Welcoming a new life into the world is an incredible experience. But does your vagina change after pregnancy, and how? It’s important to remember that childbirth can significantly change your body, particularly your vagina. In this article, our female gynecology specialist in Margate, Florida, will discuss the vaginal changes that women go through after giving birth, together with some management tips.
1. Postpartum Bleeding
After giving birth, you can expect some vaginal bleeding. This is known as lochia and is a normal part of the postpartum process. Lochia consists of blood, mucus, and tissue from your uterus as it heals. The bleeding can last for several weeks, gradually tapering off. It’s crucial to stock up on heavy-duty sanitary pads to manage the flow and avoid tampons, as they can introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection.
How to Manage Postpartum Bleeding
- Change your pads regularly to maintain cleanliness and hygiene.
- Opt for larger-sized, extra-absorbent pads to manage the heavy flow.
- Avoid strenuous activities that may worsen the bleeding.
- Reach out to your healthcare provider if the bleeding becomes excessive or has an unpleasant odor.
2. Uterine Contractions (a.k.a. Cramps)
Postpartum uterine contractions, also known as afterbirth pains or cramps, are your body’s way of returning the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size. These contractions can range from mild discomfort to more intense pains, especially during breastfeeding, as it stimulates the release of a hormone called oxytocin. While these contractions can be uncomfortable, they are a positive sign that your body is healing.
How to Manage Cramps
- Apply a warm compress or take a warm bath to soothe the cramps.
- Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support your body’s recovery.
- After consulting with your healthcare provider, take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.
- Use deep breathing techniques and relaxation exercises to alleviate the discomfort.
3. Vaginal Tears
During childbirth, it’s common for the vagina to stretch and sometimes tear. These tears, also known as perineal lacerations, can range from minor to more severe, requiring stitches. While it may sound alarming, rest assured that healthcare professionals are experienced in managing and repairing such tears and vaginal changes after birth.
How to Manage Vaginal Tears
- Practice good perineal care by keeping the area clean and dry.
- Use a peri bottle filled with warm water to gently cleanse after using the toilet.
- Apply a cold pack on the vagina after birth to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort.
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods to prevent additional pressure on the healing area.
4. Postpartum Vagina Internal Bruising
Childbirth can result in internal bruising, contributing to soreness and discomfort in the vagina after giving birth. This bruising occurs due to the stretching and pressure exerted on your pelvic area during delivery. While it may take some time for the bruising to heal completely, there are steps you can take to manage the discomfort.
How to Manage Soreness and Discomfort
- Apply a cold pack or a chilled pad to the affected area to reduce swelling and soothe the bruising.
- Avoid engaging in activities that may aggravate the bruising, such as heavy lifting or intense physical exertion.
- Consider using a donut-shaped pillow or cushion to relieve pressure when sitting.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about safe pain relief options if the discomfort persists.
5. Period May Seem Off Once It Resumes
After childbirth, your menstrual cycle may take some time to regulate. It’s common for your first few periods to be irregular, with varying durations and flow. This is due to hormonal fluctuations as your body adjusts to the postpartum phase. Don’t be alarmed if your periods differ from what you were accustomed to before pregnancy.
Tips for Managing Irregular Periods
- Keep track of your periods using a calendar or period-tracking app to monitor any changes or irregularities.
- Have an extra supply of sanitary products on hand to accommodate unpredictable flows.
- Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider to ensure no underlying issues are causing the irregularities.
- Consider using alternative menstrual products, such as menstrual cups or period panties, for added convenience and eco-friendliness.
6. Vagina After Birth May Get a Bit Wider
Childbirth causes the vaginal muscles to stretch significantly to allow for the baby’s passage. Consequently, you may notice that your postpartum vagina feels slightly wider than before. This is a temporary change; with time, the vaginal muscles will regain some tone. However, it’s important to note that every woman’s experience is unique, and the degree of change can vary. There are many minimally invasive solutions for loose vagina issues as well.
How to Manage the Issue
- Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and aid in restoring vaginal tightness.
- Consider using vaginal weights or ben wa balls to enhance muscle tone.
- Engage in sexual activities that allow you to gradually and comfortably regain intimacy with your partner.
- Be patient with yourself and your body, as recovery takes time and varies from person to person.
7. Potential Pee Accidents
The process of childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which may lead to temporary urinary incontinence. This can manifest as leaking small amounts of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or engage in physical activities. While it can be embarrassing, remember that this is one of the common vagina changes after birth that many women have to deal with.
How to Manage Urinary Incontinence
- Practice pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, to strengthen the muscles responsible for bladder control.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can irritate the bladder.
- Empty your bladder regularly and avoid holding urine for extended periods.
- Consider using absorbent pads or protective underwear for added reassurance.
8. Six Weeks Without Sexual Intercourse
Engaging in sexual activity after childbirth requires time and patience. It’s generally recommended to wait for about six weeks or until you’ve received clearance from your healthcare provider. This waiting period allows your body to heal, reduces the risk of infection, and allows you to regain comfort and confidence.
How to Manage Intimacy Matters
- Communicate openly with your partner about your concerns, desires, and expectations.
- Engage in non-penetrative sexual activities to maintain intimacy without risking injury or discomfort.
- Use water-based lubricants to enhance comfort during sexual intercourse once you’re ready.
- Discuss any persistent pain or discomfort with your healthcare provider to ensure there are no underlying issues.
9. Your Orgasms May Feel Weaker
Due to the stretching and trauma experienced in the vagina after giving birth, some women may notice a temporary change in the intensity or quality of their orgasms. This can be attributed to weakened pelvic floor muscles and altered nerve sensations. Rest assured, with time and with the help of certain techniques, you can regain the pleasure you once experienced.
How to Manage This Issue
- Continue with your pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles involved in orgasmic contractions.
- Explore alternative stimulation methods, such as clitoral stimulation or sex toys, to enhance pleasure.
- Communicate openly with your partner about your needs and desires.
- Remember that sexual pleasure is a journey, and it may take some time to regain your desired sensations fully.
10. Dry Vagina While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can have an impact on the hormonal balance in your body, which can lead to vaginal dryness. Reduced estrogen levels during breastfeeding can cause a decrease in natural lubrication, resulting in discomfort or pain during sexual activity. However, this is typically a temporary issue that resolves once breastfeeding is discontinued or reduced.
How to Manage Vaginal Dryness
- Use a water-based lubricant to enhance comfort and reduce friction during sexual activity.
- Communicate openly with your partner about any discomfort or pain, and explore alternative forms of intimacy.
- Stay hydrated to promote overall vaginal health and maintain optimal moisture levels.
- If the dryness persists or causes significant discomfort, consult with your healthcare provider for further guidance.
11. Different Color/Shape of Vulva/Labia
The appearance of labia and vulva after birth can also change. It’s not uncommon for the labia to appear darker in color or slightly altered in shape after delivery. These changes are typically temporary and will gradually fade over time as your body recovers.
How to Deal With Vulva After Birth
- Practice self-acceptance and remember that variations in labial appearance are normal and unique to each individual.
- Maintain good hygiene by gently cleansing the area with warm water during your daily routine.
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable underwear to promote airflow and minimize irritation.
- If you experience any persistent discomfort or changes that concern you, consult with your healthcare provider for further evaluation.
12. Conception Is Possible Immediately
Contrary to popular belief, you can conceive again soon after giving birth, even before you have your first postpartum period. Your body may ovulate without warning, so if you’re not ready for another pregnancy, it’s essential to use reliable contraception.
How to Manage Birth Control
- Discuss contraceptive options with your healthcare provider to find a suitable method that aligns with your needs and preferences.
- Consider non-hormonal options, such as condoms or intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can be used while breastfeeding.
- Stay informed about fertility awareness methods if you prefer a natural approach to contraception.
- If you have any concerns or suspect you may be pregnant, consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate testing and guidance.
13. Postpartum Care
Taking care of yourself during the postpartum period is crucial for your overall well-being. It’s essential to prioritize self-care, seek support from loved ones, and attend postpartum check-ups to ensure a smooth recovery.
How to Manage Postpartum Care
Rest as much as you can, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends.
- Eat a nutritious diet to support your healing and provide the energy you need.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.
- Take advantage of postpartum support groups or online communities to connect with other new mothers who may be experiencing similar challenges.
- Attend your postpartum check-ups to ensure that your recovery is progressing well and address any concerns or issues that may arise.
- Prioritize self-care activities that help you relax and rejuvenate, such as taking soothing baths, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or indulging in activities that bring you joy.
- Reach out to healthcare professionals or lactation consultants if you’re experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding or have questions regarding infant care.
Best Postpartum Recovery Practices
In addition to understanding the changes your body will go through after childbirth, it’s crucial to be aware of the best practices for postpartum recovery. Taking care of yourself during this time is essential for a smooth healing process and overall well-being. Here are some key practices to keep in mind:
- Rest and prioritize sleep: Your body needs time to recover, so make sure to prioritize rest and get as much sleep as possible. Take naps when your baby sleeps, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends to allow yourself some uninterrupted rest.
- Maintain a balanced diet: Nourishing your body with a healthy and balanced diet is vital for postpartum recovery. Include foods rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and drink enough water.
- Practice gentle exercise: While it’s important to rest, incorporating gentle exercises into your routine can aid in your recovery. Start with simple movements, such as gentle walks or postpartum yoga, as your healthcare provider advises. These activities can help improve circulation, boost energy levels, and support mental well-being.
- Take care of your mental health: The postpartum period can bring a range of emotions, and it’s essential to prioritize your mental well-being. Seek support from loved ones, join postpartum support groups, or consider speaking to a therapist or counselor specializing in postpartum mental health. Remember, asking for help and taking time for yourself is okay.
- Practice proper hygiene: Maintaining good hygiene is crucial during the postpartum period. Keep your vaginal area clean and dry by using a peri bottle with warm water after using the toilet. Opt for mild and fragrance-free cleansers for your body, and change sanitary pads frequently to prevent infections.
- Be mindful of lifting and physical activities: Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activities during the early weeks of postpartum recovery. Give your body time to heal before engaging in activities that may strain your muscles and pelvic floor. Gradually increase your activity level as advised by your healthcare provider.
Remember, every woman’s postpartum recovery journey is unique, so listen to your body and consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance.
When to Call a Doctor
While most postpartum changes and discomforts are normal, there are certain situations where seeking medical attention is essential. Here are some instances when you should call your doctor:
- Excessive or prolonged bleeding: If you experience heavy bleeding that soaks through a pad in an hour or notice the return of heavy bleeding after it has tapered off, contact your healthcare provider.
- Signs of infection: If you develop symptoms such as fever, severe pain, excessive swelling, redness, or foul-smelling discharge from the vagina, it could indicate an infection. Reach out to your doctor promptly for evaluation and treatment.
- Severe or worsening pain: While some discomfort is expected during the postpartum period, severe or worsening pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medication should be addressed by a healthcare professional.
- Difficulty urinating or blood in urine: If you experience pain or have difficulty urinating or notice blood in your urine, it may indicate a urinary tract infection or other underlying issues. Contact your doctor for further evaluation.
- Signs of postpartum depression or anxiety: If you experience persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, or difficulty bonding with your baby, reach out to your healthcare provider. Postpartum depression and anxiety are common and treatable conditions, and seeking help is essential.
- Breastfeeding difficulties: If you encounter challenges with breastfeeding, such as severe nipple pain, engorgement, or concerns about your baby’s feeding patterns or weight gain, consult with a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider for guidance and support.
Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice if you have any concerns or questions about your postpartum recovery. Your healthcare provider is there to support you and ensure your well-being during this transformative phase of motherhood.
So, does your vagina change after pregnancy? It definitely does. The postpartum period brings about various changes to your vagina, and it’s essential to be prepared and informed. From postpartum bleeding and uterine contractions to vaginal tearing and changes in sexual experiences, these adjustments are all part of the natural healing process after childbirth.
By understanding what to expect and following the tips provided, you can navigate these changes with confidence, prioritize self-care, and ensure a smoother recovery. Remember, every woman’s postpartum journey is unique, so be patient with yourself and seek support when
needed. Embrace this transformative phase of motherhood, and celebrate your body’s incredible strength and resilience.
Of course, don’t hesitate to contact us at Fern F. Taisenchoy-Bent, MD LLC, if you have any questions or concerns.