Updated: Jan 22
History of Vaginal Steaming and Postpartum Care
Did you know that vaginal steaming after childbirth is likely the oldest reason for the practice on record? Traditionally, this process included squatting over a boiling pot of water with herbs in it–or perhaps even more often, lying down on a bed of steamed herbs.
In an extensive study conducted for the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in the early 2000s, researchers examined the traditional herbal vaginal steaming practice known as Bakera in Indonesia. In Bakera, vaginal steaming is used by women to “feel fresh, clean, and at ease” after childbirth. With the warning of general safety precautions and some specific contraindications, the study concluded the practice is an “effective and safe method for recuperation after childbirth.” Modern advocates of postpartum steaming believe that steaming helps to cleanse leftover material (also known as lochia) from the uterus after childbirth and brings warmth into the uterus and pelvic floor.
What is postpartum
The postpartum period begins immediately after childbirth as the mother's body, including hormone levels and uterus size, returns to a non-pregnant state. The terms puerperium, puerperal period, or immediate postpartum period are commonly used to refer to the first six weeks following childbirth.
When to start steaming?
It totally depends! You might feel up to steaming as soon as a day after giving birth but it definitely doesn’t have to be that soon, and chances are you might want to wait a bit longer.
Some things to consider before you start to steam.
Did you have any sort of injury to your vaginal area during birth? Perineal tearing or an episiotomy? It is common to experience a tear during vaginal delivery. If this is the case, wait before you steam! Remember, steaming with any sort of open wound is a big NO because it can increase bleeding. (Consult your physician first)
Pay attention to your body to gauge when to start steaming, the bottom line is, that there is no need to rush back into steaming.
Pregnancy changes your body in more ways than you might expect and it doesn't stop once the baby is born.
A few postpartum self-care tips to consider:
1. Stock up on hospital freebies
Consider stocking up on the hospital’s mesh panties. (Don’t be shy—ask your nurse for extras) Disposable panties rock, they are non-restrictive and breathable which promotes healing of the yoni. Don’t forget the peri bottle (a squirt bottle for rinsing): It’ll keep you feeling fresh and help ease any stinging sensation experienced during urination.
2. Put swelling on ice
After delivery, swelling is common. Applying an ice pack to the area is an easy and effective way to get relief in the first 24 hours.
3. Soak your bottom
After 24 hours, a soothing sitz bath can be a part of your postpartum care routine: Just fill the tub with a few inches of tepid water (Tepid water consists of two parts cold water and one part boiling water, which renders a temperature of about 40 degrees Celsius/about 105 degrees Fahrenheit) 20 minutes per session, three to four times a day. “It decreases swelling, cleans the area so there’s less risk of infection and generally soothes discomfort".
4. Witch hazel it up
Hemorrhoids are another change women can develop during delivery,
Got uncomfortable hemorrhoids? Find sweet relief with Witch hazel. It is a herbal remedy with tannins and oils that can help reduce inflammation. (Add to pads)
5. Don’t be scared to poop
Since blood is diverted from your digestive system during labour, it can take a couple of days for you to get back to a normal routine. Stay hydrated and eat a diet rich in fibre to help move your bowels along. But when your body is ready, don’t hold back: Yes, your first postpartum bowel movement might hurt a bit but these tips will aid and ease defecation.
6. Do your Kegels
Struggling with bladder control post-baby? Doing Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and promote bladder control
Steaming can be practiced anytime not only for postpartum care or as a herbal treatment. Steaming can be done as a relaxation regimen and can be used monthly just to keep your yoni healthy. The only time you shouldn't steam is if you are pregnant. Start your self-care journey today and start steaming.