Natural remedies to care for your perineum after birth

Even if you don’t tear, have stitches or an episiotomy chances are your bottom will be quite sore for the first few days and weeks following childbirth.

Here is a collection of simple, natural home remedies that can help soothe perineal discomfort, swelling and bruising and promote healing.  You can use any one or a combination of these remedies according to your preference.

We advise you to have the necessary ingredients on hand prior to childbirth but what you don’t have can simply be left out and added later.

Sitz Bath

Hot water sitz baths are used to steam and bathe the perineum following childbirth.  They increase blood circulation in the perineal area, promote healing and reduce inflammation and can be useful for treating urinary tract infection outside of childbirth.

Instructions

  • Combine 60g of fresh or dried rosemary leaves and 30g each of Chamomile, Lavender (Lavandula off.), and Calendula (Calendula off.) flowers.  These can be easily sourced from your local health food store and it’s not necessary to include all of these ingredients as steaming with hot water alone or using any single herb on this list can also very effective.
  • Store the mix in an air tight storage container.
  • Place 3 handfuls of the herbal mix into a basin and add 2 liters of boiling water.
  • Steep for 4 hours.
  • Strain mixture and discard the solids.
  • Store herbal tea in the refrigerator for the next 3-4 days.
  • Put 2 cups of herbal tea into a plastic bucket with one kettle of boiling water and equal parts room temperature tap water.
  • Always use a thick sided plastic bucket because thin plastic buckets can buckle with the combined effect of hot water and body weight.  If you are using an old bucket make sure you thoroughly wash out any harmful detergents before use.
  • Sit on top of the bucket, making a seal with your bottom.
  • Allow the steam to rise and fumigate your perineum for 10-15 minutes taking care not to scold yourself.
  • Steaming is best done in a wet area such as over the bath with supportive handholds to prevent slipping.  You might also like to experiment with placing the bucket securely into the toilet bowl and sitting on top.
  • After steaming place the contents of the bucket into a shallow warm to hot bath along with a handful of sea salt.
  • Submerge your bottom in the warm water and enjoy the soothing effect.  If you don’t have a bath you can improvise with a larger basin, reducing the quantity of salt.
  • In the first few days following birth you may prefer to start with cooler water and experiment with increasingly warmer water as your swelling subsides.
  • Have one full Sitz bath per day.
  • The steaming component however can be repeated several times in a day and can be done with or without the herbs.

The herbal tea can also be applied by combining equal parts of tea to filtered water in a plastic spray bottle and sprayed onto the perineum to irrigate and cleanse traumatised tissue and relieve discomfort.

Spraying the solution during and after urination will reduce stinging and cleanse the area.

A clean linen, cotton or gauze cloth can be soaked in heated herbal tea and squeezed over the affected area, or made into a compress that can be soaked and externally applied to the perineum as needed.

Sunlight

The ancient Egyptians were the first civilisation to discover the profound healing power of the sun.  Twenty minutes of direct sunlight exposure to the perineum daily post birth will dramatically promote wound healing.

In the privacy of your own home this is best done in a sunny indoor spot behind a window, probably where the cat likes to sit.  Make sure to keep the other parts of your body toasty warm with a blanket and protect yourself against any cold draughts even in summer.

The most comfortable way to do this is to lie on your side with a pillow between your legs and wriggle into the optimal position to expose the maximum surface area of your perineum to the sunlight.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is well known for its cooling, analgesic, wound healing qualities and is especially effective for treating third degree tears.  If you have an Aloe Vera cactus growing in your garden break a leaf and a gel will be released.  Apply gel by spreading it onto your sanitary pad.

For those women concerned about infection, pure Aloe Vera cream can be purchased from your local health food store.

Raw honey

Unprocessed, raw, organic honey (Manuka honey is the best) is also an excellent home remedy for third degree tears.
Apply approximately 1 tablespoon directly to the affected area or smear it onto a sanitary pad.

The thick consistency of honey forms a physical barrier to prevent underwear from sticking to the wound and prevents infection.  Even if a scab has already formed the moistness of the honey will help the skin cells to grow and prevent scarring.

Other useful hints for perineal recovery

  • Work towards 100-200 pelvic floor exercises per day from the 3rd day postpartum, you might need to do them in sets of 10-20 throughout the day as you build strength.  This will help to lessen perineal pain.
  • Use doughnut cushions when sitting and breastfeeding to reduce pressure on your bottom.
  • Never insert tampons until after your wounds have fully healed.

Post natal symptoms that require urgent medical attention

With the extreme physical challenges and changes to a woman’s body following childbirth women can understandably overlook or discount important post-natal clinical symptoms which require Western medical attention.

These symptoms include fever (body temperature over 38°C), frequent or burning urination, heavy post natal vaginal bleeding, foul smelling vaginal discharge, passing gas through the vagina and severe perineal, pelvic or lower abdominal pain.

Contact your Medical Doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the above symptoms in the days and weeks following childbirth.