6 Changes You May Experience and How to Cope
- After giving birth, you might have some scar tissue from tears that occur during childbirth.
- You may also experience more dryness because your levels of estrogen drop.
- Your vagina may also feel wider, but this can be solved by doing Kegel exercises.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy and childbirth — and once it’s over, your vagina may not feel quite the same.
Some changes, like vaginal dryness can be easily managed with products like lube, while changes like increased discharge will go away on their own with time.
Here are six ways your vagina might change after giving birth, and how to manage each one.
1. You may have scar tissue
As many as 9 in 10 people experience a vaginal tear during their first childbirth. In most cases, these tears are minor and heal easily, but scar tissue can develop in the case of larger tears.
This scar tissue can also develop if your doctor makes a surgical cut to widen the vagina to fit the baby’s head, called an episiotomy, says Felice Gersh, MD, an OB-GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine.
Gersh says that this scar tissue can cause a number of issues, including:
- Pain during sex
- The feeling of your vagina being more narrow
- Less elasticity of your vaginal tissue
- General discomfort in the vaginal area
How to manage it: Scar tissue may get better during the first few weeks after birth, but you can also see your gynecologist for help.
You can also talk to your doctor about other options like scar tissue massage, surgical treatment, or using a vaginal dilator, depending on the location and severity of your scarring.
2. You may be sore
Even if you don’t have any tearing, it’s normal for your vagina to be sore for the first six to 12 weeks after you give birth. You may also have pain in the area between your vagina and anus, called the perineum.
How to manage it: You can take over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen to help manage pain.
Another thing that may give you some relief is doing pelvic floor exercises, which can help decrease swelling and speed up the healing process.
You should also avoid having sex or putting anything inside your vagina for the first four to six weeks after giving birth — this gives your vagina time to heal and lowers your risk of intense pain.
3. You might have more dryness
While you’re pregnant, your levels of the sex hormone estrogen steadily increase to support the growing fetus. After you give birth, your estrogen levels drop dramatically, especially if you start breastfeeding.
When your levels of estrogen drop, this can cause your vaginal walls to become thinner and feel drier, says Gersh.
How to manage it: Vaginal dryness can make sex feel painful or uncomfortable, but using extra lubricant can help.
If your estrogen levels are especially low, your doctor may also prescribe you a low-dose estrogen therapy, Gersh says.
4. You may have more discharge
After you give birth, your vagina will start to produce discharge called lochia, which is made up of mucus, blood, and uterine tissue.
“Lochia is how your body gets rid of the extra tissue and blood that helped the fetus grow,” says Christine Greves, MD, an OB-GYN at Winnie Palmer Hospital.
Lochia can last for two to six weeks after childbirth — it starts out heavy and gets lighter over time.
How to manage it: During those two to six weeks, you can use pads, but you shouldn’t use tampons or menstrual cups until at least six weeks after giving birth.
Lochia doesn’t require treatment, but “if a foul-smelling discharge occurs, medical care is needed to rule out an infection,” Gersh says.
5. Your vagina may be wider
Right after you give birth, it’s normal for your vagina to look and feel wider. But after a few days, this should start to change, and your vagina may feel less soft and “open.”
Your vagina will likely never go back to the exact size and shape it was before you gave birth. But if you want to make your vaginal walls feel firmer, you can do pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises.
Here’s how to do Kegels in four easy steps:
- Identify your pelvic floor muscles by pretending that you’re trying to hold in urine.
- Tighten these muscles and hold for five seconds.
- Relax the muscles for five seconds.
- Repeat this exercise ten times.
6. Your orgasms might not be as intense
After giving birth, your orgasms may feel less intense for two reasons:
- You don’t have enough estrogen. “Low estrogen levels after birth reduce sex drive and organismic sensations,” Gersh says. This should generally resolve on its own with time.
- Your pelvic floor muscles may be weaker after childbirth. When this happens, “the contractions of your muscles that occur during an orgasm may not be as strong and therefore the orgasm may be less intense,” says Greves. Doing Kegel exercises, or other pelvic floor exercises, regularly can help.
“Vaginal dryness, low sex drive, and low-quality orgasms are all normal after childbirth,” Gersh says.
It may take time and treatments like pelvic floor exercises to help your vagina heal and return to normal.
Just remember to be patient with your body and always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.