Vagina After Birth: What to Expect and How to Soothe the Pain
Wondering about your vagina after giving birth? We broke down what to expect and rounded up some mom-loved, doctor-approved postpartum remedies to make your lady parts feel better.
Delivering a baby puts your vagina through plenty of trauma. Your little one’s head, which is the size of a cantaloupe, must fit through the opening, inevitably leading to pain and discomfort down there. Here, we describe what to expect regarding your vagina after birth, with tips for soothing the postpartum pain.
What Happens to Your Vagina After Birth?
After birth, your vagina will likely tear as the baby’s head squeezes through. In fact, 95 percent of first-time moms will experience perineal tearing. You may need stitches, and depending on the severity of the tear, recovery will take anywhere from weeks to months. Activities like coughing, sneezing, and having a bowel movement will likely cause discomfort. An itchy vagina after birth may indicate that your scars are healing.
Another unpleasant side effect of delivery is lochia—a vaginal discharge of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue that lasts for six-eight weeks. Lochia starts off bright red and heavy, then it fades to dark brown and eventually yellow. It may lead to mild vagina smells after birth, but you should report any foul-smelling odor to the doctor.
Swelling is also common, and dryness may occur because of hormonal changes. Your lady bits will likely return to normal within months, some but women report their vagina feels loose after birth—especially if they delivered a large baby. Sometimes, though, weak vaginal muscles may make you feel loose down there, and you can tighten the vagina with Kegel exercises.
So what does a vagina look like after birth? The labia may appear darker right after delivery, thanks to increased blood flow. Essentially, though, the vagina before and after birth won’t be much different.
How to Soothe Your Vagina After Birth
You knew to expect a sore vagina after birth. Heck, you spent nine months worrying about it. But what you may have overlooked was that aches, ouches, and down-there misery don't vanish once you've birthed your baby. Pain in your privates can linger for days or weeks afterward.
Here, we’ve rounded up 10 mom-loved remedies to soothe your vagina after giving birth. Keep in mind that although they can be helpful with healing, they may not all be safe for breastfeeding moms. Bottom line: Always consult your doctor before trying any at-home remedy.
A Sitz Bath
It's common for first-time moms to tear their perineum (the area between the vulva and the anus) during a vaginal birth. To relieve the pain, fill a sitz bath or basin with warm water. This increases blood flow to the area, helping it heal and repairing the tissues faster.
You can do a sitz in a clean bathtub or with a kit that many hospitals supply in the postpartum unit. "With the kit, you place a small, shallow basin over the toilet seat, fill it with warm water, and sit on it so that your vulva and perineum are submerged," says Page. "For the bath, fill with three to four inches of water—just enough to submerge your hips and buttocks—and sit. For both, soak for 20 minutes a few times a day."
A Spray Bottle
Your torn and swollen vagina after birth makes postpartum peeing a less-than-pleasant experience. Meet your new best friend, the peri bottle: a small, handheld plastic squirt container.
Simply fill it up with lukewarm water and spritz yourself while peeing to dilute the stinging potential of urine. Plus, the warm water is soothing to your delicate tissues. "Avoid spraying water directly into the vagina, however, or that'll cause more discomfort," notes Kelly Kasper, M.D., an OB-GYN at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. Give yourself even more squirts post-pee to rinse off blood and urine—and to sidestep the whole cringe-worthy toilet paper situation. "Believe me, the less touching, the better," says Katie Page, a certified nurse-midwife in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Soothinging Sprays: Lidocaine and Dermoplast
Lidocaine spray, found over-the-counter at the drugstore, can also help relieve pain associated with tearing or hemorrhoids, says Ashley Roman, M.D., clinical assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Don't underestimate the hemorrhoids. They can be quite a shock, especially if you have been pushing for a long time," she advises. If your hemorrhoids are extremely painful to the extent that you have trouble even sitting down, you may have to be evaluated by your doctor, she adds.
Women can also use Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray (available at any drugstore) to give skin a quick aerosol mist after using the bathroom or changing a pad. It should cool and numb your sore private parts.
"After my first son was born, the nurse gave me these maxi pad–shaped disposable ice packs to put in my underwear. They were lifesavers," says Addie Hume Gamble, a mom of two in Agawam, Massachusetts. Dr. Kasper recommends wrapping the ice pack with a washcloth or other soft, absorbent material and icing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as needed to help reduce pain.
Your hospital may give you a few packs before you head home; otherwise, you can get them at a medical supply or drugstore. Or use this midwife-recommended trick: "Fill up a condom with water, tie the end and freeze it to make a tube of ice. Wrap it in a clean, cotton T-shirt. It fits really nicely against the perineum," says Page. Allergic to latex? A bag of frozen peas works just as well to soothe your vagina after birth.
Witch Hazel Pads
"Witch hazel contains chemicals called tannins that can help reduce swelling and fight bacteria, which in turn decreases pain and helps prevent infection," says Dr. Kasper. It also has hemostatic properties, which means it can help stop minor bleeding. Try dabbing your sensitive spots with a medicated witch hazel cooling pad, or use it along with other soothing treatments.
Kristen Wesley, a mom of one in Gaithersburg, Maryland, topped her private ice pack with three witch hazel cooling pads for instant relief. And Meagan Feeser, a mom of two in York, Pennsylvania, drenched overnight maxis with two tablespoons of alcohol-free witch hazel and froze them. "I made padsicles!" she says. "I'd stick it in the mesh undies I took from the hospital. It was a huge relief."
A Hair Dryer
After you finish peeing, peri bottling, or sitz soaking, stand or sit with your legs apart, and aim your hairdryer about six to eight inches away from your damp nether regions. Set the dryer on the lowest setting and on cool, and move it around, much like you would if you were drying your hair, for no more than three minutes. "While this won't necessarily ease the pain in your vagina after giving birth, it can help prevent it," says Dr. Kasper. "If you're swollen and inflamed from delivery or stitches, avoiding a towel or toilet paper is a good idea."
This is also a great strategy if you're prone to yeast infections, which can often surface postpartum. "Yeast loves moist places," says Page.
You'll feel more comfortable if you pack your own pillow, clothes, pajamas and toothbrush to bring to the hospital or birthing center, Dr. Roman says. She also suggests using the mesh underwear that hospitals often provide after delivery. They may not be sexy, but they save you the hassle of messing up your own underwear—and they're actually pretty comfortable.
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OTC Pain Relievers
"Ibuprofen is a great anti-inflammatory that helps with post-birth bleeding, decreases cramping, and helps with perineal pain—a triple crown," says Page. While it's safe to take while nursing, talk it over with your health-care provider first.