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perineal care

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Can I use herbs during labor? Yes!

products_birthWe’re pleased to share the following information on herbs for labor and postpartum care, written by Motherlove founder Kathryn Higgins:

Can I use herbs during labor?

Yes, herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery.  The following herbs have been used by midwives and birthing women.  See our section on plants for photos and more detailed information on several of these herbs.  Many products using these herbs are available through Motherlove.

  • Blue and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor (but do not use before the 39th week of pregnancy).  During labor they can make contractions more efficient in a long, stalled labor, and help the uterus clamp down after birth.
  • Raspberry leaf (tea or tincture) is one of the best uterine tonic herbs to prepare uterine muscles for an efficient labor.  Its astringent action slows bleeding and helps to expel the placenta.  Have the tea on hand or make raspberry tea ice cubes to suck on during labor.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Take crampbark for uterine cramping during labor, and after birth to eliminate after birth cramping pains.
  • Scullcap and catnip relieve pain, as well as calm and relax the body.
  • Chamomile helps control pain during labor by relieving tension.

Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:

  • Motherwort is one of the best herbs to give immediate emotional balance during the ups and downs of labor, but it may increase uterine bleeding.
  • Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower remedy, is excellent for bringing one quickly into focus when under stress or shock during a difficult labor.  It can also be put on the baby’s forehead or wrist after a stressful birth.
  • A massage oil, enhanced with herbs, will relax the muscles and ease back labor pain.  Use relaxing, aromatic herbs such as chamomile, rose, and lavender.  Rubbed on the perineum, it helps prevent tearing as the baby crowns and ease swelling and burning.
  • Essential oils in a massage oil or mister can give clarity and focus.  Clary sage gives a sense of well being and combats mental fatigue.  During birth it helps focus breathing and calm anxiety.  Geranium essential oil balances emotions  and works well for perineal massage, as it stimulates circulation.  Lavender is calming and strengthening, relieving depression and irritability, and ideal in any blend for all skin types. Be sure that essential oils are used in a carrier oil or mister and not directly on the skin.
  • After the birth, use a sitz bath to soak the perineum, heal any tears, shrink swelling, and slow bleeding.  It helps the perineum to heal quickly, makes walking more comfortable, and feels so good!  Herbs to use include comfrey, yarrow, uva ursi, witch hazel, shepherds purse, and garlic.
  • Fill a plastic squirt bottle with a strong comfrey tea (or add calendula) to squirt on your perineum as you urinate to lessen any burning and heal tears.
  • Homeopathic arnica pills, taken every few hours for several days after the birth, help reduce bruising and swelling of the perineal tissue.  Be sure you are taking arnica internally only in homeopathic form, as arnica tincture prevents clotting and should not be taken internally.

Tender tush? Some tips for taking care of your perineum after birth

If you’ve had a vaginal birth, taking care of your (likely sore) bottom can be a bit of a job in the early days after your baby’s birth.  Here are some simple things you can do to relieve pain and bounce back quicker:*

Cold compresses.  Many moms use ice packs to reduce swelling and soothe pain in the early hours after birth.  Be sure to wrap cold packs in a soft cloth or other soft material so that the cold pack doesn’t directly touch your tissues. Some moms wet and freeze their pads to create convenient cold compresses.

Sitz baths.  Warm water, especially when infused with healing herbs, can do wonders for tender tissues.  You can make a sitz bath in a bathtub or with a basin that fits over your toilet seat (in the hospital, ask your nurse for help with this).  Added to your bath, our Sitz Bath and Sitz Bath Concentrate soothe sore perineal muscles, reduce swelling, slow bleeding, and help ease the discomfort of hemorrhoids.  Our Sitz Bath Spray can be sprayed directly on your perineum an offers the same relief.  All of our sitz bath products have a zero rating (zero toxins) on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database and are made with 100% certified organic ingredients.

Witch hazel.  Witch hazel is an herb which is soothing to sore, swollen tissue, and especially helpful with hemorrhoids.  You can buy witch hazel soaked pads.  You’ll also find witch hazel in our organic Rhoid Balm, which relieves swelling and itching during pregnancy and after birth, and in our sitz bath products.

Peri bottle.  Many moms who have had tears, stitches, or episiotomies find it soothing to spray their perineum (front to back) with warm water after or during urination.  Peri bottles make this easy.  It can be especially helpful to use a peri bottle while urinating if you have stinging pain when using the toilet.

Medications.  Your health care providers can discuss over the counter and prescription medication options that are safe for breastfeeding.  If you have additional questions about pain medications and breastfeeding, you can call the Infant Risk Center for free information from a knowledgeable and breastfeeding-friendly pharmacist.

* This post is not intended as medical advice.  For medical advice, seek the recommendations of your health care provider.

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