They're all over the natural birth instagram pages and birth recovery posts on Pinterest: frozen period pads slathered in aloe, witch hazel, and maybe even essential oils for your aching vulva. Frida Mom even sells "insta ice maxi pads!"
We know that not all products and advise are actually beneficial for us, but how do padsicles rate?
Lets Talk About It:
Why might be padsicles be recommended for postpartum?
It's very possible that you will experience at least some soreness in your vulva and pelvic floor after birth. This can be solely due to the natural stretching that occured, but may also be due to tears, episiotomy, stitches, hemorrhoids, or a hemotoma. Applying something cool to the area can temporarily decrease swelling and pain without the pharmacologic effects of ibuprofen or tylenol. In fact, it is very common for nurses to offer ice packs for your vulva after birth.
During and after birth, your body knows to direct blood flow to your perineum. The inflammatory response is protective and sets the stage for tissue healing. This physiologic response is intricately designed to clean up debris like pathogens and damaged cells, stop bleeding, oxygenate tissues, and promote tissue regeneration. This is experienced as warmth, swelling, and sometimes an ache-like discomfort.
Ultimately, inflammation is a good thing, but if it is severe or chronic, it can cause damage to healthy tissue. Interventions like applying cold, raising the area, and other antiinflammatory support can help maintain a healthy balance of comfort and healing.
Why might padsicles not be a great idea?
In addition to your body exercising it's divine wisdom in maintaining healthy tissues, inflammation and tolerable discomfort is a genuine reminder to REST immediately after birth. This rest allows the body to invest it's energy into producing breastmilk and tending to your reproductive organs and pelvic floor. Not coincidentally, it encourages you to use this time of slowness to hold and connect with your newborn, as you integrate into this next chapter of your family.
The groin area is an especially permeable region of the body. Applying cold to this area can decrease your overall body temperature. Applying cold to this area can also impede tissue healing, and commerical period pads also contain a slew of synthetic chemical-rich materials that you may not want on your sensitive, potentially open skin.
Traditional postpartum care practices from around the world teach us that warmth should be prioritized in the postpartum period, especially to the feet and to the womb. When honing into this wisdom, padsicles and ice packs would be contraindicated for postpartum, and alternative methods of pericare would be preferred whenever possible.
What alternatives can support you postpartum?
Cool, not cold, over the shortest intervals of time required to get relief
Witch hazel pads for hemorrhoid relief.
Sitz Bath / Peri Bottle.
Numbing Dermoplast spray as needed
NSAIDs, around the clock or as needed
Herbal Support, internal or external
Rest, rest, and more rest
Removing uncomfortable clothing & fabrics, perhaps free bleeding on a towel instead
The Bottom Line
Padsicles can be helpful tools to increase comfort relating to inflammation, but also carry the potential to impede tissue healing. Padsicles defy the foundational principles of traditional postpartum care practiced by women over thousands of years globewide - practices that are seldomly revered in our western culture. If padsicles provide you with the relief you need, use them at your discretion. As with anything, you are the sole authority over your birth and body.