Your Vagina After Birth: 10 Things to Expect
Having a baby, is no joke—it usually involves hours of labor and then suddenly you’re responsible for a little human being. And then there’s the fact that, in many cases, this baby actually came out of your vagina. The reality: It doesn't snap back into place immediately after delivery.
So what actually happens to a vagina after birth? Will it bleed? Will it hurt? When can you have sex? Here, 10 things to expect from your vagina after birth.
1. You'll experience postpartum bleeding.
After delivering your baby, expect to experience postpartum bleeding for up to six weeks. During the first ten days, expect heavy bleeding and bright red blood. You can also expect to see small clots (no bigger than a quarter) during the first three days. This is all normal, as your body sheds the extra tissue and blood from your uterus (this discharge is called lochia). After the first ten days, the bleeding slows down. You will continue to bleed lightly or spot, however, for up to six weeks after you give birth vaginally or by Caesarean section.
2. You'll have uterine contractions (a.k.a. cramps).
You'll experience cramps as your uterus shrinks to its pre-baby size. This process is called involution. For many first-time mothers, the pain is negligible. After subsequent births, the pain can be more intense since the uterine muscles have been compromised. Either way, this is a positive sign that your body is doing what it should be doing, and can be addressed with a warm compress and/or ibuprofen. It will subside in about three days.
3. Your vagina will be sore.
It's not a question of whether you'll be sore, but of how muchyou'll be sore. More than 53 percent of births cause tearing around the vaginal opening, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Depending on the severity of the tearing, your vagina and perineum could be sore for four to 12 weeks. Significant tears can necessitate stitches after birth or, in some cases, surgery to repair the damage. Even without tearing, you will be left with a bruised perineum.
4. Your period will seem off when it returns.
When your body begins ovulating again, your period could be different than how it was before getting pregnant. Thanks to all the hormonal changes going on, you could end up with a lighter or heaver period.
5. You'll have a (slightly) wider vagina.
Things can also feel looser down there post-childbirth, but it tends to gradually go back to normal. If, however, you have a very large baby (or have had many babies), it might not go back to exactlythe way it was before. The telltale indicator is tampons: If you insert a regular tampon and it ends up sliding out over time, that can be a sign that your vagina is ever so slightly wider than it was prebirth. Luckily, Kegel exercises can help tighten things up again quickly. Practicing Kegel exercises five minutes a day, three times a day, can work wonders. Doctors advise keeping up with this regimen during pregnancy as well, to condition the pelvic floor muscles ahead of the birth
6. You might pee yourself a little.
Childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor, and the pelvic floor muscles help you control your bladder. Translation: It's not uncommon to experience urinary incontinence post-birth, especially when engaging in activities like jumping, running, or even sneezing and laughing. Again, though, it's Kegel exercises to the rescue.
7. You'll have to wait about six weeks to have sex.
Doctors usually advise women wait to have sex. “After a woman has a baby, it takes about six weeks for a woman's vagina to heal from a delivery,” says board-certified ob-gyn Pari Ghodsi, M.D.. During that time, sex is off-limits. It's important give yourself—and your vagina—a break after giving birth. “It is important for a woman to realize that things take time,” says Dr. Ghodsi. “It won't feel the same at first, but with time, things typically go back to normal.”
8. Your orgasms could feel weaker.
When you do go back to having sex, you may think your orgasms feel less powerful post-birth. You're not imagining it. That same weakened pelvic floor that's causing leakage is also responsible for weaker orgasms—which is also more incentive to keep practicing those Kegels. In time, your orgasm should go back to being its original earth-shattering self.
9. Your vagina will feel dry if you're breastfeeding.
Nursing can cause estrogen deficiency, which in turn causes vaginal dryness, explains Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.
It's not a permanent problem by any means—the dryness will only last as long as you're nursing—but in the meantime, introducing water-based lube into your sex life can make all the difference. You can also get a prescription topical estrogen cream that will help combat the dryness.
10. Your labia could be a different color.
Your vulva and vagina before and after birth can look totally different. Pregnancy causes a rise in estrogen and progesterone, which in turn causes an increased blood flow. That increased blood flow can cause the labia to darken and even cause a slight change in shape. The change in shape is also due to the surge in blood — the labia majora may retract, and their retraction can cause the labia minora to appear larger or even show for the first time. In any event, the coloring and shape usually return to their original appearance when your hormones and blood flow level out after birth.