The vagina is really pretty amazing. Consider the fact that during the time of delivery, a woman is essentially pushing out a baby roughly the size of a bowling ball. So you can only imagine what that can do to a woman’s vagina. No wonder any woman who has delivered a baby will question, “Will my vagina ever be the same again?”
The answer to this is basically maybe, maybe not. For many women the vagina can be the same again but there are a number of factors that have a role in determining how quickly and how much it will return back to its normal size. Every woman is different and what may be the reality for one woman will not be same for another.
The best thing to remember is that vaginas are made for childbirth and made to expand – this canal for helping to deliver a baby is a very elastic, muscular part of the female anatomy connecting the uterus to the outside world. As far as how much vaginal stretching you may experience depends on many variables which include:
· The size of the baby
· A woman’s genetics
· Whether a woman did pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy to tone those muscles in advance of childbirth
· The circumstances of the birth such as how long a woman has to push
· How many deliveries a woman has had previously – each progressive birth will likely stretch the vagina a tiny bit more
One thing that women need to keep in mind is that if you have a vaginal delivery, you will feel sore and uncomfortable immediately after delivery. Even if the perineum was left intact at the time of delivery and did not tear, the area has still been stretched and bruised. It is not unusual to feel mild to moderate vaginal discomfort up to three to five weeks afterwards. But with each passing day, the pain should get less.
Even if a woman does have some “looseness” in her vagina, this should not affect her sexual function or enjoyment of sexual intercourse. Because the vagina is a muscle, just like any muscle in the body, the best treatment for a weak muscle is to exercise it. For the vagina, this means Kegel exercises. Kegels are key to getting the pelvic muscles back into tiptop shape. They involve perineal tightening and help to restore the tone of the muscles that surround the opening of the urethra, vagina, and anus.
Doing Kegels includes the muscle that you use to stop and start the flow of urine – to help you identify the right muscle, test Kegels while urinating. If you can stop the flow of urine when tightening, then you know that you’re contracting the correct muscle.
Start doing Kegels a few at a time, several times a day. They can be done anywhere at any time and nobody would know you are doing them. As your muscles begin to feel stronger, gradually increase the number of Kegels you do each day and the length of time you hold each contraction. Besides improving vaginal tone, pelvic floor exercises also help prevent urinary incontinence later in life.
Before resuming any sexual activity, check with your doctor at your 6 week postpartum visit to confirm everything is okay and ready to go. Once you’re sexually active again, if there are any problems with pain or vaginal looseness, follow up with your doctor to find a safe and effective treatment.