With the much awaited moment of child birth approaching, anxiety is at its peak late in pregnancy. The growing belly makes one wonder how difficult would the labor be. Whether the vagina would be able to stretch enough, how will the vagina after childbirth be and how long will it take to heal? Well, for starters, like every labor and delivery, every woman is different, but knowing what to expect after birth and how things will go eases your mind.
General Vagina Changes After Birth
Whether it's due to the natural stretching or episiotomy (cut given by doctor), your vagina may not remain or feel the same after a vaginal delivery. What are these changes? And what can you do about them? Let's take a look.
1. Vagina Becomes Wider
The first general change of vagina after childbirth is that it becomes looser, softer and more open after child birth. This swollen, bruised and wider-than-before vagina is a natural reaction to all the stretching during labor, which at times causes urine incontinence and makes sexual intercourse painful and uncomfortable. While vagina may never return to its pre-birth state, the swelling and bruising do subside with time.
You can surely speed up the recovery phase by pelvic floor exercises that can make sexual intercourse better, tone vaginal and pelvic floor muscles and prevent urine incontinence. These easy-to-do exercises feel like as if you're controlling the urge of urinating, holding a bowel movement or a tampon inside. Following the guidelines below:
- Squeeze and draw in the anus, close the vagina tight like stopping urination, then release;
- Muscles tightening and releasing should be done quickly and immediately;
- Then do it slower and hold the contractions longer (less than 10 seconds);
- Repeat at least 10 times, with 4-6 episodes each day.
2. Vagina Becomes Dry
Here comes the second general change of vagina after childbirth. It's absolutely normal for your vagina to become dry, in fact drier than usual after pregnancy. During pregnancy estrogen levels are elevated, which drop down after child birth and drop further in breastfeeding women leading to vaginal dryness and discomforts during sex.
Once the breast-feeding phase is over and menstrual cycles are regular, the estrogen is back to its pre-pregnancy levels, which assuage the vaginal dryness.
Ways of taking care of this dryness includes using lubricants during sexual intercourse, which are readily available at pharmacies as well as online; and trying water-based lubricants along with latex or polyisoprene condoms to prevent their tearing. Despite trying these options, if the dryness persists consult your healthcare provider.
Vagina Changes After Vaginal Birth
Immediately after child birth vagina can be sore and painful. This, however, improves within 6-12 weeks and the recovery can further be accelerated with pelvic floor exercises.
Perineum soreness is a common complaint, especially in cases where there has been a skin tear and episiotomy. While painkillers could be an effective way of easing off pain, caution should be exercised in breastfeeding women. Maintaining hygiene is very important. You should always have washed hands before and after changing sanitary napkins, change the pads as soon as you feel the need, and shower every day to keep the area clean.
Pain improves within 6-12 weeks and the recovery can further be accelerated with pelvic floor exercises. Although painkillers and hygiene maintenance can take care of the soreness and stitches, if you're still worried about the healing of stitches, visit your doctor.
Vagina Changes After C-Section
Changes of vagina after childbirth with C-section primarily depend on whether or not you've pushed before the operation. A baby who never makes it through the opening will cause minimal stretching. However, women who push before the operation experience post-delivery discomfort and stretching because:
- Baby exerts pressure on perineum, cervix and vagina (especially if close to crowning);
- Practitioner massages and stretches the area to facilitate birth through the birth canal;
- Women put strain on vagina by all the pushing efforts they make during the process.
Irrespective of the delivery method, doctors recommend avoiding sexual intercourse as well as inserting tampons or any foreign body for at least 6 weeks after delivery to prevent any kind of infection. While your doctor may permit you sooner once assured that vagina has healed, it's always good to be cautious.
Can Your Vagina Get Back to the Original Form?
Now that we're familiar with the changes in vagina after childbirth, the burning question becomes, "Whether the vagina will ever get back to the pre-delivery state?" Well, despite being stretched to the degree where a baby could pass through, vagina may come very close to what it was originally and your partner won't feel the difference unless there's a major trauma. Vagina has a remarkable elasticity and can exhibit the capacity to recoil. However, this depends on how much it was stretched in the first place, time elapsed since stretching and pelvic floor exercises.
Tips for Sex After Childbirth
Sex after delivery could be challenging mentally and physically due to the changes in vagina after childbirth. Keep the few tips below in mind and they may be of great help.
- To get used to being touched in a sexual way, start with cuddling and intimacy;
- Enjoy foreplay more and take it slow before you move onto intercourse;
- In a state of anxiety and tension, sex won't be fun; instead, it would be uncomfortable due to lack of softness and lubrication;
- Try lubricants to combat dryness, the advantages of which have already been mentioned;
- Make it natural and avoid sex till you are completely ready. Try different positions to find the most comfortable one. For example, girl on top gives you the power to control the whole thing;
- Stop if sex gets uncomfortable and switch back to foreplay till you're aroused again;
- Go for it when baby sleeps during the day. Your baby is certain to wake up at the most awkward times during sex, take it lightly and wait for the next appropriate time. Things will improve as your baby can gradually sleep throughout the night;
- Eat well and drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself fresh, energetic and less tired, and exercise pelvic floor muscles to tone vaginal walls.