Childbirth is messy. And, not just for the baby. There’s tearing, possibly an episiotomy (surgical cutting), stitches, stretching and all kinds of other not-so-pleasant things that happen to the downstairs parts. That makes self-care down there an absolute must.
So, most women pretty sure they known exactly how to care for their hoo-haa. Come on, they’ve had it for how many years now? They spent at least a few decades with it, cleaning and caring for it. But, now that they’re brand new mamas they’ve got a new level of self-care to deal with.
Before baby it was all about hygiene. Well, sometimes it was about pruning and beautifying the surrounding surfaces (and that time a 'friend' recommended a Brazilian). Okay, we get it. Women need some TLC down there all the time, not just after labor and delivery. Hygiene is hygiene whether a woman is preggo, just gave birth or it’s been years since she became a mother.
That means self-care is an ever-present part of a woman's life. Not that it’s going to take over or anything. Women just need to be aware of what to do – and what not to.
Wait, there are self-care steps women shouldn’t take? Yep, that’s right. Knowing what NOT to do is equally as important as knowing the low-down on down-there care. Using the wrong products, methods or relying on info that a BFF’s cousin thinks she read on a blog (but she can’t really remember what it said) just won’t do.
Keep the lady parts and area happy and healthy, and check out these self-care tips. Oh yeah, and a few things to quit doing right now.
12Examine Down There Regularly
Um, no we don’t mean that you should order a speculum from some creepy online ‘medical’ store and do your own annual exam. Leave that to the professionals. Seriously. There is no substitute for a doctor’s exam or advice. But, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a look (or even a gentle feel) down there.
You know what your norm is. How? Well, because you know your lady parts better than anyone else. At least, you might. Some women feel totally uncomfortable looking at their hoo-haa. Sex and the City fans might remember the episode where Samantha encourages Charlotte, who has never looked at her own vagina, to check hers out. If you’re a Charlotte you need to grab a compact or hand mirror, drop your pants and get to it.
Taking a look and a feel helps you to know when something isn’t right. Along with other warning signs, seeing something that doesn’t look right (such as a weirdo bump or blister-like thing) lets you get help right away. The earlier you seek medical treatment for any possible vag problem, the better your chances are at feeling better and healing quickly.
11Also, Do Nothing At All
Yep, that’s what we said – do nothing. Nothing at all. Okay, so this doesn’t exactly apply to postpartum care. You’ve got all kinds of stretching, tearing and general grossness going on down there. Obviously, your baby-making area requires some special attention.
At some point you’ll be well past the postpartum period. Self-care down there may mean doing very little. Yes, you need to follow the basic hygiene tactics (wipe front to back and so on). But, as the saying goes, a vagina is a “self-cleaning oven.” It’s perfectly pH balanced and has just the right types of bacteria to keep you healthy.
This isn’t to say that things don’t ever get out of whack. It’s entirely possible to throw off that pH or introduce and overabundance of the wrong type of bacteria. In most vag-based situations, simply leaving things up to your body is a-ok. Sex, your diet, illness and other issues may change that oven to the point that you need extra help (as in medical help). If you’re not having symptoms such as foul-smelling discharge, copious amounts of discharge, itching, burning, pain or redness, you really don’t have to do much.
10Getting Down, Use Some Lube
No, not all of the time. That would be kind of crazy. But, there are some circumstances when a little lubricant can go a long way. Your hormones (especially after pregnancy) can cause vaginal dryness. This makes sex, and life in general, uncomfortable.
A sprinkle of water down there won’t do much to moisten things up. It may actually dry you out even more. That’s where some strategic lube comes into play. A water-based lubricant can moisten the vaginal area, making romantic time with your honey much more pleasant.
Sure, you don’t exactly have hours and hours to get it on. Not now that you’re a new mama. You try to get in a quickie while baby’s napping. Then the dryness hits. Your head says yes, but your body is screaming, “Absolutely, positively no way!” A dash of lube will get your body onboard, and help you to get intimate without feeling utterly uncomfortable.
9Put Ice On It
A baby just came out of you. Seriously. A baby. You just pushed a fully formed human being out of your vagina. That had to do some damage. Right? Well, not any permanent damage. At least, hopefully not any.
Childbirth hurts. There are contractions, pressure and random aches and pains. Yes, the contractions stop after baby comes out. But, the soreness of stretching stays. Even though it may feel like that down-there pain will never, ever, ever go away – it will. Just not immediately.
Vaginal self-care after baby means much more than proper hygiene (but that’s totally important too). It also means that you need to comfort that area and do whatever you can to make the pain go away. Your doc may tell you to expect some discomfort. For many women, that’s a serious understatement. Before you start stressing over how your vag will feel post-delivery, try an ice pack. Yep. A good ol’ ice pack. Well actually, a sort of special ice pack.
Instead of shoving some cubes in a baggie (ouch, that’s way too cold), you can use a perineal cold pack. These look like maxi pads, but have the cooling relief you need down there.
8Warm Water Spritz
Tearing or an episiotomy. Either way, it hurts down there. Now imagine that you have to pee – like, really, really badly. That not-so-pleasant feeling down there isn’t going to get any better when you go to the bathroom.
A warm water spritz can help you to keep clean and minimize the pain of peeing. How? Fill a squeeze bottle with warm tap water. Do not use a spray bottle. The pressure of the spray (from a trigger-type bottle) is too much for that delicate area right now. Simply squeeze some of that warm, soothing water over your vag as you urinate.
Not only does this provide an extra feeling of comfort and reduce the slight burning sensation, but it also helps to clean off the area. Washing away everything icky that’s down there will make you feel at least somewhat fresher and help you to heal in a hygienic way.
7Make Sure To Wipe Right
At some point many, many, many years ago someone should have shared with you how to wipe. Um, well maybe not the ‘right’ way. Keeping things clean down there means wiping front to back – and never back to front. You can only imagine the bacteria that lurks in that back section. Wiping back to front only moves it and brings it up to the place you really, really don’t want it.
Wiping from front to back reduces the risk of spreading fecal contaminants (eww, yuck!) towards your urethra. This can potentially cause an infection.
Not only should you wipe front to back, but you should also apply gentle pressure. Wiping too hard can cause tears, which only makes matters worse. Going the other way, and barely wiping, won’t dry you off. Even though that’s not exactly as uncomfortable as extra tears, it’s still not in any way pleasant.
6Wear Cotton Underwear
That sexy little lace thong is something you’ve been thinking about wearing ever since you started sporting those post-preggo granny panties. In a celebration of your not carrying a baby anymore body, you went out and bought silky, satiny, stretchy underwear that’s way too teeny for a pregnant women to ever wear.
Here’s the problem – those often-synthetic fabrics trap the moisture and make it more likely that you’ll get out of balance down there. Instead of keeping the moisture against your vagina, you need to wick it away. And, that’s exactly what cotton can do.
On top of the moisture wicking abilities of cotton, it’s also breathable. That’s oh-so-important when it comes to your vaginal health. Pulling on cotton panties? Really, self-care can’t get easier than that. You were going to wear underwear anyway right? Oh, you weren’t. Well that’s okay too. Going commando is often equally as good for your down there area (unless you’re wearing a pair of moisture-trapping pants or shorts).
5Get Some Rest
This isn’t an everyday type of vaginal self-care idea. But, after pregnancy (in other words, after labor and delivery) getting rest can help your lady parts to heal. It’s completely normal to bleed after childbirth. At first it may seem like you a heavy period.
During those postpartum days you’ll have what’s called lochia. It’s a vaginal discharge that includes blood and tissue shed from the uterus as well as bacteria. The high blood content in the lochia is what makes it seem like you have a mega period. This gradually goes away, getting lighter and less bloody (yeah we know, yuck) the farther away you get from your delivery day. The discharge typically stops a few weeks to one month after having the baby.
The more you do physically, the more you may bleed. Your doctor will tell you what you can, and can’t, do. Getting rest (or at least getting off of your feet and sitting or lying down for a while) can help ease some of your vaginal bleeding.
Keep in mind, significant bleeding, pain or other symptoms that seem not-so-normal are cause for concern. If you have heavy bleeding that won’t stop (or doesn’t lighten), call your OB right away. Only you doctor can tell you what is (or isn’t) acceptable or expected when it comes to postpartum bleeding.
4We Can't Stress This Enough, Don’t Douche
Does your vagina really need to smell like roses? Nope. And it doesn’t need to smell mountain fresh, like a spring breeze or like a lavender bouquet. We get it. Women are totally self-conscious about the ‘smell’. Maybe not all women. But, plenty of them.
If you buy into the hype, you might think that douching is something you need to do to feel fresh. It isn’t. There’s absolutely no need to douche. Using a douche can change the bacterial balance inside of your vagina, making it more likely that you’ll get an infection. Douching raises your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginal irritation and pregnancy problems (such as ectopic pregnancy or preterm birth), according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
When it comes down to it, douching won’t keep your vagina clean. This is definitely one thing to avoid in your self-care down there routine.
3Forget About The Scent
Douches aren’t the only feminine care products that claim to take away a not-so-pleasant smell. Scented tampons, special soaps/washes, sprays and pads are all options that you may want to stay away from. Make that options that you definitely want to stay from.
There’s no real medical reason to use a scented product on your down there area. If you’re experiencing an odd odor that is embarrassing or seems strange, your doctor needs to know about it. While there are normal ‘feminine’ smells that, some STDs and infections (such as BV) have odors. This noticeable symptom is a red flag, and lets you know that it’s time to get help from the GYN.
Leave the scents to your perfume. And, don’t use that perfume anywhere on or near your vag. Scented products tend to irritate this sensitive area. Along with irritation, perfumed pads, sprays, washes and tampons can cause an interior imbalance (like douches do). What’s the result? Possibly an infection that causes even more odor than you originally started with.
2Stop Using Soap Down There
Huh? No soap? You’re a clean kind of girl. So, why wouldn’t you want to lather up everywhere? Soap is perfectly fine on your arms, legs, back and pits. But, when it comes to one of your most sensitive areas, you might want to stay away from it.
Soap can easily dry out your skin. This may even include soaps that are fragrance-free. Vigorously washing your vagina area with a bar or liquid can irritate the delicate skin, cause general dryness and may give you a not-so-nice feeling (long after you’ve rinsed it away).
Instead of soaping up down there, stick with water. A light rinse with warm water or a gentle cleansing with a water-soaked soft wash cloth is all that you really need. You can also wash your lady parts in the shower, minus the soap. A light stream from the shower or a warm, soap-free bath will do the trick.
1Jade Eggs Are A Hard No
Not so long ago Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines. Not for her superstar beauty or standout acting ability. Her website Goop put out an article on the use of jade eggs. No, they weren’t pretty little decorative trinkets. And they weren’t jewelry. The jade eggs we’re talking about are meant for down there – more precisely, in there.
What’s the claim here? Supposedly inserting a jade egg (yep inside of your vagina) keeps things tight, improves muscle tone, gets you into hormonal balance and ups your “feminine energy.” Apparently some say they also have cleansing and clearing properties as well.
And the verdict is – no, nope, don’t do it. After the post came out doctors objected to the usefulness of this totally non-essential self-care product. Not only did the medical pros object, but many said that claims were false and that the egg could pose health risks. Even though the eggs seem strikingly smooth, they’re actually porous. This ups the possibility of bacterial growth, and of infection.
Sources: Womenshealth.gov, Womenshealthmag.com, BabyCenter.com
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