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Congratulations on your baby!
…and sorry that your ‘downstairs’ is a terrible disaster. (Don’t worry – it heals.) You need to know about postpartum sitz baths .
One of the very best things I did postpartum – once I was home from the hospital – was taking a sitz bath twice per day. (After it had been okay-ed by my doctor. Do not take a sitz bath until your doctor or midwife has told you that you can.)
Maybe this seems like such an odd little corner of postpartum recovery to write an entire post on, but it was one of the things I googled the most in the first week after I got home. And was pretty disappointed with the information available online.
I was so. freaking. uncomfortable. and I was ready to try just about anything that wouldn’t make it worse. (I was hesitant at first – that it would be painful and also that it would be unsanitary.)
Both my doctor and the health nurse that visited me at home said “you could do it” and “it wasn’t a bad idea” but neither of them seemed to care much either way if I did it or not. It was really my mom who finally convinced me to get in the water.
… and then it was hard to keep me out of it.
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6 Reasons why I love sitz baths postpartum:
♥ To clean up. It’s not pretty down there, and even though you can’t use soap yet, just being submerged in the water will make a big difference.
♥ To relieve pain. You might not believe it until you’ve tried it… but there is something seriously soothing about sitting in hot water. (Some people say cold water is even better for pain relief. Not my experience, but every one is different.) The sitz bath helps with inflammation and itching.
♥ To speed up healing. Yes, it can actually do this! It boosts blood flow to the area, aiding in recovery time (according to this article at WebMD.com).
♥ To dissolve stitches. You’d think you want the stitches in there, but you’d be wrong. I never really realized JUST how uncomfortable stitches in your lady bits might be. A sitz bath won’t dissolve them TOO fast, but it can help them not to hang around longer than necessary.
♥ To treat hemorrhoids. You know, more inflammation and itching. (The joy of postpartum!) Also, just FYI, I used this cream THAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT to treat hemorrhoids, and it is AMAZING. (I also put it all over down there to speed healing – and I think it really helped.)
♥ To take 20 minutes twice per day to yourself. Or maybe three times. I am not, and never have been, a “need to get away” kind of girl. But there is really a-lot going on those first few weeks, and just sitting quietly doing something nice for yourself is actually awesome.
How to take (an effective) at home sitz bath 101
You can buy one of these on-top-the-toilet sitz baths, but I like simple, so I just sat in three inches of water in my bath tub.
(You’ll see it recommended all over the “Internets”, and possibly by your doctor, that you don’t get in a hot tub or bath postpartum for up to 6 weeks. One of the big reasons for this, I was told by my health nurse, is because when you submerge yourself in lots of water the water pressure can force water…. up. You have all kinds of things going on up in there, and getting a bunch of – possibly not clean – water up would be a bad idea.)
♥ FIRST, clean your bath tub. (Or have someone clean your bath tub for you.) If you use diluted bleach just rinse it VERY well.
♥ Wear a t-shirt to keep your upper body warm. You want to soak for 15 – 20 minutes and that’s actually a long time to just sit there naked.
♥ Use just enough water to submerge your lady bits. (Remember… you don’t want water going up.) Either warm OR cold, but I found warm was nicer.
♥ Epsom salts and lavender essential oil. There are heaps of suggestions out there for things that you should be adding to your sitz bath, but I like to error on the side of caution when we are talking about open wounds. I also didn’t want little bits of leaf floating around and sticking to me… perhaps if you decide to use herbs put them in clean pantyhose or tie them up in cheese cloth.
Midwives Collective of Toronto claims Epsom salts will reduce swelling, discourage infection and encourage healing. They are also helpful for hemorrhoids. I bought it in bulk like this, to make it affordable.
I chose to use lavender essential oil as well, after all my googling. The Green Parent, in their article Healing the perineum after birth, mentions that lavender oil is “antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory”, and aids in relaxation, sleep and skin regeneration. I would not use just any essential oil, only one that you trust to be pure essential oil. I used this one, and it was amazing.
♥ No one will judge you (or know) if you pee in the tub before you get out. Yep, that IS super gross. But if under the water is the only way that you can pee without crying, then do it. Just rinse with clean water before you get out of the tub. (This didn’t work for me, so I didn’t bother. It hurt just as bad under the water as out of it. In which case, try standing in the tub and letting the pee fall STRAIGHT down, rather than running over your body at all.)
♥ Use dollar store towels to PAT dry. Purchasing a few dollar store towels pre-delivery is a good idea.
♥ Repeat 2 – 3 times per day.
Not hard, and you will love it. I loved it anyhow – and I needed it. (If you’re needing someone to commiserate with you… well… I pooped myself postpartum. Read about that here.)
Did you take postpartum sitz baths? Why or why not?
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