What Happens to Your Vagina After Pregnancy?

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Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy: your vagina, abdomen, breasts, skin, and hair can all look and feel different during and after pregnancy and birth. Growing an entire human being isn't always easy, and your body will change as a result.

Some changes are clearly visible, like that dark line that can show up on your stomach (thanks, pregnancy hormones!). Others may not be as visible. Many women wonder how pregnancy will affect their vagina, and if delivering a baby will permanently stretch it out.

Post-Pregnancy Vagina Concerns

Your vagina is a structure that is inside your body. Anything that you see on the outside, including your labia (the folds or "lips"), clitoris, and mons pubis (the mound where pubic hair grows) are parts of the vulva, not ​the vagina. The vaginal opening is where menstrual blood passes and the baby comes out during delivery.

Will Your Vagina Be Stretched Out After Pregnancy?

Your vagina stretches during birth in order to be able to let the baby pass through the birth canal. One study found that the pelvic floor muscles involved during birth can stretch more than three times their normal amount.

However, the vagina is designed to stretch and accommodate a baby and after delivery, the tissue will usually shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy state.

The vagina may get looser after having a baby as a result of the pelvic floor muscles around the vagina getting stretched out. This change can be more pronounced based on several factors, such as how large your baby is, any complications during delivery, and how many babies you have already delivered.

Practicing pelvic floor exercises like Kegels can help strengthen your pelvic floor post-baby. Talk to your doctor to find out when you are healed enough to start these exercises.

Change in Appearance

Most changes in the appearance of your vulva and vaginal opening that can occur after pregnancy are only temporary. Giving birth may cause swelling or discoloration from pregnancy or the process of giving birth.

The swelling and discoloration can occur whether you have a C-section or vaginal birth, because of pregnancy hormones. Depending on how much labor you have been through, the labor process itself can lead to swelling.

Tears or Episiotomy Healing

Stretching, tears, and rips can occur around the vaginal opening. These injuries should heal with a little time. While less common than they used to be, episiotomies are sometimes necessary to help make room for the baby.

An episiotomy is when a doctor or midwife makes a small incision in the perineum (the skin that connects the anus to the vaginal opening) to create more room for the baby to pass through.

In general, an episiotomy heals in about three to six weeks and in some cases, can leave a scar. The amount of scar tissue will depend on how much of the perineum was involved and other injuries to the tissue.

This scar tissue is not typically noticeable and does not affect your vagina's appearance or function. 

Forceps Injury

The use of forceps as medical intervention during childbirth can cause injuries to the vaginal tissue. Most doctors no longer use forceps, however, if your baby needed forceps to come out and you are still experiencing vaginal pain at your first postpartum checkup, bring this up with your doctor.

Change in Function

In general, your vagina's function will not change as a result of pregnancy or delivery. However, sometimes the pelvic floor muscles that control the vagina are affected.

These muscles surround and support the bladder and vagina, so they can be injured or weakened during birth or from the strain of pregnancy. In some cases, damage to the pelvic floor muscles can lead to complications such as bladder dysfunction or uterine prolapse.

Urinary Incontinence

One of the most common issues that women have after childbirth, for example, is urinary incontinence. Some women find that they leak urine, especially with strenuous activity, such as jumping or sneezing. This is common, but it's not normal. or untreatable. Ask your health care provider for suggestions on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles to prevent incontinence.

Sexual Function

One study found that 91.3% of women reported some kind of sexual problem after having a baby. The reasons can range from sleep disruptions from the baby to how a woman feels about her vagina. The nerves in the pelvis can also be damaged or changed during the pregnancy and delivery process.

The pelvic floor muscles that worked so hard during birth play a role in sexual function and orgasm too. Some women do experience a lack of sexual satisfaction or feeling like their vagina doesn't quite "work" the same way it used to as a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles. 

Painful sex can also be due to dryness caused by the hormonal changes of pregnancy and breastfeeding; this dryness is temporary and can be treated with lubricants. In general, if sex is very painful for you after having a baby, talk to your doctor to rule out any complications or infections. 

Treatment for Post-partum Vaginal Changes

Fortunately, certain exercises can help strengthen weakened pelvic floor muscles. Kegels— simple, repetitive squeezes or tightening of the pelvic floor muscles—provide some benefit.

Other exercises that use your core muscles are safe to perform during pregnancy and can help engage the entire pelvic floor to keep it strong. Don't start any new strenuous exercises, of course, but if you've been exercising before your pregnancy, keep it up because there are many benefits. 

Pelvic Floor Therapy

A 2003 study found that postpartum pelvic floor exercise programs are very helpful in decreasing postpartum urinary incontinence and pelvic floor strength. The most effective programs are run by trained health professionals and include a vaginal resistance device.

It may be difficult to do these exercises on your own. If you are struggling with weakened pelvic floor muscles, talk to your doctor. Many doctors and insurance companies are recognizing the benefits of supporting women through and after pregnancy to prevent any future problems. 

Reparative Surgery

In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair the pelvic floor and support any structures that may have dropped, such as the uterus or bladder.

A Word From Verywell

In general, the vagina is a structure that is designed to accommodate a baby and will not change significantly in structure or appearance after pregnancy. In some cases, however, as a result of damage or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, a woman might experience post-partum changes such as urinary incontinence, bladder dysfunction, or pain during sex. If you experience any of those changes, speak to your doctor about treatment options. 

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