Vaginal Changes After Childbirth
Vaginal changes after childbirth can cause a number of challenges for new moms. After all, giving birth basically means pushing a head the size of a cabbage through a tiny pinhole.
“But, the vagina is very resilient, it can handle it.”Dr. Peahan Gandhi
Answers to Your Questions
There are a lot of changes that can happen to your vagina after childbirth, so we’re answering the questions we’re most frequently asked by our patients. We hope they give you a better understanding of what you can expect after having a baby.
My Vagina’s So Dry Now
Higher estrogen levels help keep your vagina moist, but after you give birth those level drop, which can lead to dryness. Lack of estrogen can also cause vaginal tissue to become thinner and to shrink, which can also result in dryness.
Another reason for a dry vagina is breastfeeding, which helps keep your estrogen levels low, so you may continue experiencing dryness throughout nursing. For those who don’t breastfeed, your levels may return closer to normal within a few weeks of giving birth, which can bring the natural moisture back.
If the dryness is intense and uncomfortable, or is causing problems like pain during sex, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend an over the counter lubricant, or may even prescribe estrogen to help alleviate the problem.
Should My Vaginal Feel This Sore After Having a Baby?
It is completely normal for your vagina, and possibly your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus), to feel very sore after delivery, as you may have experienced tearing. In fact, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, over 50% of women experience tearing of the perineum.
4 Degrees of Vaginal Tears and Their Healing Times
- First degree tears – The least severe of tears, these tears involve only the perineal skin, which may result in mild pain or stinging during urination. Sometimes these tears require stitches, which typically heal within a few weeks.
- Second degree tears – These tears involve the skin and muscle of the perineum, and might extend deep into the vagina. Stitches are usually required and typically heal within a few weeks.
- Third degree tears – Extending into the muscle that surrounds the anus (anal sphincter), these tears sometimes require repair in an operating room under anesthesia, rather than in the delivery room. Normal healing time is 6-12 weeks.
- Fourth degree tears – These tears are the most severe. They not only affect the perineal muscles, but also the muscles around the anus, as well as the tissue lining the rectum. Like third degree tears, they most often need to be repaired in an operating room. The healing time for fourth degree tears can take even longer than 12 weeks.
Sometimes if the baby is large, or gets stuck during the delivery, your doctor may perform a procedure called an episiotomy, which is an incision to the area to widen the opening and prevent a potential tear.
Why Does it Hurt When I Have Sex Now?
Pain during sex after childbirth could be a result of scar tissue in your vagina or perineum. This can happen if you experienced a tear or had an episiotomy.
“The amount of damage incurred during delivery will determine how much you may feel the scarring during sex. Over time, the scar tissue will eventually heal.”Dr. James Haley
Dr. Haley recommends using lubricants during the healing process, which should make having sex more comfortable. If you feel the pain is not getting any better, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
My Discharge is Different — Why?
After giving birth, you will typically have a discharge, known as lochia, for four to six weeks, with the first ten days or so being the heaviest. Lochia is the combination of residual mucus, blood and uterine tissue. It usually comes in stages, starting off heavier and a deep, red color for a few days. As it starts to decrease, the color will change to a pink or brown, and then to a yellowish color.
“Discharge changes after childbirth are completely normal, and are usually nothing to worry about”.Dr. Britton Crigler
Wearing thick pads and postpartum underwear are necessary during this time, and don’t be surprised if you experience an odor as well. However, if you discover any clots larger than a small lime, you should contact your doctor.
Will My Period Ever Be Normal Again?
Pregnancy does a number on your hormones, and they need time to get back to pre-pregnancy state. Your period may be heavier or lighter for a while. If you are breastfeeding, your estrogen levels will be lower as well, which interferes with menstruation. Don’t worry though, your body should readjust and your periods should return closer to normal in time.
My Vagina Seems Looser Than Before – Is This Normal?
Yes, having a looser vagina is one of the vaginal changes after childbirth that you may experience, and it’s completely normal. Your vagina and vaginal opening stretches during a vaginal delivery but typically does return to pre-pregnancy size. However, for some women, especially if you have had a large baby or several vaginal deliveries, it may not go back to 100%.
“This won’t happen to all women but for some, a woman’s vagina may be a bit wider than before. Some women don’t even notice the change until they use a tampon for the first time after childbirth. Instead of staying in place, it slowly starts to slide out, so you may have to use a larger tampon than before.”Dr. Leah Goodson-Gerami
Weaker vaginal muscles after childbirth is sometimes mistaken for a looser vagina. If the muscles are weak, doing Kegel exercises may help. Kegels are done by squeezing and holding your pelvic floor muscles (the muscles used when you stop your urine flow). They’re easy and can be done anywhere. Just squeeze, hold and release. Sometimes when the muscles are too weak for Kegels to help, a pelvic floor physical therapist may be able to help.
Vaginal Changes After Childbirth Also Include Incontinence? Seriously?
A woman’s pelvic floor consists of muscles and other tissues that keep organs in the right place, but these organs may become damaged during childbirth. As a result, you may find yourself peeing a little when you do basic activities like sneezing, laughing, jumping, etc. But this is not uncommon. In fact, 25-45 percent of women experience incontinence, whether a result of childbirth or not. Treatment options are available though, so if you notice changes after giving birth, talk to your doctor.
My Orgasms Are Less Intense
Contractions of the muscles of the vagina are powerful during orgasm. They release muscle tension that was building prior to the orgasm. These contractions provide a source of pleasure. This can change after childbirth.
“After childbirth, if your pelvic floor has weakened, you may find that your orgasms aren’t as intense as before. This is because the muscle contractions aren’t as forceful.”Dr. Michael Litrel
While this is true, there is no reason to think you can’t have that feeling again. Like some of the other issues we have discussed, there are treatments available to help, so be sure to talk to your doctor.
Our OB/GYN Experts Are Here to Help
Vaginal changes after childbirth are completely normal. Some of these changes may be temporary, and some may not be. Either way, our OB/GYNs are women’s health experts who can help you navigate these many changes and provide the solutions you may be seeking.
If you have questions or would like to make an appointment at either our Canton or Woodstock office, call us today at 770.720.7733 .