Folks. Lend me your ears. (Or vaginas rather.) I know firsthand how fun it is to pack a hospital bag for your labor and delivery. The anticipation. The wanting to be ready at a moment’s notice. The packing and repacking as the nesting feelings kick in. Gushing over how freaking adorable the new bundle of joy is going to look in his or her first day outfit, second day outfit, and the ever important homecoming outfit. And let’s not forget about packing your ensemble: matching PJs, robe, slippers, and hair tie.
I get it. My first hospital bag took months to plan. I conferred with all of my mom friends and scoured social media to make sure I got it just right. (Side note: for my second delivery, I threw in whatever pajamas were at the top of the clean clothes heap and totally forgot to pack a baby outfit. But I digress.)
Why Your Vag Bag Matters
The hospital bag gets so much attention. And for good reason. It’s one of the first acts of care moms provide to their new arrivals. But after you give birth, there’s something else that needs care and attention: your vagina and/or your tummy. So along with your hospital bag you also need to be assembling items for what I like to call a “vag bag.” Having a vag bag waiting for you when you get home is the best way to ensure that you’ll have all you need to heal and get relief after birthing that watermelon-sized human out of your body.
Because here’s what: while baby will be looking runway-ready in his or her insanely cute homecoming outfit, you’ll be shuffling into the house, exhausted, bleeding, and with swollen lady bits. Ice packs will be shoved into your hospital issue mesh undies. (Mesh Undies, by the way, are the best!) And like it or not, a poop is impending. All in all, those first few days/weeks after delivery ain’t no joke for the ol’ vag.
But fear not; you won’t have to do any scrambling online to figure out the contents of your vag bag. I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you. Indeed, after years of working with new moms on their delivery aftercare, and giving birth to two watermelon-sized humans of my own, I’ve assembled what I believe is the ultimate vag bag, and below is a list of my top five vag bag must-packs.
The Vag Bag Essentials
1. Peri Bottle
Y’all. Slow clap for FridaBaby’s Fridet perineal bottle. This is a game changer and puts those squeezy bottles from the hospital to shame. The Fridet has an angled tube that is designed to work upside down, so you can squeeze warm water onto your hoo-ha while sitting on the toilet and holding the bottle. I mean, genius!
Perineal care after delivery is so important, and if you experienced a tear in the perineum, have stitches, have hemorrhoids, or are just sore as hell down there, using a peri bottle to clean after peeing or pooping is heaven. The warm water washes away urine, dried blood, poop particles, and spares you from having to wipe this sensitive area with scratchy toilet paper. We all know how scary that first poop can be after delivery. The Fridet will help.
2. Ice Packs
All the ice packs. Here’s the deal-i-o: labor, pushing out a baby, and experiencing any sort of tear and/or repair in the perineum is traumatic for those tissues. In other words, your vajayjay gonna be swollen, girlfriend. Ice will help reduce that swelling, decrease some pain and discomfort, and help speed up the healing process. And if you’ve had a C-section, ice will also help alleviate any soreness in the pelvic area, especially if you were pushing for any length of time.
So be sure your vag bag has a few of those disposable, one time use ice packs that come with a soft cloth cover and put those suckers on your vulva and perineum as soon as you get home. Lie on your back either with your feet up on a wall or with a pillow under your booty. This is how you elevate your lady bits. Gravity and ice are a great combo. Think about it, when ankles are sprained they get iced and elevated. Same deal with the vag. Its important to note that you don’t want to put ice directly on the skin, so use a thin barrier, like a paper towel, then ice that pink taco for about 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day.
3. Sitz Baths and Witch Hazel
Pregnancy and delivery contribute to hemorrhoids (uhhh, pushing to get a baby out also pushes…er other things out). Witch hazel is a natural astringent, and has been used as an organic remedy for inflammation and bleeding for years, especially for hemorrhoids. Here’s how it all goes down: tannins, which are found in witch hazel slow down bleeding by helping constrict blood vessels. At the end of the day, that means a decrease in discomfort associated with the ol’ ‘roids.
In the same way, witch hazel helps to subdue generalized swelling of the vulva and perineum. Earth Mama Organics has two products that will help soothe a sore and swollen vulva and perineum and relieve pain from hemorrhoids. One is an herbal cooling perineal spray, and the other is an herbal sitz bath kit. The spray is great for topical relief after you cleanse with the peri bottle. I liked to spray it on my vulva and then place an ice pack there. The sitz bath kit can be also be used to make a “padsicle” (more info on this below), or the herbal bag can be placed in the fridge and applied directly to the perineum. (Earth Mama Organics also sells a perineal balm and a C-section scar balm, which are also awesome and can help with relief and healing.)
I am no pad-lover; I’ve always been a tampon girl. But now I love the Diva Cup, for my postpartum vagina. TMI? But no tampons allowed for six weeks after baby, y’all. And you’re going to need something to help absorb the blood, or lochia, that will make its debut rigggggght after the baby is born. Like seconds after. Remember, the uterus has to heal too. Be sure and pack pads you feel comfortable using, cuz you’ll be using them a lot and for a surprisingly long time after you give birth. Generally for about six to eight weeks after delivery.
You can also use your pads to create a padsicle. Here’s how: soak a pad in water steeped from the Earth Mama Organics Sitz Bath packets. Then place the wet pad in the fridge or freezer, and voila! Cooling relief and pad in one. Some people like to use incontinence-related products instead of pads because they’re more absorbent (think Depends or Poise underpants) and you don’t have to worry about wearing underwear with them.
5. Compression Garments
Compression can be a huge help after baby. Your abdomen will be swollen and will likely feel weak. Indeed, many new moms have trouble figuring out how to get those muscles firing the right way after delivery. Having an abdomen feeling like a waterbed with swollen lady parts and tending to a new baby can be rough. Enter SRC Health’s Recovery Shorts. The compression they offer to the vulva and perineum and abdomen decreases swelling and provides some gentle support. This can be super helpful as now you’re expected to carry around that watermelon-sized baby, not to mention all the other activities expected of new moms (taking care of another child, laundry, cooking, shopping, world running, you know, pretty much everything).
These garments lift up on the outside of the vagina and abdomen and cue you to engage the muscles to increase support for your trunk and pelvic girdle. Doesn’t have to be a lot of squeezing, just a gentle “hug” if you will to those lady bits and abdomen. You can wear a thin pad/undies and then pull these bad boys on. Really a good idea for the first few weeks after delivery, before you get in to see you local favorite pelvic floor physical therapist, which you should do after around the six to eight week mark. (Pelvic Floor PTs are instrumental in helping you recover from birth. We provide specialized therapy to address anything and everything from back/pelvic pain, leaking urine, pain with sex and constipation.)
Another choice for a compression garment is the It’s You Babe’s PF Press or the V2 Supporter. This is like a female jock strap. I know. Just roll with it. It provides more specific perineal/vulvar support than the RC Health compression products, and it can be worn over your undies. This can be helpful for prolapse, too. You can’t really wear it with a pad, though, so it’s better for later on.
So there you have it. My top five items for your vag bag. Know it. Love it. Be it. It’s time to start being proactive about healing the vajayjay, booty and tummy after baby comes. By all means, still focus your energy on your matching PJs and baby’s fab homecoming outfit, just also make time to remember that your lady bits will need some care and attention too. You can learn more about postpartum recovery by working with one of our therapists in an online session.
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Marcy Crouch, PT, DPT, CLT, WCS, is one of our online therapists at The Vagina Whisperer. She is a pelvic floor physical therapist who runs her own clinic Restorative Pelvic Physical Therapy in Manhattan Beach, California. She is the proud mama bear to two boys, drives a minivan shamelessly and loves the ocean and a good glass of wine. Follow her on Instagram @thedowntheredoc to learn more than you want to know about vaginas.
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