You might feel selfish for asking your doctor 20 questions about your vagina post childbirth. You might think, “Shouldn’t all my questions be about the health of the baby?” But it’s completely normal to worry about your vagina after pushing a little human through it! So here are 15 things you should know about your vagina both before and after childbirth.
YOU CAN LIMIT VAGINAL STRETCHING
If you do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy, you can tone your pelvic muscles so that they return to their normal size faster after childbirth. Kind of the way someone with a toned stomach still has a toned stomach, even after an enormous dinner.
LENGTH OF CHILDBIRTH INCREASES STRETCHING
The longer you push during childbirth, the more vaginal stretching you may have happen. If labor is lasting too long, your doctor might use forceps (essentially these are tongs that pull the baby out) to move childbirth along.
EVERY BIRTH STRETCHES YOUR VAGINA MORE
Each time you give birth, your vagina progressively stretches a tiny bit more. Again, doing pelvic floor exercises throughout pregnancies can reduce the stretching.
PERINEUM MIGHT TEAR
Your perineum is the area between the anus and the vulva and it often tears during childbirth. This can be fixed with some stitching, but you’ll likely feel sore there for weeks after childbirth. You may even experience a burning sensation when you pee.
THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULD WAIT TO HAVE SEX
Even if your perineum didn’t tear during childbirth, it is bruised and tender. Your doctor will probably tell you to wait about six weeks to have sex after childbirth so everything can heal.
BUT THE WAITING PERIOD IS A SUGGESTION
Take things slow, and if sex isn’t painful or uncomfortable after initially hopping back in the sack, you are likely ready to have sex on a regular basis.
THE WAITING PERIOD ALSO APPLIES TO TAMPONS
Or vibrators or any object you usually insert into your vagina. You simply cannot stretch the vagina during the waiting period, because this puts a strain on the perineum and can even cause an infection. There are things you can do to ease perineum pain. Ice the area, wear loose clothing, and eat a diet that keeps you regular (full bowels put pressure on the perineum).
PERINEAL MASSAGES ARE A THING
A perineal massage involves “gently kneading” the area between your anus and vulva. Doing this regularly within 4 to 6 weeks before pregnancy can help prevent perineum tears. You can perform this massage on yourself or have your partner do it.
A C-SECTION DOESN’T GUARANTEE ZERO STRETCHING
If you push before getting your cesarean, you might still experience some vaginal stretching. This is especially true if your baby was close to crowning before you decided to get a C-section. However, the stretching will be much less than if the baby had actually traveled fully through your vaginal canal.
YOUR VAGINA WILL GO BACK TO NORMAL FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES
Don’t feel offended when your gynecologist looks at your vagina and says, “I see you’ve had a baby.” It’s their job to detect the subtle differences between a vagina that has and hasn’t had a baby pass through it. But your vagina is incredibly flexible and, as far as you and your partner can tell, will go back to nearly normal.
WHAT ARE KEGEL EXERCISES GOOD FOR ANYWAY?
Doing Kegels exercises after childbirth can help prevent post-pregnancy incontinence and even make sex more enjoyable. These strengthen the floor of the pelvic muscles and help your vagina snap back sooner.
But it can happen. Your vagina is more open than usual in the weeks following childbirth, so it can be harder to keep urine in.
Your vagina might feel dryer after giving birth. This is normal—you have lower levels of estrogen after giving birth, and these compounds keep your lubricant levels normal.
YOU CAN GET PREGNANT FAST
Don’t forget to use contraception! You can get pregnant as soon as three weeks after childbirth.