How to Use a Peri Bottle for Postpartum Pain
You're about to give birth, congrats! But although it's an exciting time, you should also know what happens after you welcome your little bundle of joy. We're not going to sugarcoat it: Your vag will be sore, possibly torn, possibly stitched, and peeing will make it feel like it's on fire. In the hospital, you'll likely be given a peri bottle—a remedy so obvious, you'll wonder why you never heard of it before.
"There is a lot of focus on pregnancy and birth, but once baby is here, there are a lot of postpartum 'surprises,'" Clara Ward, MD, maternal-fetal medicine physician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth/UT Physicians in Houston, tells Parents. "What happens after birth to the perineal area isn't fun, exciting or cute to talk about, and often doesn't get discussed in childbirth classes or even before you leave the hospital."
What is a peri bottle?
"Peri" is short for perineum, the area between your vagina and anus—also the place where trying to squeeze a watermelon out of a much smaller hole takes its toll.
"After delivery, your entire perineum can be sore and swollen, even without any stitches," Dr. Ward says. In addition, "the normal discharge called lochia, a combination of blood and the sloughed uterine lining, can persist for a few days to weeks."
Enter the peri bottle.
"It's basically a squirt bottle that allows you to clean your bottom easily and gently after the delivery of a baby," Christina Dothager, MD, an OBGYN with Ob Hospitalist Group Greenville, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana, tells Parents. Personal care is crucial for new moms, and this "perineal irrigation" can help prevent infection and speed recovery.
Plus, it just feels really nice. "So much focus and energy now goes to caring for your new baby, it's important to talk about simple things to help your day-to-day healing become just a little easier on you," Dr. Dothager says.
How to use it
The bottle couldn't be easier to use. "You simply fill with warm water and while sitting on the toilet, point the opened tip towards the region you would like to cleanse, and squeeze the bottle to squirt the fluid over the region," Dr. Dothager says.
The best time to use it? While peeing. "A lot of women experience burning during urination after delivery, so the bottle dilutes the urine, making it sting less," Dr. Ward says. "Start the stream of water, begin peeing, then continue the stream. You can dry the area after with toilet paper by patting, but avoid wiping, which can be abrasive." You can also use fragrance-free baby wipes.
We talked to a couple of experienced moms who sung the bottle's praises. "It did help relieve pain," mom of three Briana Bell tells Parents.com. "I used warm water and used up the entire bottle every time—warm, but not hot, water is key. Each time I had to use the bathroom I used the bottle, and if I felt uncomfortable or in pain I would use it, too."
Who knew that a simple spray of water could feel so good? "I found rinsing with the warm water extremely soothing," mom of four Melissa Roy tells Parents.com. "It was nice to be able to rinse away all the yuck and then gently dab dry rather than wiping, which can be excruciating in the beginning."
You can use the bottle for as long as you feel you need to. "Generally, people may use the peri bottle for about a week after the birth of a baby, until your bottom feels better or is healed," Dr. Dothager says.
Add extra relief
"After having my second daughter I learned about witch hazel, and also used about a quarter bottle of witch hazel mixed with warm water," says Bell. The doctors we talked to approved this cooling plant extract for perineum use—although Dr. Ward cautions against using essential oils, lotions or powders, which can be irritating.
- RELATED: How to Do Perineal Massage
Should C-section moms use a peri bottle?
The many benefits of this little bottle extend even to moms who didn't have a vaginal birth.
"If you were in labor before your C-section, your perineum may still be swollen and sensitive," Dr. Ward says. "Even if your C-section was planned, it may be painful or difficult to bend over or reach to wipe because of the incision."
Mom Stefanie Hedden told us she used one after both her cesareans. "I didn't have any pain in that area because both my kids were C-sections, but there was still a ton of bleeding for a few weeks," she says. "That little bottle was a godsend."
Where to buy a peri bottle
Many moms will receive a bottle in the hospital, but might not get an explanation what to do with it. "I was given one after each of my children were born by the hospital—I had no idea what it was [at first]," Bell says. This was a common reaction, even from the doctors we talked to.
"As a physician with three children myself, I remember coming home with my first baby and wondering, 'What is that for?'" Dr. Dothager says. "Not one nurse showed me how to use it because they assumed I knew what it was." If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask your postpartum nurse.
The free hospital bottles are pretty basic, but you can also go to Amazon, your local drugstore or online for fancier models. "Bottles with ergonomic features such as angled spouts and special valves that control the stream can make them easier to use and get to the hard-to-reach spots," Dr. Ward says. Bell suggests the Fridababy Momwasher or Brondell Travel Bidet.
It also helps to plan ahead and stock up before baby comes. "With my second, I ended up buying a few of those bottles in advance, and put them in both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms," Hedden says.
More postpartum pain soothers
Along with the peri bottle, the doctors and moms we talked to had some other suggestions to make your perineal area feel better after giving birth:
- Ice packs to the genital region: You can buy these at the store, or make your own by dampening a maxi pad, placing in a plastic baggie and freezing overnight. When applying, wrap in a cloth before putting on your sensitive area.
- Witch hazel: You can also get this herbal remedy in pads and sprays. If you have hemorrhoids (another postpartum joy), Roy advises folding the little pads in half and sticking right between your butt cheeks for 20 minutes. Witch hazel pads, or maxi pads infused with witch hazel, can also be kept in the freezer for added relief. "By my third daughter I had frozen pads ready in the freezer for me, with witch hazel and organic aloe vera gel," Bell says.
- Sitz baths: This is basically sitting in warm water covering your hips and buttocks in the tub, or you can buy a basin to put on your toilet seat. Dr. Ward advises sitting for 20 minutes, two to three times a day. You can also put witch hazel in the water during the soak.
- Dermoplast spray (the blue one): Dr. Dothager recommends this medicated numbing spray containing benzocaine. You can get it in the pharmacy section, but be sure to buy the correct version for the genital region, she says.
- Mesh underwear: The mesh is surprisingly comfortable and can hold all the huge pads you'll be wearing. The hospital will likely provide this for you as well. Roy has an additional tip: "Wear tight-fitting underwear over the net hospital-provided ones—it helps to keep everything in place but you still have the coverage of the giant net panties to manage the giant postpartum pads."
- Stool softener: This can help things come out easier with less straining and stress to the perineum during bowel movements, especially if you have hemorrhoids. In addition, stay hydrated, eat lots of fiber, and sit on a pillow or foam doughnut if you need to.
Unfortunately, many first-time moms-to-be go into the delivery room not knowing what to expect after you're expecting. The peri bottle is just one example.
"Something simple, like a bottle full of warm water to relieve the burning when you pee, may have been a nice thing to have known when I came home [after my first birth] 10 years ago," Dr. Dothager says.
Talking about the less glamorous parts of childbirth can help us deal with its physical and emotional upheavals.
Understanding what is normal can help women process what is often a disconnect between the expectations and reality of childbirth, which may even contribute to feelings of distress or depression," Dr. Ward says. "Discussing postpartum changes, challenges and discomforts is a huge step toward embracing, supporting and empowering women's health after delivery."