It’s pretty much a given that you’re not going to feel amazing below the belt after you give birth to a baby vaginally. Many women bleed for weeks afterward, and the entire vaginal area is pretty swollen and sore for days after the birth. Now, one dad in Australia is opening up about a method he discovered for combatting postpartum vaginal soreness: ice packs made with…condoms.
Australian dad and blogger Martin Wanless wrote a post about his discovery on the parenting website DAD. In it, Wanless details surprising things he was sent out to buy after his wife gave birth—including condoms. “This isn’t male bravado, delusion, or wishful thinking,” he writes. “Make sure you’re stocked up on condoms. Filled with water and frozen, they’re the perfect shape to rest in between new mum’s legs and ease a bit of pain and swelling.”
Wanless insists that this is “actually a thing” and says that soon after his wife gave birth, she had a freezer full of condoms. He’s right about not being the only person to do this: Mom blogs and discussion forums are filled with women discussing the “frozen condom trick” and “condom popsicles for new moms.”
Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF that she and her colleagues used to make these for new moms in the hospital when she was in her residency. “We had a whole freezer full of them at the hospital," she says, noting they were for external use.
After a woman has a vaginal delivery, her vulva and vaginal tissues are swollen, Streicher explains. Doctors typically recommend putting ice on the area to ease swelling, but most ice packs are bulky, uncomfortable, and don’t conform to the area well.
Amelia Henning, a certified nurse midwife at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF that the frozen condom idea is “creative” but it should not be placed inside a woman’s vagina. “The risk for infection in the postpartum period is much higher than usual, and for this reason, nothing should be placed inside the vagina until the bleeding has completely stopped and healing has taken place, which is usually around six weeks after birth,” she says.
Melissa Goist, M.D., an ob/gyn from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, agrees. "We don’t typically recommend anything in the vagina for a few weeks after delivery unless it is sterile," she tells SELF. "Condoms are not sterile, which typically is not a problem but in the immediate postpartum period, when the cervix is more dilated, it could pose an increased risk of infection." However, she says, using a condom ice pop in the perineal area (the area between the anus and vulva), which is where women are typically sore, is fine. (Keep in mind as well that if you have a latex allergy, you’ll still need to avoid using latex condoms for this.)
The idea is a “brilliant” use of resources, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, tells SELF. “It’s definitely an innovative way for a dad to be involved with his wife’s recovery,” she says.
Women run the risk of getting a freezer burn down there if they apply a condomsicle directly to their vagina, so Streicher recommends putting a washcloth between the frozen condom and vagina for protection. Then, you can switch it out every 20 minutes or so, as needed.
While they didn’t exist when Streicher was a resident, disposable perineal ice packs—which essentially look like puffy menstrual pads—are now offered at many hospitals to women after they give birth. A new mom can simply stick it to her underwear, get relief, and throw it away afterward. But perineal ice packs aren’t cheap if you have to buy them yourself—Amazon offers some for $35 for a 24-pack. Henning says that women can also slightly dampen a regular menstrual pad and freeze it to get the same effect for less.
New moms are generally advised to use an ice pack for the first 24 to 48 hours after giving birth to help reduce swelling, but if you don’t have easy access to perineal ice packs, it doesn’t hurt to go the frozen condom route (but not actually inserting it in your vagina). “It’s a great idea,” says Shepherd.