Learn What Really Happens To Your Vagina After Childbirth
Wondering how your vagina will ever recover from childbirth ?
Find out exactly what you can expect after your baby is born, including whether your vagina will regain its original size before birth (and whether you or your partner will notice differences).
While eagerly awaiting the birth of your baby and watching your belly grow, it is normal for you to begin to imagine how the birth of this multi-pound baby will affect your vagina after childbirth.
Will your vagina really be able to stretch enough to accommodate your baby’s head?
Will your perineum (tissue between the vaginal introitus – also known as the vaginal opening – and the anus ) stretch (or widen ) or tear through it?
Or will your doctor think it necessary to have an episiotomy (an incision in the perineum to allow the baby to go out – do not worry, nowadays it is very rare to do it)?
And how long will it take for the vagina to heal and tighten again after delivery?
Just as all births and labor are different, so are all women.
But knowing what to expect and how to help things happen will reassure you and … extend the possibilities.
How is the vagina made to support the baby’s birth?
Although difficult to imagine, the baby can actually traverse the birth canal and leave the vaginal opening.
Your body is made to make it happen!
In fact, it will prepare itself for this moment from the beginning of the pregnancy , releasing the following gestational hormones:
Estrogens: Increase blood flow to the vagina’s folds so that this elastic connective tissue is more capable of expanding and stretching during delivery while you push.
Relaxin helps your body relax and relax the ligaments and joints of your pelvis so it can expand and create space for your baby to make her grand entrance.
Dilation of the vagina during birth
The vaginal dilation you experience depends on many variables, including:
- Your baby’s size
- Your genetics
- Whether or not you did exercises to the pelvic floor during pregnancy to tone these muscles before delivery
- The circumstances of the birth (how long you have been struggling and whether tweezers or vacuum have been used, designating the most common factors)
- How many births have you had before (suggests how toned or pre-stretched your vaginal opening is – each successive birth will probably widen your vagina a bit more).
If you have a vaginal delivery and the perineum does not tear:
You can expect to feel sore and uncomfortable immediately after giving birth.
Even though her perineum remained intact during the baby’s arrival, the area was still stretched and bruised.
Most women tend to experience mild or moderate vaginal discomfort for about three to five weeks.
The pain may be worse when you cough or sneeze, and you may also feel pain when you sit for a few days – but hopefully it will dissipate with each passing day.
If the perineum tears during delivery or if you have an episiotomy:
You will feel sore and experience a certain burning sensation due to laceration (which usually requires stitches).
The wound will take about seven to ten days to heal and may become tender for several weeks.
So try to relax if you can. If the stitches heal easily, you should expect the pain to disappear within six weeks.
If you perform a surgical or cesarean delivery:
If you do not force yourself beforehand, you should not expect any enlargement of the vagina after birth.
If, however, you tighten up before the C-section, the baby will put a lot of pressure on your perineum, cervix , and entire vaginal area (your doctor will stretch and massage the perineum to help open the way).
This way, your vagina may very well become tense as you push – especially if you were able to get the baby close to reaching the coronation stage (fetal expulsion stage) – and you may experience vaginal enlargement and discomfort after delivery.
But if the baby’s head never goes through the vaginal opening, any enlargement should be minimal.
No matter how your birth has gone, your doctor will probably tell you to avoid sex until about six weeks after giving birth – although they may give you a green light sooner or later than that.
You should also avoid inserting tampons (or any other foreign objects) until you go to the six weeks postpartum visit with your doctor. It will then be determined if you are completely healed.
Doing this before the healing of the vaginal area can cause an infection.
Will the vagina remain as tight as before?
The million dollars question that all women want to see answered: “Will my vagina be the same after childbirth, or will it be wide and loose?“.
Although this is not quite what you want to hear, the honest answer is: it will not look exactly as it did before.
But it could be very close to the previous size!
One of the biggest facts about the vagina is that it has not only elasticity to expand, but also the ability to retreat.
Although the obstetrician or midwife may tell you that you have had a vaginal delivery, by performing a physical examination (they are trained to detect these things, after all!), you may not feel (or see) any difference .
Depending on how much has been stretched, the vaginal opening may return to a size very close to its original structure, giving you enough time to perform some exercises for the pelvic floor and minimize the looseness that originated.
Will your partner notice?
Unless you experience considerable birth trauma (such as a third or fourth degree laceration of the external vagina), your partner should not notice much difference.
In fact, some couples consider that having a child makes them feel closer, which ultimately makes them appreciate sex more.
What can I do to keep the vagina tight after birth?
The best way to make your vagina recover from birth is to begin performing exercises for the pelvic floor (Kegel exercises) during pregnancy.
The goal is to keep the muscles in that area as toned and tense as possible.
This can help you avoid laceration during labor – and it will certainly make those muscles recover more easily after birth.
Performing a perineal massage in the month prior to the expected date of birth also helps.
After giving birth to your baby, start doing your Kegel exercises again as soon as you feel comfortably able – it is the best way for your vagina to recover as close to its prenatal shape and size as possible.
Kegel exercises strengthen pelvic floor muscles, help resolve postpartum urinary incontinence (a problem that affects 1 in 3 women in the postpartum period) and make sex more enjoyable (after your doctor says that you can have that kind of intimacy, obviously!).
For the best possible results, practice Kegel exercises about five minutes a day, three times a day, during pregnancy and after delivery.
If this sounds too uncomfortable, simply do the Kegels whenever you have an opportunity – while sitting while breastfeeding your baby or while checking the email, for example.
The effort will be worth it. You can also read our article on natural ways to tighten your vagina.
If you want to take a step forward, it may be in your interest to consider some vaginal exercisers, devices that help you do Kegel exercises.
No matter what steps you take, be aware that your vagina has been made to handle labor and be ready and active again soon!
Dr. Lorene Garcia is a Gynecologist (OB-GYN) based in Miami, Florida who has more than 10 years experience gynaecology. I’m a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and love to help women with gynecological problems.