You knew labor and delivery were going to hurt. Heck, you spent nine months worrying about it. But what you may have overlooked was that aches, ouches, and down-there misery don't vanish once you've birthed your baby. Oh, no. Pain in your privates can linger for days or weeks afterward. Good thing we've got eight mom-loved remedies to make your postpartum parts feel better fast. Keep in mind that although they can be helpful with healing, they may not all be safe for breastfeeding moms. Bottom line: Always consult your doctor before trying any at-home remedy.
A Soothing Spritz
The tears, abrasions, and swelling that accompany vaginal birth make postpartum peeing a less-than-pleasant experience. (The fear! The burn! The dreaded toilet paper!) Meet your new best friend, the peri bottle—a small, handheld plastic squirt container.
Simply fill it up with lukewarm water and spritz yourself while peeing to dilute the stinging potential of urine. Plus, the warm water is soothing to your delicate tissues. "Avoid spraying water directly into the vagina, however, or that'll cause more discomfort," notes Kelly Kasper, M.D., an ob-gyn at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. Give yourself even more squirts post-pee to rinse off blood and urine—and to sidestep the whole cringe-worthy TP situation. "Believe me, the less touching, the better," says Katie Page, a certified nurse-midwife in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Some new moms, like Jessie Harrold, have raised their peri game by adding several drops of tea tree oil to their postpartum peri bottle. "The oil has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic properties, so not only did it feel good, it also helped me heal faster," says the doula and mom of two from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. However, experts warn that tea tree oil should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding; in addition, it's known to cause severe allergic reactions. If you want to give tea tree oil a try, Dr. Kasper suggests adding a couple of drops in the water first, and then increase as tolerated.
Ice This Way
"After my first son was born, the nurse gave me these maxi pad–shaped disposable ice packs to put in my underwear. They were lifesavers," says Addie Hume Gamble, a mom of two in Agawam, Massachusetts. Dr. Kasper recommends wrapping the ice pack with a washcloth or other soft, absorbent material and icing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as needed to help reduce inflammation and swelling.
"I only got about three packs with my first baby, so when I had my second, I knew to ask the hospital for a lot more," says Gamble.
Your hospital may give you a few packs before you head home; otherwise, you can get them at a medical supply or drugstore. Or use this midwife-recommended trick: "Fill up a condom with water, tie the end and freeze it to make a tube of ice. Wrap it in a clean, cotton T-shirt. It fits really nicely against the perineum," says Page. Allergic to latex? A bag of frozen peas works just as well.
Soak in a Sitz Bath
"I used sitz baths after both of my births to soothe my discomfort," Harrold says. The warm water increases blood flow to the area, helping it heal and repair the tissues faster. You can do a sitz in a clean bathtub or with a kit that many hospitals supply in the postpartum unit. "With the kit, you place a small, shallow basin over the toilet seat, fill it with warm water, and sit on it so that your vulva and perineum are submerged," says Page. "For the bath, fill with three to four inches of water—just enough to submerge your hips and buttocks—and sit. For both, soak for 20 minutes a few times a day."
Warm water itself is great, but add-ins like herbs or oatmeal may help, too. Eileen Wilder, a mom of three in Washington, D.C., soaked twice a day in an oatmeal-infused sitz bath. "It took the edge off the sharp pain and itching I was having because of the stitches," she says. Talk to your doctor to see if herb- or oatmeal-infused sitz baths are right for you.
Turn on the Dryer
After you finish peeing, peri bottling, or sitz soaking, stand or sit with your legs apart, and aim your hairdryer about six to eight inches away from your damp nether regions. Set the dryer on the lowest setting and on cool, and move it around, much like you would if you were drying your hair, for no more than three minutes. "While this won't necessarily ease pain, it can help prevent it," says Dr. Kasper. "If you're swollen and inflamed from delivery or stitches, avoiding a towel or toilet paper is a good idea."
It's also a great strategy if you're prone to yeast infections, which can often surface postpartum. "Yeast loves moist places," says Page.
Chill Out With Witch Hazel
"Witch hazel contains chemicals called tannins that can help reduce swelling and fight bacteria, which in turn decreases pain and helps prevent infection," says Dr. Kasper. It also has hemostatic properties, which means it can help stop minor bleeding. Try dabbing your sensitive spots with a medicated witch hazel cooling pad, or use it along with other soothing treatments. Kristen Wesley, a mom of one in Gaithersburg, Maryland, topped her private ice pack with three witch hazel cooling pads for instant relief. And Meagan Feeser, a mom of two in York, Pennsylvania, drenched overnight maxis with two tablespoons of alcohol-free witch hazel and froze them. "I made padsicles!" she says. "I'd stick it in the mesh undies I took from the hospital. It was a huge relief."
Put Tea in Your Pants
"Black tea's anti-inflammatory properties can soothe perineal pain from hemorrhoids and lacerations," says Page. Try dunking a black tea bag in ¼ cup of boiling water, and steep until the water has cooled. Wring out the bag slightly and place it against your skin. "Wear a pad to hold it in place and prevent staining fabric," Page advises.
And while you're brewing, make a couple of bags for your sore nipples, too. Black tea compresses can ease breastfeeding-related nipple pain, too. (Just rinse off the nipple area before baby latches on!)
Spray the Pain Away
I like to gift brand-new moms with a can of their very own Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray (available at any drugstore). I bought two for myself before baby number two arrived. Give your skin a quick aerosol mist after using the bathroom or changing a pad to cool and numb your sore private parts. "There's also frothy version called Epifoam that contains pramoxine, an anesthetic for pain relief, and a hydrocortisone, which calms irritated, itchy, and inflamed tissue," says Page. (If you're using the foam version, it's easiest to spray it directly on your maxi or your medicated witch hazel cooling pad.)
Pop This Pill if Needed
"Ibuprofen is a great anti-inflammatory that helps with post-birth bleeding, decreases cramping, and helps with perineal pain—a triple crown," says Page. While it's safe to take while nursing, talk it over with your health-care provider first.