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.
Here, we’ve rounded up 10 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.
The tears, abrasions, and swelling that accompany vaginal birth make postpartum peeing a less-than-pleasant experience. 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.
Add an essential oil: 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.
It's common for first-time moms to tear their perineum (the area between the vulva and the anus) during a vaginal birth. Ouch! To relieve the pain, fill a sitz bath or basin with warm water. This 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."
Lidocaine spray, found over-the-counter at the drugstore, can also help relieve pain associated with tearing or hemorrhoids, says Ashley Roman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Don't underestimate the hemorrhoids. They can be quite a shock, especially if you have been pushing for a long time," she advises. If your hemorrhoids are extremely painful to the extent that you have trouble even sitting down, you may have to be evaluated by your doctor, she adds.
Women can also use Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray (available at any drugstore) to give skin a quick aerosol mist after using the bathroom or changing a pad. It should cool and numb your sore private parts.
Women can expect to bleed for several weeks after childbirth (even if you have a C-section). Have an ample supply of maxi pads at the ready.
"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 pain.
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.
"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."
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.
Cold compresses and warm washcloths, combined with gentle massage, might help with breast and nipple pain. But cracks and sores in the breast or nipple should actually be evaluated by your physician, because they could indicate yeast or a bacterial infection. However, some women experience very little breast pain at all, so save your money on creams etc. until you're sure you need them!
You'll feel more comfortable if you pack your own pillow, clothes, pajamas and toothbrush to bring to the hospital or birthing center, Dr. Roman says. She also suggests using the mesh underwear that hospitals often provide after delivery. They may not be sexy, but they save you the hassle of messing up your own underwear -- and they're actually pretty comfortable.
"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.