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Medical Practitioner Says Postpartum Hot Water Massage can be Harmful

A traditional practice in parts of Cameroon for helping women recover from delivering a child may be giving more pain than relief.

Often friends and family bathe the mother’s body –- including her uterus --- in hot water at dawn and dusk for up to a week. They say the water not only helps to provide massage, but acts as an anti-septic.

Many health practitioners agree that warm – but not hot – water can indeed bring relief in some cases. For example, some woman may benefit from sitting in a so-called sitz-bath, a basin of water that sometimes includes herbs which can help cleanse tears in the perineum – the delicate skin near the birth canal.

However, to find out whether immersing the uterus in very hot water after delivery is recommended, reporter Angel Tabe sought the opinion of Dr. Robinson Mbu -- an obstetrician-gynecologist, and coordinator at the maternity ward of the Yaounde Central Hospital in Cameroon

Mbu says using very hot water, or even a hot towel, to massage the uterus after delivery “has no scientific meaning.” He adds that warm or hot water can lead the uterus to dilate, and in some cases lead to profuse bleeding. “It’s a very dangerous thing to do,” he says.

The doctor strongly advises against this practice: “Anything that will make the woman bleed is completely discouraged. (However), a sitz bath is something we will [always] recommend … It will keep the perineum area clean, sooth [tears], reduce the pain, increase irrigation of the wound and facilitate healing.”