Previously on the blog I dived into how vaginal steaming can help prepare the body for labour and a gentle delivery. Today I’ll be following on from that and opening up one of the most popular and effective uses of vaginal steaming that supports a woman’s body during that precious fourth trimester phase of pregnancy.
Whether you have delivered via c-section or vaginal delivery, the postpartum phase is a wonderful opportunity to offer the womb space a complete reset because the uterus is in a cleansing state. It is a time of rejuvenation and renewal. The body requires rest and warm and steaming helps to create this environment in the body.
Opportunity to reset underlying imbalances
It is an opportunity to treat any past problems and pathologies pertaining to reproductive health. It may be for example, that you’ve suffered with yeast infections or urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the past (or heightened during pregnancy) or you’ve had short menstrual cycles (27 days or less) or long menstrual cycles (longer than 30 days), or lots of pain and cramping during your periods. This postpartum phase is an opportunity to offer the body a chance to hit the ‘reset’ button, mainly because the cervix is open and steam is able to to access the uterus more readily while it is in a cleansing state. Future menstrual health can see a significant improvement, which when it comes to the perimonopause phase will be a lifesaver (I will be going more into perimonopause in future posts, so stay tuned).
Benefits of postpartum steaming
The benefits of postpartum steaming are truly endless and the body has a wonderful way of responding to the steam. The following list helps to highlight all of the benefits to the postpartum mother.
- helps the uterus go back to size
- supports proper re-positioning of organs
- reduces postpartum contractions
- reduces vulnerability to infections
- steaming the rectum treats hemorrhoids by reducing swelling and firming loose colon skin with the rising action of the steam
- steam has contact with the cervix and uterus which stimulates circulation – the conclusion of a science experiment shows that stimulation of the cervix and inner uterine walls increased production of oxytocin by 200%
- oxytocin increases milk production, and women who steam report immediate increase in milk production
- oxytocin improves mood, soothes the nervous system, and promotes feelings of human connection, and women who steam report noticeable onset of these same positive effects after steaming
So in a nutshell, a nice relaxed mama with a body that is being supported to heal and restore and a blissed out baby with an abundance of milk supply 🙂
How long to steam?
30 consecutive days is the ideal time period to steam postpartum. By this time a wonderful routine will most likely have established and then the mother has the option of switching to a monthly maintenance steam practice.
When to steam after a Vaginal Delivery
There are many factors involved with regards to when a mother can begin steaming after a vaginal delivery. The most important consideration is that there is a reduction in the lochia (all of the leftover fluids and pregnancy matter that comes out in the form of a discharge). This could be from as soon as 2 days postpartum, however it may be longer than that. For the steam setup, herb selection and safe ongoing support for the 30 days of steaming it is best to work with a qualified practitioner.
When to steam after a C-section Delivery?
Steaming postpartum after a c-section delivery can only begin after 6 weeks of delivery. This will usually coincide with the 6 week check up with the health care provider to ensure that everything is healing as desired. For the steam set up, herb selection and safe ongoing support for the 30 days of steaming, it is best to work with a qualified practitioner.
Birth can certainly be one of the most powerful experiences a woman will ever go through in her life. In some cases there may be a level of trauma that can get trapped inside the cells and vaginal steaming has been known to help women release this emotion. The steam stimulates a very important meridian point (cv1) which is responsible for the circuit of qi through the body. This stimulation along with the heat from the steam increases circulation in the whole pelvic area and beyond. Whether birth related or not, it is common for women to steam and then have memories or emotion come up, which with a willingness to let go, can be released from the body.
From my own personal experience of having an emergency c-section at 37 weeks pregnant in 2011, I had a lot of trauma in my body. At the time the internet, social media and women’s incredible generosity of sharing their own honest experiences of birth were not what they are today. I wish I could have come across a blog post like this directing me to the practice of vaginal steaming because I know that it would have been a beautiful self care practice to help me release alongside the guidance of a therapist. I remember googling something along the lines of “c-section trauma” and not finding anything of use, so I quietly suffered and ended up with postnatal depression. Being told that at least the baby and I were safe helped to re-frame the experience, but it didn’t help in releasing the emotions of pain and regret that were trapped inside my body.
Postpartum steaming long after delivery
I discovered the practice of vaginal steaming 8 years after delivering my first daughter by c-section and 2 years after delivering my second daughter by VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and even though I didn’t receive the nurturing steam practice immediately after delivery, I feel that my body has benefited significantly. The scar tissue from the c-section has softened so much and my sensitivity has returned. It always felt so emotionally charged to touch my scar. To be honest, I didn’t really want to touch it and felt resentful of the intervention. Now there is a gentleness, a reverence that this was my daughter’s entry into the world and I marvel at my body’s ability to create life and heal from my birth experience.