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Why Your Doctor Might Want to Consider Vaginal Cleansing Prior to Delivery

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The simple procedure that could make childbirth safer

When I heard about vaginal cleansing, I thought it was the same as vaginal steaming, the old-but-made-new phenomenon made famous by actor Gwyneth Paltrow that involves steaming one’s vajayjay. But it’s not. It’s not even close.

Still, women need to know about it — especially those who are or who are planning on becoming pregnant.

Vaginal cleansing is a simple, inexpensive process conducted prior to a C-section. It involves wiping the external portion of the vagina with a sponge stick with povidone-iodine (that reddish-brownish antiseptic known as Betadine) for at least 30 seconds.

According to a new study, it could make a huge difference in your recovery from having a cesarean section.

More: 8 Things Your Vagina Is Telling You

Vincenzo Berghella, a doctor and professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says it is not currently a routine part of having a C-section, but now should be. He’s studied it before releasing the most recent research.

“Vaginal cleaning before a cesarean done after labor or rupture of membranes [water breaking] is associated with a decreased risk for infection,” he says.

Vaginal cleansing prevents endometritis (a uterine infection) and postoperative fever, he explains.

He hopes his study will educate doctors about integrating the practice. Likewise, women should know about it and talk to their doctors about it — especially if they know they’re having a C-section.

“They could certainly add it to their birth plan,” Berghella adds.

What about all the antibiotics you get before a C-section incision — isn’t that enough? Not so, he says.

“A uterine infection can be considered sometimes as an abscess, with antibiotics having a hard time penetrating to the inside of the uterus to get to all bacteria,” Berghella explains. “Also, some bacteria may be resistant to antibiotics.”

More: 7 easy ways to keep your vagina healthy at any age

Berghella hopes further studies will evaluate whether vaginal cleansing can be useful for cesarean deliveries performed in women not in labor and for those whose water has not yet broken.

In the meantime, it’s something you may want to discuss with your doctor. The hospital may already do the procedure, but it’s always good to know ahead of time.

By Kristen Fischer

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