Now that I've had a baby, I have a pretty visceral reaction whenever I smell witch hazel — which is that I immediately start gagging. I delivered vaginally and I had a third degree tear. (It could have been worse. A friend of mine had a fourth degree tear after delivering her 10-pound baby.) Witch hazel pads were lifesavers, though I never want to smell them again. Thankfully for me, if I decide to have another kid and I deliver vaginally, there are five things that are as effective as witch hazel for healing your vagina since I now have a love-hate relationship with the product.
Like most hospitals do, my care team suggested using witch hazel wipes to help with pain down in the "war zone." In fact, my hospital used little round witch hazel pads that looked like Ponds facial cleansing wipes; we'd line them up in my monster pad that was oh-so-lovingly placed in my huge mesh panties. Postpartum care isn’t fun, y’all. I wish more people had talked about that part to be honest. I was totally not prepared. But I digress.
Why do most hospitals use witch hazel in the first place? As Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN and one-half of the Twin Doctors for TwinDoctorsTV explains, witch hazel is both an astringent and an anti-inflammatory — two very important things for perineal care and healing. “Witch hazel has been used for centuries for a wide variety of medical conditions, including perineal comfort and healing for postpartum mothers. As an astringent, it helps to tighten loosened skin while also reducing the swelling and inflammation that all new mothers experience. As an added bonus, witch hazel also works wonders on hemorrhoids, another condition that most new mothers experience,” Abdur-Rahman says.
And since lacerations or tears of the vagina and perineum occur during more than half of vaginal deliveries, according to Abdur-Rahman, it’s important to know all the ways we can try to heal and be as comfortable as possible after child birth. I asked Abdur-Rahman for a few things that work just as well as witch hazel when it comes to healing your vagina, and he listed five, with the following caveat: “While there have been no head-to-head studies to confirm efficacy, these are five things that I think work just as well as witch hazel when it comes to soothing and healing a postpartum vagina/perineum.”