Wednesday, July 31, 2013

YONI BLISS: Postpartum Care for Our Most Delicate & Tough Body Part

 Postpartum Care for Our Most   
 Delicate & Tough Body Part!
Our bodies were made to give birth. It’s natural, it’s miraculous, and when we allow it to…it just happens.

But that doesn’t mean that we emerge from the experience unscathed.  Let’s face it—though breastfeeding and childbirth are the major role of our nipples and yoni[1]—those delicate parts (and others) take a bit of a beating in childbirth and the early days postpartum!

The Look

Let’s start at the beginning. How do you respond to change—even if it’s temporary? If you are a person who, for example, cries if you get a haircut that is unlike your usual haircut, it’s probably wise not to look at your yoni the first few days postpartum.  Better to keep your eyes focused on your beautiful baby!

For anyone else…

The yoni has just completed one of the most amazing jobs on the planet, and it shows. It will look different. Many women are unaware of how different it will look in the first days postpartum and
are unpleasantly surprised by it. (If I hadn’t read a book when 8 months pregnant that discussed this issue, I would have been surprised or even concerned by the appearance. Even knowing what to expect, I did groan a little at first glance.)

Many women do look—some out of biological or personal curiosity, and some out of concern to see “what’s going on down there.”  Because you can feel a change in the structure (it’s swollen and perhaps torn and/or sutured), it’s normal to want to check it out.

Knowing that this change in appearance is 100% normal and that our yoni does return to its original look, feel free to use the mirror—worry free!

The Feel

As much as it looks different, it feels different.  Words a woman would likely use to describe the feeling are “big,” “swollen,” or “open.”  And it is!  Our yoni has just experienced the greatest expansion—by far—that it ever will, and it will require time to return to its original state.  I’ve read in many sources that the timeframe for a return to “normal” is approximately six weeks. 

In my case, there was certainly a substantial improvement in six weeks—but back to normal?  That took much longer and from my own research, that is the case for many women. (Many women will always feel a little “loser” or “more open,” but nothing like the first few days and weeks postpartum.)

With micro-tears that didn’t require suturing—and certainly with more serious tears, episiotomies and sutures—we will feel a slight-to-strong burning sensation while urinating for the first several days postpartum.  

Bowel movements—they’re not going to tickle the first few days. Again, this is normal. The key here is to remember the peri-bottle with the warm sitz bath brew (more info below), and to breathe. (For those with serious tears, consult with your care provider for more tips in this regard.)

The Lochia

For the first few days postpartum you will have a discharge called “lochia”—a heavy flow of bright red blood (and mucus and tissue) that tapers off, changes from red and brown to yellow, and usually stops about six weeks postpartum.  Some small clots or “gushes” as you stand up after sitting for long periods are normal.[2]  However, it is wise to discuss this with your childbirth practitioner so you know what to expect, what would be considered abnormal, and what steps to take if it is.

            The Bliss

Here are a few tips for supporting your yoni in feeling better while it continues its miraculous work, and heals and rejuvenates.

1.     Legs Together

This is a tip I received from my doula (who was also a midwife in training) that I’d
never heard from any other source.  It was easy and made a lot of sense.

Again, whether we have micro-tears or serious tears and sutures, it’s not ideal to lie or sleep with our legs sprawled open.  While at any other time in our lives we may lie on our back with one leg straight out and the other leg bent and the foot resting against the straight leg’s calf or knee (picture a yoga tree-pose, but lying down), it’s better to avoid this position postpartum.  If possible, keep both legs straight and comfortably close together so the yoni isn’t being “pulled open.”

2. Sitz Baths

You only have to urinate one time postpartum without your sitz peri-bottle to recognize the benefits of sitz!

There are many recipes for sitz baths, and they can be modified and adjusted. You can find recipes in books and online, or ideally inquire with a natural childbirth practitioner. Essentially, they are a blend of plants and flowers (there are western and eastern blends) that you brew into a “tea.” You then sit in a warm bath with your sitz brew (there are special tubs that fit on the toilet for this purpose) or add the sitz to warm water, pour into a peri-bottle, and spray or pour gently as you urinate. 

Here are a few recipes for you to consider:

A western blend I used:  Equal parts: calendula flowers, chamomile flowers, marshmallow, rosemary, uva ursi, comfrey, shepherd’s purse; a sprinkle of lavender flowers and rose petals; and a dash of sea salt.

Dr. Jessica Chen, TCM fertility specialist and co-author of Sitting Moon: A Guide to Natural Rejuvenation After Pregnancy, shared this recipe:[3]

“There are different types of herbal formula you can use for postpartum sitz bath depending on the symptoms that the mother is experiencing. The common ones you can use are herbs that help promote healing, reduce inflammation, relieve soreness and stop bleeding. A basic formula can consist of: bletilla, agrimony, sophora root, white peony root and astragalus.” [4]

No matter what recipe you choose, forget little bags of store-bought, pre-made powder that you pour into boiling water. You’ll want to use whole, fresh herbs—and when possible, organic herbs—in this preparation.

Sitz with ice packs?

When pregnant I read that it’s helpful, to reduce swelling and discomfort, to soak maternity or menstrual pads in your sitz formula, freeze them, and to use as ice packs immediately postpartum.  (When writing this article, I found several more online sources—including major medical websites—offering this guidance.)

Ignoring what I knew about TCM and Ayurveda admonishments against anything iced or cold postpartum, I did use frozen pads.  Admittedly, they offered some relief and I even wrote about this technique in my book, New Mother.  However, “icing” the yoni immediately postpartum probably delayed the natural healing process and I wouldn’t repeat it.

I asked Dr. Chen about the subject of anything cold or iced postpartum.  She confirmed that it’s better to avoid using cold-packs and added, “It is best to use Chinese herbal oils, ointments, powder or sitz baths that help reduce swelling and promote healing after giving birth. Warm sitz bath or squirt bottles with herbs in them can be used within an hour of delivery and once a day after labor for a week. Keep in mind not to put any oil, ointments or powder inside your vagina. One needs to be very careful with causing any infections.”[5]

The information behind the Ayurveda and TCM precept to avoid cold and ice postpartum could fill volumes, but in a sentence, the reason is this:

Circulation = health & healing, and cold restricts circulation

3) Maternity Pads

Avoid tampons postpartum—use pads.  Though they can be difficult to find other than online, maternity pads with tabs worn with sanitary briefs offer the most comfort one can expect at this time.

Why not tampons?
Many who study natural health hesitate to use tampons at any time because of the various health risks.[6] However, with an internal wound (where the placenta was attached to the uterine wall) and tears, the risk of infection increases.  The general rule one finds in literature is that if you use tampons, you can begin using them again after six weeks postpartum with the next period, after consulting with a care provider. (I never use tampons, so six weeks seems too soon to me; but that’s a personal choice that would ideally be made with support from a trusted source.)

Why maternity pads with tabs and sanitary briefs? Regular pads have adhesive on the back. Now, it’s time for us to get intimate—as if we weren’t already. 

The last thing we need postpartum is maxi-pad adhesive sticking to and pulling on our pubic hair, and panties with tight elastic wrapped around our legs and swollen groin! Maternity pads with tabs have no adhesive, and the briefs don’t have tight elastic (picture light, airy, stretchy boxers that gently hold the pad in place.) 

There may be others, but the best source I know to purchase maternity pads with tabs and sanitary briefs is online from a company called Cascade Healthcare Products.[7]

            Sexual Bliss

Of course a question on almost anyone’s mind during the pregnancy or immediately postpartum is: when can I enjoy sex again after childbirth (or sometimes the question is more like, will I ever enjoy sex again?).

The answer to this question—no matter what any doctor or professional says—is always between the mother and her partner.  The most common advice is that after 6 weeks or so, it’s safe to have intercourse.

I’ve heard of some women having sex within a few weeks while some people take several months before the desire returns and it feels right.

Ayurveda, TCM, and other schools of natural medicine offer natural therapies that help the postpartum body/mind rejuvenate, and with that, the sexual desire and smooth functioning return.  Even without support, it usually returns!  However, there are situations where a woman will need support to return to states of bliss in the bedroom, and fortunately it is commonly available.

Even when you have healed and feel the desire, you will likely experience dryness. Lubricants help the cause, but research to find the one best for you.

The best advice I ever heard on this subject was from my husband.  When we discussed this subject, his answer about the ideal time to return to our sex life was,

“When mama feels like it.”

Bless him.

            Even More Bliss

The subject of postpartum care (which entails care for the entire family) goes far beyond the first few weeks and involves the mother—mind and body—head to toe! I hope this brief list of ways to care for the yoni inspires you to explore the other modern and traditional practices to support your healing, bonding, and growth in this magical time of life!

ALLIE CHEE After earning a BA in literature and a 2nd degree black belt in Korean martial arts, 20 years traveling in 50 countries, working in numerous entrepreneurial ventures, and serving as co-publisher of a leading financial industry magazine, Allie Chee lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and daughter and is a student at Stanford.

Her articles have appeared in: 
•  The Well Being Journal
•  The Holistic Networker
•  The Birthing Site
•  Natural Mother Magazine 
•  MidwiferyToday

Her published titles are: New Mother, Free Love & Go, Jane!

Website:  Facebook: 
NEW MOTHER on Amazon

[1] For those unfamiliar with the term, a definition:
Yoni (Sanskrit: योनि yoni) is the Sanskrit word for the vagina. It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple (cf. lila). Source: 7/20/13
People who choose this word rather than “vagina” or “vulva” often do so—not because of discomfort with the other terms—but because they wish to refer to the birth passage with a term that includes the sacred nature (rather than just the mechanical nature) of this magnificent body part!

[3] These herbs can be found in Chinese herb shops, online, or from a Chinese herbalist / TCM practitioner.
[4] From an email exchange with Dr. Jessica Chen, 6/12/13
[5] Ibid
[6] The FDA has a site that refutes many of the purported risks with tampon use (not postpartum—with use at any other time). 6/12/13

However, there are health concerns not addressed on the FDA page. For example, in the discussion here: 7/5/13

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