I’m sure you’ve heard many things about what happens to your labia and vagina after birth. Many of these things might not be totally accurate and could give you the wrong impression about postpartum changes to your vagina and labia.
Let’s look at what happens to the labia and vagina after birth and what a normal postpartum vagina is like.
The changes to the vagina and labia after birth
Giving birth is a life-changing experience. Not only do you become a mother but your body also goes through physical changes.
When a woman gives birth vaginally, the vagina changes after childbirth, due not only to postpartum hormonal changes but also to modifications in the birth canal that affect the anatomy of the vagina.
In a vaginal birth the pelvic muscles (which include the pelvic floor muscles and vaginal muscles), the vaginal tissue and the vaginal opening might be affected and changes in the vagina might appear in the early postpartum period. Most of these vaginal changes are completely normal
What does a vagina look like after birth?
What would you answer if someone asked you what a vagina looks like before childbirth?
Every woman is unique. So is her anatomy, including her vagina.
When a woman gives birth, her body and mind are modified. Some of these changes, especially the non-physical changes, mean she will never go back to her pre-pregnancy state.
Changes most women experience after vaginal birth
These changes can include:
After giving birth vaginally, even if there aren’t any vaginal tears, it’s normal to feel some discomfort or slight pain, especially during the first week postpartum.
You might have swollen labia or have experienced a lot of pressure in your anal sphincter. If we add any perineal tears it’s totally normal for the vagina to feel different
A change in vaginal moisture
This is due to changes in the vaginal flora that produce specific postpartum vaginal discharge
This is normal after giving birth. The placenta that was nourishing the baby, has left a scar in the uterine lining that bleeds for several days.
Postpartum bleeding is called lochia. If we compare lochia with menstrual blood flow, lochia is usually more abundant than menstruation; however, postpartum vaginal discharge, even if heavy, shouldn’t be confused with heavy bleeding. Don’t wait for your postpartum checkup.
Talk to your doctor or any women’s health expert if you have any doubts. They’re the specialists of postpartum care and the most appropriate professionals to help with this new stage of your life, especially your healing process
It’s normal to feel vaginal dryness after giving birth. As your postpartum discharge lightens, your body might not be fully prepared to resume sexual activity just yet.
This doesn’t mean you have any kind of sexual dysfunction, so don’t worry. It’s normal that your sex drive and your sexual function are nothing like they were in the pre-birth state
Weakened pelvic floor muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles help keep your pelvic organs in place. Pregnancy and birth don’t necessarily have an effect on the muscle tone of your pelvic floor muscles.
However, certain practices, such as coached pushing during childbirth, instrumental vaginal delivery or a heavy epidural can put a strain on your pelvic floor muscle tone.
You can start doing kegel exercises as soon as it feels comfortable to do so. Bear in mind that your postpartum recovery is very important and it could take several weeks before you feel comfortable enough to start pelvic floor exercises.
Postpartum urinary incontinence
This is a clear sign that your pelvic floor muscles need a good workout. Regardless of what you might have heard, urinary incontinence isn’t normal and it doesn’t happen to most women just because they’ve had several pregnancies, or because the level of estrogen drops considerably as they become older.
Urinary incontinence needs to be looked at. Talk to your doctor as she is the most appropriate professional to put you in contact with a pelvic floor physical therapist, who will be able to get you back in shape with personalized pelvic floor exercises.
Your vaginal opening might look different after giving birth
Your pelvic area has received an increased blood flow since the beginning of the pregnancy. A perineal tear might also be present and it needs time to heal. If you had an episiotomy, it will also take time to heal and scar tissue will form.
Read more about this in BellyBelly’s article 6 Ways To Heal Your Perineum After Giving Birth.
Does my vagina go back to normal after birth?
Let’s look at the concept of normality for a moment. Any vagina is a normal vagina. A vagina is normal before giving birth. A vagina is normal after giving birth.
Will your vagina after birth be the same as it was before childbirth? No, it won’t, just as no other part of your body will go back to its pre birth state.
Your vaginal functionality will be recovered and so will your sex drive. If you feel you’re ready to have sex but you find sex painful, you might need to wait a few weeks longer, to relieve discomfort or pain but also to have a pleasurable experience.
Read more in our articles Sex After Birth | 9 Points To Re-establish Healthy Sex Life and Will Sex After Birth Feel The Same Again?
Will my labia go back to normal after pregnancy?
Your labia might feel a bit different after childbirth. This is totally normal.
Your labia might be swollen, or might have stretched during birth. They might have been damaged or torn with resulting scar tissue development.
Although not always, it could take up to six weeks for your genitalia to go back to feeling comfortable. This is completely normal. Each woman’s recovery and circumstances are different.
Do the labia stretch during birth?
The opening to the vagina stretches during birth. Your labia don’t usually stretch.
Research shows that different degrees of perineal trauma can have different effects, depending not only on the type of birth but also on the degree of postpartum care received.
Many women reported changes in their labia and vagina post-pregnancy – even those who gave birth by cesarean section.
Do the labia get darker after birth?
Yes, the color of the labia after birth might appear darker than you remember. Certain hormones are responsible for these color changes.
Once the hormone levels stabilize, your labia might go back to the color they were prior to childbirth or they might remain darker.
How do I fix my labia after giving birth?
Before you think about having surgery on the most delicate part of your body, try to think about the reasons why you want this surgery and whether it’s the wisest thing to do.
Genital beautification surgery keeps improving but it’s still relatively new. Your labia – and your genitals in general – have a lot of nerve endings and surgery might tamper with your sexual feeling.
If you’re looking for advice, I’d suggest you wait until your sexual activity has been resumed and you experience how your postpartum genitalia feel during sex.
If you’re still dissatisfied with your labia or how your vagina feels and, of course, if you experience any sort of pain, it would then be appropriate to seek help.
Postpartum pain medications should be available, from your provider, from the moment you give birth.
Scar tissue, even if it’s produced during plastic surgery, is still scar tissue. It might lead to painful sex or even just discomfort or pain in your vagina, labia or genital area.
Make sure you understand the implications that surgery on your genitals might have.
Dr Alyssa Dweck, Assistant Clinical Professor of Obs & Gynae at Mount Sinai School of Medicine is the author of V is for Vagina. Dr. Dweck’s book and her extensive work on the postpartum period could be a good starting point if you’re thinking about going under the knife.
Talk to a pelvic floor specialist first. See what can be done about your situation. Will surgery fix the problem? Is surgery the only thing that will fix it? Does it even need fixing?
I know this might not be a lot of help, but remember that surgery will always be there. You can always turn to surgery later but you cannot undo surgery after it’s done.
Healing takes time.
Accepting change takes time.
Just make sure you’ve given yourself enough time and given it enough thought before you do something that can’t be undone.