What happens to your vagina after childbirth?

Your vagina changes after childbirth, yet not many women know how much and why.  

However, most of us are aware of the changes in the shape and size of our breasts during pregnancy and after breastfeeding. 

We know, for example, that post-breastfeeding our breasts will sag, but somehow we tend to brush the changes in the vagina post- childbirth under the carpet.

Truth be told, the vagina can experience changes as extreme as permanent breast sagging after delivery.  

The reason for this lies in the anatomy of this very resilient organ...

Let’s just imagine a hand towel stuffed inside a thick sock squeezed by two hands. The sock is the vagina, the towel is the muscle of the vaginal wall, and the hands are the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina.

The pelvic floor muscles are extremely elastic and they usually go back to the size they were post-delivery. But, the vaginal muscles themselves don’t really go back to the same size, even if you do Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

This means that even after Kegels, your vagina itself does not get tighter, it just feels tighter.

The vagina is designed for delivery…True and it’s also made for sexual intercourse. But after a delivery, especially in the weeks and months after, your vagina kind of forgets that it’s a sexual organ too because of certain changes that happen during pregnancy and post-delivery.

Postpartum changes in the vagina

During pregnancy, your body starts preparing for childbirth by releasing hormones like oestrogen and relaxin which affect the vagina. Oestrogen increases blood flow to the vagina so that it can push the baby out by stretching and expanding more and relaxin helps the joints and ligaments in your pelvis to relax for making space for your baby to pop out. 

How much heft your vagina has in the stretching department which affects how it changes after delivery, depends on a number of factors:

1. Size of the baby- A larger baby means your vagina stretches more and this also increases chances of vaginal and perineal tears. The average size of a baby’s head is 11.4 cm. in diameter and the average diameter of a woman’s vagina is 2.1 to 3.5 cm. This can give you an idea of how much stretching your vagina has to do during labour. 

2. Your genetics

3. Just how good are your pelvic floor muscles 

4. The circumstance of the birth- how much you pushed or were forceps or vacuum extraction used?

The number of times you have given birth earlier- Remember, each pregnancy stretches your vagina some bit more.

5. Age at which you give birth- A pregnancy later in life,  in your 30s or 40s will cause more loosening of the vaginal muscles as they are less elastic and are unable to bounce back with the same strength as they did, say, in your early twenties.

On an average, women who give birth after 30 can notice persistent looseness after delivering just one child. 

The pelvic floor muscles also provide support to the other organs like the uterus, rectum, and the urinary bladder. When these become weak, many women can have what’s called a prolapse after childbirth. A prolapse can happen to your uterus or the other organs. And usually, these bits and pieces can actually drop or even fall out the vaginal canal. 

This thankfully doesn’t happen very often but if it does the good news is that it can improve over time (six weeks). But if a prolapse doesn’t become better even at your six- week check-up, talk to your doctor about surgery. 

Will your vagina be the same after a delivery? 

No, not exactly. 

Your vagina may get back to a size very close to pre-birth status as it not only has the elasticity to expand but also the capacity to retract but expect this to happen not before six months at least. 

Immediately after giving birth, you may feel that your vagina is looser, softer and more ‘open’. It may also look and feel bruised or swollen. This is normal. The swelling and openness should start to reduce a few days after your baby is born but the timeline can vary from one woman to another.

Depending on how much it had stretched during delivery, the vaginal opening may also return to a size closer to its original size after say six months and pelvic floor exercises. 

Will your partner notice? He may if the change is too much. If the change is not extreme, he may remain oblivious. 

On the good side, some couples feel closer after childbirth and have better sex after childbirth. 

However, not all new mothers may be that lucky and be able to bounce back in the sack. That’s why we have the vaginal tightening surgeries.

Postpartum vaginal dryness

Apart from feeling wider, your vagina might feel drier immediately after delivery. This happens because there are lower levels of oestrogen floating around in your bloodstream after giving birth compared to when you were pregnant. 

If you are breastfeeding, your levels of oestrogen are even lower than in women who aren't breastfeeding, and the dryness can be more pronounced. 

But this is temporary as once you stop breastfeeding and your periods return, the levels of oestrogen revert to pre-pregnancy levels and all is well down-under, as well.

Vaginal soreness due to tears and stitches in the perineum also subside in six weeks or less after birth, depending on their severity.  

On an average, you can resume your sex life six weeks after childbirth. But, you may have to wait for as much as six months or sometimes a year before the above three vaginal issues can sort themselves out. 

We always recommend Kegels to help shape-up your vagina, prevent incontinence or urine leaking and help have better sex.

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi