After childbirth, the vagina may feel looser (due to stretching), swollen and sore. However, postpartum care, such as pelvic floor exercises, can reduce the impact of giving birth.
Yes, your vagina looks slightly different after giving birth. Typically, the vaginal opening may feel wider (due to stretching), swollen and sore for some time.
Giving birth requires the baby to travel from the cervix to the vagina. This process results in stretching of the vagina. Therefore, you will experience some changes post pregnancy. However, with proper postpartum care, you can minimize the impact of vaginal birth.
What exactly happens to your vagina after giving birth?
The following happens to your vagina after giving birth:
- Widening: The stretching caused by the delivery of the baby through the vaginal canal can make the vagina wider. You may feel as if the vagina opening has become loose and more open. This is normal and will usually resolve after a few days.
- Dryness: Lower levels of estrogen after childbirth can cause your vagina to become drier. This dryness is more likely in breastfeeding mothers as compared to mothers who are not breastfeeding. It returns to its normal levels after you stop breastfeeding.
- Soreness: You may feel pain or soreness in the vaginal area immediately after birth, which can be more intense if your doctor has performed an episiotomy, a procedure that involves cutting the vagina and the rectum (the perineum). This procedure helps in easier childbirth via the vaginal canal and pain will usually resolve within 6 to 12 weeks. Using ice packs or sitting in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes about three to four times a day can help soothe the perineum pain.
- Swelling: Your vagina may swell, irrespective of whether you had a vaginal delivery or a cesarean delivery, which is usually due to pregnancy hormones.
Does sex hurt after giving birth?
It is normal to experience pain during sex a few days after childbirth. The changes in hormonal levels along with the pain can reduce your sexual drive. If the problem is due to dryness, you may use a lubricant while performing sex that might ease the pain.
Use a condom during sex because it is possible to conceive even at three weeks after childbirth. If you use condoms, such as latex for contraception, and preferably water-based lubricant over oil-based, which are likely to get torn.
If you continue to experience pain even after several days of childbirth, talk to your doctor.
What is the role of pelvic floor exercises after childbirth?
Pelvic floor exercises are an effective way to deal with the changes to your vagina and cervix following childbirth. Giving birth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles that are involved in the pregnancy process. The weakened muscles can cause urine to leak, a condition known as stress urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen these muscles and reduce the frequency of urinary incontinence. One such workout is called Kegel exercise.
Here are the steps of how to perform the Kegel exercise:
- Breathe in deeply as you contract your pelvic floor muscles and feel your abdomen filling in with air.
- Hold this position for three to six seconds.
- Breathe out as you release the contracted pelvic floor muscles and let the muscles relax for six seconds or longer (relaxing the muscles after the contraction is also important).
- Do this 10 times at a stretch, which is considered one set.
If you can contract your pelvic floor muscles for six seconds without feeling tired, you can increase the duration by holding the contractions for up to 10 seconds. This should be followed by relaxing your muscles for 10 seconds.
Keep breathing as you perform the Kegel exercise.
Your vagina is unlikely to return to its pre-childbirth shape and that’s normal. If you are extremely worried about the shape of your vagina, talk to your doctor.
Medically Reviewed on 9/14/2021
Mayo Clinic. Postpartum Care: What to Expect After a Vaginal Birth. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/postpartum-care/art-20047233