provides the most relief possible and because you deserve to do that, dammit!
Okay, so I took that out of the “How to deal with hemmorhoids” post that I wrote, but I feel like the same applies in both situations. Allow yourself to have time to complain to whoever you need to listen (except your Mom-she’ll just tell you that “karma’s a bitch, honey.”), even if it’s just your sweet little baby who has no idea of the trauma she’s just inflicted to your body.
That last one is kinda my favourite and for me the most effective way of feeling better, but truly, using a few of these methods should help alleviate some of your pain.
If you’re finding that the pain is unbearable or isn’t getting better after a few weeks do be sure to check in with your health care professional.