What Happens To Your Body After Giving Birth?
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Your body can feel and look different after giving birth to a baby.
When you give birth, things change very quickly. Someone new joins the family: a baby to love, care for, and nurture. It can be wonderful, disconcerting, amazing, and terrifying all at the same time. In addition to the biggest change (the whole new person who can't even hold their head up yet), you also have to think about and take care of yourself.
The changes in your body when you become a mother are internal and external, physical and mental. Your body won't look or feel the same as it did before you got pregnant, and that's okay! Your vagina may feel different, but it's a completely natural part of growing up and the experience of having children. There may be some new stretch marks for you to love and appreciate, and your breasts may move more, too. We'll learn more about how your entire V-Zone (the vagina, vulva, and the V-shaped front you can see) can change after giving birth, so you know what to expect after you've gone through this process.
So what happens to your V-Zone and vagina after birth?
It is natural for your V-Zone and especially your vagina to change after you have given birth. This is because for a baby to travel through the cervix and vagina (also known as the birth canal), the entrance to the vagina must stretch. The sides of the vagina also separate and widen, almost like opening an umbrella. Sometimes the piece of skin between the vaginal entrance and the anus (known as the perineum) may be torn or even cut by a doctor or midwife to allow the baby to come out, called an episiotomy. The thought of an episiotomy can be daunting, just remember that you will be asked for your consent, offered pain relief (usually local anesthesia to numb the area), and then stitches will be applied.
As many as 9 out of 10 new mothers who have a vaginal birth will experience some type of tearing, chafing, or episiotomy, so it is an extremely common occurrence that most women have experienced as part of childbirth. While the thought of tearing, cutting, and bruising can be scary, it can be helpful to talk to women around you who have given birth and have already been through it, to help comfort you. You can also talk about it at any pre-birth doctor's appointments to be sure of what might happen and how you will recover.
Your vagina may feel a little wider
After a baby passes through it, your vagina may look wider than before. It may also feel looser, softer, and more "open." It may look or feel bruised and swollen, but this should subside a few days after giving birth as you get used to being a mother.
Although your vagina probably won't go back to exactly the way it was before, this is natural and not something to worry about. Pelvic floor exercises can help you tighten the muscles surrounding the vagina in a very short time. You can do this in short bursts easily while doing other things, such as while standing in line at the grocery store, watching TV while your baby naps, or while driving or riding the bus. You can even start during pregnancy. Pelvic floor exercises are also a great way to help reduce the small drops of urine that many women experience after giving birth.
Your vagina may feel drier
After giving birth, estrogen levels in your body are lower, compared to when you were pregnant. This may be related to your vagina feeling drier than normal. If you choose to breastfeed, your estrogen levels may also be lower than if you choose not to breastfeed.
If you're struggling with dryness, especially if you start having sex again, using a gentle lubricant can do wonders to make sure you feel more comfortable. Of course, it may not be the first thing you want to do after having a baby, and a lower libido is completely normal! Talking to your partner about intimacy when it comes up can help you manage it together and approach sex in a way that makes you feel comfortable when you're ready to do it. If dryness continues to get in the way of things or if you feel pain, talk to a medical professional for advice.
Your vulva may be sore
Your vulva will have been through a lot, especially if your perineum needed stitches after a tear or episiotomy during childbirth. You will probably feel quite sore, but this usually improves within 6 to 12 weeks after delivery. Painkillers can help but always check with your midwife, doctor, or pharmacist if you are breastfeeding. Hang in there and it will get better every day and you will get over it eventually.
As you recover, it is important to keep the area clean as you deal with the discharge after delivery. You can do this by washing your hands before changing towels, changing them frequently, and taking a bath or shower regularly. After a while, everything should improve.
Practicing self-care as a new mom is very important, don't forget to take care of your physical and mental health. It can be good to ask for support from your partner or family so you can take some time for yourself, even when things seem crazy, put on some relaxing songs, light some candles and take a break in the bath.
What will your postpartum abdomen and body look like?
It's not just your V-Zone (the vagina, vulva and V-shaped front that you can see) that changes after giving birth. Your whole body has to go from having new life inside to nourishing it outside the body. Here are a couple of all-natural changes you may notice in the mirror:
Your abdomen after childbirth.
Your belly, which stretched as your baby grew inside it, might still be loose after your baby is born and bigger than it was before you got pregnant. It's only because your muscles and skin stretch.
While you may feel the pressure to "get back" your pre-baby body, it's absolutely normal to not have flat abs; you've been a little busy literally growing and caring for a human being, thank you very much! Eating well and getting some exercise when you can will keep you feeling good and strong, and your belly should gradually decrease in size. This isn't a race, so there's no need to compare yourself to other new moms or Instagram fitness influencers: go at your own pace and you'll get there when you're meant to.
Some stretch marks after pregnancy.
Stretch marks appear when the skin stretches and the middle layer of skin breaks down in places. They can be pink, red, brown, brown, black, silver or even purple, depending on your skin type, and appear on the abdomen, upper thighs and breasts. This happens to 8 out of 10 pregnant women, so you are not alone. Stretch marks can gradually fade to become paler and less noticeable over time. Think of stretch marks as beautiful reminders of how strong and valuable you are.
Your body is capable of so much: it can change, grow and repair itself to give you new life. It will look different and a little strange at first after you've given birth, but that's completely natural. Be proud of what your body has been through, take care of it by taking the time to check in with yourself, and don't neglect your health and well-being.
If you want more information on what can happen after childbirth, check out our articles on pregnancy.
Consult your physician: The medical information in this article is provided as an informational resource only and should not be used or relied upon for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Consult your physician for guidance on a specific medical condition.