Congratulations! You’ve had the baby. What do you do now? Here are some tips for a smoother post-partum recovery.
Soothing Bath after Vaginal Delivery
There are many herbs that have healing properties and can help soothe soreness in the perineal tissues, heal tears, episiotomies and hemorrhoids. If you’ve had a C-section you can’t do an herbal soak until the stitches have healed and your health care provider has cleared you for a bath. With vaginal births, however, these baths can help speed up recovery and give you some quiet resting time, allowing your body to heal.
All of the herbs mentioned are to be used externally in the bath and are not for internal use.
Recipe: Post Partum Bath
- ½ cup calendula flowers
- ½ cup Chamomile
- ¼ cup comfrey leaf
- 1 cup lavender flowers
- ½ cup plantain
- 1/2 cup dried uva ursi leaves
- ½ cup yarrow flowers
The measurements don’t have to be exact and you can omit an ingredient if you can’t find it. You can also add other herbs such as ½ cup of witch hazel and/or shepherd’s purse if you like and if you have them, since they all have healing properties (see below).
Rather than finding these ingredients separately, you may also find some of the ingredients in a pre-mixed product or gift package intended for use as a post partum bath or as pads. Make sure to verify that the ingredients listed are all natural and contain no artificial scents or chemicals.
What do these ingredients do?
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – commonly known as Marigold, calendula is topically used for inflammation and wound healing. It’s also used for hemorrhoids and varicose veins and for these reasons, can be very helpful healing perineal tissue.
Chammomile (Matricaria recutita) – used for hemorrhoids, wound healing, bacterial skin issues. It has anti-inflammatory effects and also heals skin irritations and itching.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – topically comfrey has great value for ulcers, wounds and inflammation. Used in small doses externally, it can be helpful to reduce inflammation. It should not be taken internally due to possible toxic effects.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – used widely for stress relief, anxiety and sleep. The lavender plant has analgesic effects for pain reduction and also some anti-bacterial effects. Lavender oils should not be taken internally but in an herbal bath, it can be very relaxing and it smells great too.
Plantain (Plantago major) – traditionally used for cystitis and hemorrhoids. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties.
Shepards’ purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) – used for superficial burns, and bleeding skin injuries.
Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) – typically used to help with urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to its anti-inflammatory properties and antimicrobial properties.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) – used for itching, skin inflammation, hemorrhoids, and bruises, burning and minor bleeding.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.) – is a powerful wound healer. It is traditionally used to treat bruises and pain from inflammation. It helps with healing cuts and has antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory actions.
How do I make it?
I recommend mixing the herbs in a glass container in advance – mason jars work well. You can make several jars and store them for up to a year in a cool, dark place.
Bath Water – When preparing for your bath, add 1 cup of the mixed herbal combination to 8 cups of boiling water. Remove the water from heat and let the herbs steep in the hot water for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs with a sieve and add to a bath with ¼ cup Sea Salt or Epsom salt and soak for 20 minutes. Be sure to strain the mixture before adding to your bath! You don’t want any herb or flower bits to be in the bath water when you sit in it! You can also use an actual sitz bath if you prefer. It’s a tub like apparatus that you fill with warm water and sit in it to help your healing. You can add the herbs to this bath so they are more concentrated than in a big bathtub. For some people it can be more comfortable, especially if the perineum is sore or if you have hemorrhoids.
Be sure to take your time to sit in the bath slowly, not rushing in. This will help avoid aggravating any sensitive areas and incisions. Consider bringing in a washcloth in with you to soak and apply to your breasts as well, it can help relieve the engorgement and soreness from breastfeeding. The beauty of this bath soak is it is all natural and safe for you and baby.
The bath can be given as soon as a few hours after a vaginal birth as long as long as mom is healthy and there are no signs of infection. A fresh bath can be taken once or even twice a day for a week after birth. The mother can bring the baby into the herbal bath for some skin-to-skin and quiet time. The herbs will promote drying and healing of the umbilical cord.
Muslin Bag – You can also combine ingredients into a few muslin bags. Drop 1 bag into hot bath water and add the salt separately. Wait until salt dissolves and the contents of the herbal bag have steeped for a while. Once the temperature is warm enough to sit in, you can enjoy a relaxing bath.
Muslin bags are readily available and easy to find at most big brand stores. They are often sold in multiples which can help you prepare a few batches at a time so they are ready when you are!
Peri Bottle – You can also take the herbal water (strained) and add to a Peri Bottle for use while going to the bathroom (see below). It also works well if you pour some pre-brewed herbal mix on to pads and freeze for a pain relieving ice pad (see below).
When I was mixing herbal bath combinations for patients, women would tend to order several mason jars after the baby was born because they found the first bath very soothing! I suggest preparing enough herbs at least 1 bath per day for 7 days plus some extra for use in a peri-rinse (squeeze bottle) or ice pad.
After delivery, especially with a vaginal delivery, you will experience soreness and swelling in the perineal area. For the first few days to weeks, you will bleed and going to the bathroom will be very uncomfortable. In order to speed healing, I recommend a peri bottle. There are various types: you can get a simple squirt bottle or my preference is one that is shaped to be used upright, with a spout that makes squirting easier. This is a bottle that you fill with warm water (or with the herbal water, see above) and use the spout to squirt while you use the bathroom. It’s soothing and also helps you to stay hydrated without being afraid to use the bathroom for the first few days. Failing this, a shower head also works!
I also recommend ice pads. Now, using ice cubes in a ziplock is often recommended but not the most comfortable nor easy to keep clean. I recommend a cloth pad. Soak, fold and freeze so that it’s a more comfortable application. You can also get the pocket pads, and add the herbal preparation water to the pad inside, freeze and then apply to your skin. Some people use disposable pads but I find they don’t always hold well in the freezer, they may break apart and also due to some types that have dryweave or thick padded sections, they may chafe especially if you’ve had stitches. When choosing cloth I also recommend a cloth that is soft with no artificial colours, scents or loose fibres. Be sure to wash all cloths prior to use with a gentle, scent free laundry soap. I usually recommend having a few pre-frozen on hand for use since you will need them immediately after delivery, likely for at least a few days or weeks. You can try mamcloth, she’s local to the Toronto area (but will ship products) and is very helpful if you have questions. There is also the tree hugger brand, they plant a tree for the environment with your purchase!
It’s also a good idea to have big granny undies. They will be loose with good coverage and you won’t mind if they get dirty with any heavy bleeding that you might experience over the first few weeks. Some women prefer disposable options such as ‘Depends’. You also will often be given some mesh underwear at the hospital to wear post-delivery, these are great to have for the first few days. Asking for an extra pair to go home might be an option as well. It never hurts to ask!