Use of mineral oil, lubricant, olive oil, Johnson & Johnson, Betadine, or Hibaclens is surprisingly common in many hospitals, often with the excuse of ‘cleaning’ or ‘lubricating’ the woman externally or internally.
Medical care providers use a variety of the following reasons for using a soap or lubricant during labor, including:
- As a lubricant to aid baby’s journey down the birth canal.
- As a way of keeping the area clean during labor.
During birth, the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid, mucus and blood. Approaching birth, estrogen levels also rise, increasing the amount of secretions a woman experiences. Unfortunately, in a managed birth where the spontaneous labor process is being inhibited, stopping the usual release of hormones, lubrication may be an option a medical professional considers.
A Cochrane Collaboration review of 8 randomised trials relating to Perineal techniques during the second stage of labour for reducing perineal trauma released in 2012 found that there was no significant evidence that massage, lubrication and other interventions significantly lowered the rate of episiotomies or tearing. However, hot compresses were found to reduce the risk of perineal trauma.
So what are the reasons not to use soap or lubricant during labor? They may include:
- They may cause yeast infections.
- They can get in baby’s eyes.
- They can be aspirated by baby.
- They may remove vernix (antibacterial coating) from baby’s skin.
- Medical cleaning recommendations say that that genitals should be cleaned with water, not soap.
- Many of them are designed for external use only, or are advised to be not for use on the genitals.
As with many things during the birthing process, there is not always a clear reason why it’s done. It may be just one of many old customs brought over from older medical practices, with or without good reason.