For nine months, you’ve persevered and enjoyed the motherhood journey in equal measure. Now the final push is over, and your baby is safe but, there is one more—the delivery aftermath.
Has anyone mentioned that you’re going to experience hair loss, an egg-like body shape, and vaginal ordeals?
As a first-time mom, you’ll probably experience perineal tearing. Better still, your midwife may cut the perineum to increase the way for your baby. The process is quite uncomfortable, and it may require weeks or months to heal.
While most women tend to worry about the visible, such as enlarge tummies, your genitals and internal organs may need more attention than you think. This is due to the many phases they have undergone and, of course, the final push.
So what are the vaginal changes that you may experience after birth?
Wider or loose vagina
After the vaginal delivery, you may feel your vagina being loose and open. With the first pregnancy, this may not be obvious. However, as you continue to have more babies, the feeling becomes more evident that you may think some internal organs can fall out.
It even gets worse if you gave birth to a heavyweight baby. My third delivery was quite hectic. My baby was 4 kilograms, and I had to undergo induced labour which was so intense to a point that I contemplated C- section. But that is in my past now, and I’m doing great. The good thing is that the looseness often starts reducing as you heal.
After delivery, you may feel that your vagina is drier than usual. And may continue this way as long as you’re breastfeeding. This happens because of low levels of estrogen hormone in your body compared with when you were expectant.
But how does it feel when you have vaginal dryness?
- feel sore or itchy in and around your vagina
- feel pain or discomfort during sex
- you get some sensation when peeing
Soreness and itchiness
Your perineum can feel sore, especially if your skin tore or you needed stitches to repair a tear or episiotomy after giving birth. For the first six weeks, you may be nursing the wound. However, the healing comes gradually, and the stitches dissolve by themselves.
Some vaginal discharge
In the first few days, it might be heavy with a dark red color. But by the time you’re two weeks old, you may be having a light flow with no odor.
Pain during sex
Often you won’t have the urge to have sex after birth. But what about your partner? Maybe it has been long since you got intimate, and he is now looking at you as his bump-less queen.
Anyway, when to start having sex after delivery depends on how fast you heal. It’s also a matter you must discuss as a couple.
Always note that there will be some pain and discomfort due to dryness. In case you’re feeling better, you may try using lubricants to see if it can help.
Having pain around the perineum means that your stitches are not healed altogether, and you may need to wait.
Taking Care of Your Vagina After Birth
After a vaginal delivery, your genitals may be swollen and could require a lot of care, from resting to diet and medications. Here’s how you can take care of your vagina after birth.
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1. Take a sitz bath
A sitz bath involves sitting in warm water to treat and relax your vaginal wound. Most women with vaginal delivery experience episiotomy.
Episiotomy is a skin cut between the vagina and anus normally done to increase the passage for a baby. The midwife will then close the perineal tear with stitches which can dissolve and get off as you heal.
Most doctors recommend sitz baths to women who have gone through vaginal delivery. But you can still take it even if you had a C-section incision—more of if you had a considerable long labor time or common delivery hemorrhoids.
Sitz baths can offer relief and have a great soothing effect. It’s an effective way to increase blood flow to the perineal area for pain relief, cleansing, and relaxation. It’s also a faster way to curb itchiness.
What can you add to the water?
Basically, it will depend on your doctor’s prescription. But, I have found normal salt being effective on my end. Add a little salt to make your water saline.
How To Use a Sitz Bath
Most women take a sitz bath three times a day, morning, midday, and evening. It all dependent on how you feel and the degree of the tear or itchiness. There are two ways to perform a sitz bath. You may choose to use a bathtub or a kit designed for a toilet.
Here’s how you can go about it
- get your sitz bath kit from your local store
- Properly fit your sitz bath basin in the open toilet.
- Warm water, add some salt if you choose, and fill your bath basin. You can also use the tubing provided with the kit to fill the basin. Always ensure that the water can sufficiently cover the perineum.
- Soak yourself for about 10 minutes, then pat dry using a clean, soft towel.
If you’re using a bathtub, ensure the water can sufficiently submerge your hips and buttocks. Soak yourself for a few minutes to cleanse the area.
You can also use a common basin whereby you place it on a stool and fill in the water just enough to submerge your vulva and perineum area.
2. Use water after peeing
If you’re accustomed to using tissue paper after peeing, you may need to switch. Use water to wipe off the urine or when you’re peeing to reduce discomfort on your stitches. This will help reduce itchiness on your perineal skin.
To perform this, soak a piece of cloth in warm or cold water, squat, and gently wipe off the urine.
Also, using small squirt containers, called spray bottles, to clean yourself after peeing can be effective. A good example is a Peri bottle with a capacity of 650ml. The best peri bottle I’ve used is Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle for Postpartum Care.
All you need to do is fill your bottle with lukewarm water, then spritz it around your genitals (between vagina and anus).
Do this in a front-to-back motion. Pat the area dry using a clean piece of cloth. This brings about a soothing effect from the burning sensation of urine.
At first, it may seem like you’re washing too much, especially if you frequently go to the restroom, but finally, it will pay off.
3. Apply some petroleum jelly
This one really worked well for me, especially with my third delivery. I had gone through severe tears due to the size of my baby. The stitches were intense, and when they started healing, they became itchy and tight.
Applying Vaseline jelly after a sitz birth once a day proved to help soften the stitches.
While there is a variety of jelly’s in the market, my favourite is Vaseline pure jelly. According to studies, petroleum jelly can keep your skin moist after minor surgery or burns.
With vaginal stitches, jelly can bring about quick relief from the burning sensation and helps moisturize the wound when it begins healing.
After peeing, wipe or wash your vagina with warm or cold water. Apply the petroleum jelly of your choice. Always ensure that the wound is clean to avoid trapping bacteria that can delay the healing.
4. Ate or drink okra water
Okra is known for its many benefits. It contains magnesium, vitamin B6, Calcium, zinc, and folate. Magnesium is a natural relaxer, while Vitamin B6 can help in increasing your libido.
The slimy stuff, the mucilage in okra helps in the moisturization of your vaginal walls. This helps reduce itchiness brought about by hormonal imbalances, especially during breastfeeding. It can also aid in reducing vaginal discharge, known as, Leucorrhea.
There are various ways you can consume okra. You can choose to soak it in water for a while, say overnight, to produce the organic lubricate. Then, drink the water in the morning. Soaking overnight dissolves okra’s nutrients in the water.
You may also choose to consume okra by cooking it as a vegetable or blending it with other vegetables to create smoothies.
5. Put on underwear from natural fabrics like cotton
After a vaginal delivery, you must put on underwear made from natural fabrics like cotton.
Cotton is great for breathability and moisture-absorbent ability, which reduces yeast infection. It also helps curb itching and promotes comfort to the genital area.
Underwear made of Synthetic materials such as nylon and spandex may be cheap compared to cotton wear. But, they don’t allow the vulva to breathe. Instead, they trap heat and moisture, creating a conducive breeding environment for infections.
Also, change your underwear daily, even more than once, if you have vaginal discharge. Wash and open dry them outside in the sun for aeration.
6. Use soft pads Best for Stitches and not tampons
Use soft pads, not tampons, until any incisions or vaginal stitches are healed. Take note of your lochia or postpartum bleeding. As long as the flow continues, your internal wound is not healed.
According to doctors, the place where the placenta and uterine wall were attached remains a wound for a while; hence, inserting tampons into this area can introduce bacteria and cause infections.
Thus, you must stick to soft maternity pads until you’ve completely healed.
7. Cold press
Cold compressing your vaginal area with a piece of cold cloth or ice pack can help ease discomfort.
Cool the area with crushed ice for 10 to 15 minutes. This is a short-term relief and can help reduce vaginal swelling.
The best way to use the ice pack is to cover it in a towel or clean cloth but not directly on the skin.
Alternatively, you may buy Frida Mom Instant Ice Max, ready-to-use pads after birth. You also need to be watchful about how your nerves react, as prolonged use of ice can harm your nerves.
8. Use stool softener for easy bowel movement
Hard stool or constipation can cause discomfort on your stitches. Use stool softeners as prescribed by your caregiver
Also, ensure that you’re drinking lots of water for hydration, especially now that you’re breastfeeding. You can take the recommended eight glasses or more.
Eat lots of vegetables such as broccoli and fruits like pawpaw for easy bowel movement. Also, including dairy products such as yogurt with probiotics can help improve your digestion and soften your stool.
9. Use pain relievers as Prescribed
Using pain relievers will help manage post-delivery pain. While it’s necessary to consult with your doctor, some commonly used pain relievers can be bought over the counter.
St George’s University Hospital recommends paracetamol and ibuprofen for quick pain relief.
10. Kegel Exercise
Your caregiver may advise you to perform kegel exercises after delivery to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Normally, this exercise can help strengthen vaginal muscles, curb incontinence or prevent the accidental passing of gas or urine when coughing, especially after childbirth.
Also, there are other postpartum exercises that can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles while helping you heal faster. Why don’t you give it a try?
11. Get enough rest
Sitting for a long time can increase pressure on your vagina and delay healing. Normalize lying down to reduce sitting time during the first two weeks.
Also, ensure that you sit on a soft cushion to relieve pressure on your bottom.
There is no point in being a superpower woman if all you do is hurt your body. Learn to ask for help even from your spouse so that your body can heal faster.
When to Ask for Help
Remember to go for your postpartum checkup after six weeks. However, if you notice some of the following symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical attention even before the 6 week period elapses.
- Your postpartum bleeding seems to get heavy with clots
- You have smelly vaginal discharge
- You feel dizzy most of the time
- You have fever
- Your vaginal swelling is increasing instead of getting better.
The process of bringing forth a baby can leave lots of scars on your vagina. While some women get healed within the first 6 weeks after delivery, it may take longer for others. You should thus understand what works for your body and, above all, follow your doctor’s advice.
That is my take. What is yours? Kindly gives us your tips on what worked for you and help a new mom who may be struggling with taking care of her vagina after birth. You may also share this if you find it valuable. Always a pleasure to hear from you.
DISCLAIMER The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. I’m not a health practitioner and as such, this information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with your professional service provider.