Panic! Will you even recognize your vagina after birth?
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Birth is one heck of an experience, where your general pelvic area does much of the heavy lifting.
It’s not surprising, then, that your vagina might come out of the whole adventure somewhat different from how it went in.
The first thing to know? Your vagina is really resilient. Although changes will happen, likely, a high degree of bounce-back will too.
First thing to know? Your vagina is really resilient.
Although changes will happen, likely, a high degree of bounce-back will too.
And before we go any further, a PSA: your vagina is your vagina—and your relationship with it has nothing to do with anyone else.
It doesn’t have to look a certain way. It doesn’t have to be “tight”. It doesn’t have to be anything other than your vagina.
It’s done some remarkable work for you so far and, even if it’s had a slight makeover, will do some remarkable work for you again.
Seriously. Enough with the shame about every little thing. We’re tired.
Okay. Rant over. Let’s get down to business.
In this article: 📝
- Vagina after vaginal birth
- Vagina after c-section
Vagina after vaginal birth
We’re going to divide this up into vaginal and c-section birth.
Skip to the section that applies to you.
Does your vagina look different after birth?
Yes, it does.
When it comes to vaginal birth (in case you need someone to tell you the story one more time) a whole human head has squeezed its way through there. (So pushy.)
So yes, this has an effect.
But guess what? This was not a surprise for your vagina.
It’s built for this.
Hormones (estrogen and relaxin) increase the blood flow to the area and loosen you up so that you’re ready for the task.
So, bottom line: nothing that happens with your vagina is weird in any way.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a pretty wild experience.
After birth, your vagina will likely feel looser and softer and more stretched out than it was before.
Plus, you may be quite swollen, bruised, and torn.
In some cases, your doctor may have had to do what’s called an episiotomy.
This is when they make a small cut in the perineum (the real estate between the anus and the vagina).
In other cases, the perineum tears on its own.
Depending on the severity of tearing, you may have ended up with a few stitches in the perineum as well which usually dissolve all on their own as you heal.
Does your vagina feel different after birth?
Yes, it can. And often in two key ways:
- The pain is real. Remember the part about the swelling and bruising and tearing? Yes, this hurts. A lot. Recovery may take weeks, or up to a few months even. Chat to your healthcare provider if it’s really sore or you notice other symptoms. They’ll also be able to talk you through what painkillers are a good option.
- The dryness is real. Also (sorry, mama) it might stay that way for a good long while. And this is why: hormones. (Obvs. Because everything is hormones.) What happens is this:
During pregnancy, estrogen goes on the steady up and up during pregnancy, peaking in the third trimester, and plummeting after birth. And guess what hormone is responsible for keeping things moist? That’s right, folks. Estrogen. So. There’s that.
Also, double whammy: breastfeeding causes estrogen levels to drop even further.
For some new mamas, the dryness seriously gets in the way of their sex lives. For others, the dryness simply sucks for the reason that it sucks.
Don’t fret, mama. There’s help in the form of lube. There are also estrogen supplements that you can chat to your doctor about. They do come with health risks so you’ll have to weigh it up to see if it works for you.
(Also, in case you need to hear this: you only have to have sex if it feels good and right to you. End of story.)
Does your vagina get tighter after pregnancy?
Reality: your vagina may not go back to a pre-pregnancy shape. Rather, it will find one that’s different. Maybe better. Who knows?
One thing that can be frustrating is the whole peeing-when-you-don’t-want-to-be-peeing issue. You may not have as much control over that general area as you had before.
So is there anything you can do about it? Yes. You can work it. Welcome to the wonderful world of the pelvic floor—the muscles and soft tissue connecting the vagina, urethra, bladder, and anus.
So this is how you do pelvic floor exercises:
- Squeeze your vagina upwards while simultaneously drawing in your butt.
- Hold and release quickly.
- Repeat, but this time hold for about 5-10 seconds before releasing.
- Do this about 10 times.
- Repeat every day a few times a day.
Your pelvic floor is made up of muscles and other soft tissue which means you can strengthen the pelvic floor just like you can strengthen every other muscle.
But just like other forms of exercise, it takes time and consistency to see a real change, so don’t fret if your vagina and pelvic floor don’t feel 100% in the first 6-8 weeks.
It will improve over time as you get stronger.
Is it normal for your vagina to smell after giving birth?
It all depends on the smell.
If it’s that metallic blood sort of smell, it should be fine. The whole process is rather bloody.
However, if you have discharge that’s accompanied by a serious smell, get in touch with your doctor to rule out postpartum infection. Other symptoms are fever, headaches, loss of appetite, and lower abdomen pain.
Vagina after c-section
Myths and legends abound of the c-section’s ability to “save” your vagina after birth. We’re here to tell you: that’s BS. Childbirth is hard, no matter what way it happens.
A cesarean is major surgery. You’re going to be in the hospital for at least two days after it happens.
And then: even though the baby doesn’t exit through the vagina during a c-section, there can still be a whole lot of vaginal bleeding as your uterus and cervix contract. While different for every new mama, the healing process takes somewhere in the region of six weeks.
Putting anything into your vagina over this time is probably not a good idea. (That means no tampons, no penises, no vibrators, none of it.) There’s still a lot of healing to do and infection can occur.
Once your doctor has given you the all-clear, you’re good to go.
Okay, mama. Take your time. Heal well, and seek additional help from a health care provider should you need it. You don’t have to do this alone. 💞
We’re rooting for you.
💡 More from The 411:
Online Birthing Classes: Are They Right For You?
Tips for a More Confident Birth: 4 Things to Do Before You’re Due
Choose Your Own (Birth) Adventure: 3 Must-Ask Questions
Birth Plan Template: Tips & Advice
Your Guide to Having a Vaginal Birth
What are the 4 Stages of Labor?
What is a Forceps Delivery? Is it Safe?
What to Know About Cystitis and How to Cure It