After child birth, a woman experiences vaginal changes which include stretching, soreness, and dryness. This is expected since the vagina has to stretch to allow the baby to come out. In some cases, the perineum which is the area between the anus and the vagina, may tear or cut by a doctor during the delivery process.
After giving birth, the vagina feels drier than before because of reduced estrogens. This occurs up to when the periods resume. Dryness should not bother you if you have not resumed sex. Doctors advise on taking up to 6 weeks before starting having sex again.
How to manage dryness:
To prevent problems of dryness in sex, use lubricants. The lubricants should be water-based when using polyisoprene or latex condoms because oil based lubricants such as lotions and moisturizers can cause tearing of the condoms.
2. Stretched vagina
The vagina feels softer, swollen, and wider after delivery. However, after a couple of days, the loose vagina starts to feel normal again with less feeling of openness.
How to manage widened vagina:
Do Pelvic floor exercises which are also known as Kegel exercises. They help to keep the pelvic floor muscles and vaginal muscles toned and taut. The exercise also gives the vagina its almost pre-birth size and shape and also makes it firmer. Kegel exercises can be done during pregnancy as they make it easier for the muscles to reform after delivery and also prevent tearing during childbirth. Another benefit of pelvic floor exercises is that they prevent urine leaking which is known as postpartum urinary incontinence. These exercises also help one experience more pleasurable sex. However, one should resume Kegels once the vagina is comfortable to avoid hurting.
These exercises are done by:
• Squeezing and drawing in your anus as you close up and bring the vagina upwards. You can imagine stopping urination, stopping a bowel movement, or holding a tampon. It is the same squeezing that applies in Kegels.
• Do it quickly by tightening the muscles and releasing them immediately.
• After this, do it slowly by holding the contractions for about 10 seconds or less.
• Repeat these contractions ten times for four to six times daily for better results.
Kegels can be done when sited or standing up and can be incorporated any time when doing other activities like queuing in stores, washing, or breastfeeding.
3. Pain During Sex
Sex can be painful after delivery if the vagina is dry or there is discomfort around the perineum. Therefore, it is advisable to allow the full recovery of vagina and perineum before going back to sex. In cases of extreme or prolonged pain during sex it is important to visit a physician.
The vaginal and perineum area can feel discomfort, pain, numbness or sore after childbirth. It may even appear bruised. However, it improves with time. It may take six weeks while others may take up to 12 weeks to completely heal. The soreness in the perineum occurs if the skin was torn or stitched.
How to manage soreness:
Over the counter drugs can help reduce the pain, but expert advice should be sought if a mother is breastfeeding. Visit a pharmacist or GP if the pain is persistent.
Keep the area around the perineum clean to prevent further irritation or infections. It also prevents the area from smelling. When cleaning the area try sitting on a basin with warm salty water as it speeds up the healing process.
5. Vaginal Discharge and Bleeding
Vaginal discharge and bleeding may last for two to four weeks after delivery. It is advisable to use pads and avoid tampons during this period.