If you’ve just given birth, it’s natural that your own hygiene is not your top priority. However, postpartum infection, also called puerperal infection, is not uncommon, especially if delivery was difficult. Good postpartum washing is key to prevention.
Here’s what you need to know
- These infections are bacterial, and they begin when bacteria on your body (or on delivery doctors) begin to proliferate during delivery on exposed tissue, especially where there has been tissue damage. From the Wikipedia article (linked above): “After childbirth a woman’s genital tract has a large bare surface, which is prone to infection. … Puerperal infection is most common on the raw surface of the interior of the uterus after separation of the placenta (afterbirth); but pathogenic organisms may also affect lacerations of any part of the genital tract.”
- To prevent these infections, careful washing of the genital area post-partum is important. Just Mommies has some postpartum tips for new moms, “You’ll be given a peri bottle (a little squirt bottle) and instructions on how to wash the vaginal area with it in the postpartum phase. Use clean, sterile water and spray from front to back (it actually feels a lot more soothing than it sounds, especially after what you’ve been through).” If you aren’t offered a bottle, ask for one! You can also find empty squirt bottles at many drug and natural-food stores. Be sure to sterilize the bottle before using it.
- Watch for signs of infection during the days after delivery. It’s normal to bleed for several days after deliver, and vaginal discharge is normal. However, if you see large (bigger than a quarter) blood clots, if bleeding continues beyond four days, or if vaginal discharge has a foul odor, see your doctor immediately as these are signs of infection. Find more tips about what to watch for here.
- Consider adding a gentle, pH-balanced wash to your postpartum body care routine. At Good Clean Love we are partial to Balance Organic Vaginal Wash (not too surprisingly, since we formulated it!). Balance is “Bio-Matched”, which means that it accurately matches healthy vaginal acidity and salinity to support the vaginal flora that protects from infections like Bacterial Vaginosis, discomfort, and unpleasant odors. Balance is different from other harsh soaps and cleansers, and is specifically formulated for vaginal cleansing — read more here. And check out more about the science behind Bio-Matching here.
- A healthy diet is an important part of postpartum body care — eating enough whole, fresh foods can help the immune system fight off infection. Be sure you are caring for your own needs just as carefully as you care for your new baby’s. Your baby is depending on you, so you need to be healthy! Getting enough sleep is also important for good immune system function, but this might be a challenge right now. All the more reasons to be sure you are eating well.
Be sure to talk with your doctor after delivery about vaginal hygiene, and of course, be sure to go to postpartum checkups!