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Congratulations! Bringing new life into the world is a miraculous journey, but it is also a transformative experience for a woman’s body. Amidst the joy and wonder of new motherhood, it’s crucial to pay special attention to postpartum recovery, particularly the care of your vagina and vulva.
Read on to learn how to take care of your vagina after giving birth.
Embrace recovery with gentle care
After childbirth, your body needs gentle, attentive care. The vagina and vulva, having undergone significant changes during pregnancy and delivery, needs care for optimal healing.
1. Keep your perineum clean
Good hygiene practices are essential for preventing infection and promoting healing after childbirth.
Gentle cleansing: Use warm water to clean your genital area. Avoid harsh soaps or scented products that might disrupt the delicate pH balance.
Pat dry: After cleansing, gently pat the area dry. Avoid rubbing or using rough towels to prevent irritation.
Change pads frequently: Use sanitary pads or maternity pads that provide sufficient coverage and absorbency, and change them frequently to keep the area clean and dry.
2. Manage pain
Use the shower to pass urine: This allows warm water to wash over your genital area while peeing and means you don’t need to wipe with paper that can feel harsh initially.
Soothing baths: Consider taking sitz baths with warm water to ease discomfort and promote healing. Adding Epsom salts may also offer relief. Lavender oil also has healing properties and the scent is relaxing.
Cold compresses: Applying ice packs wrapped in a cloth to the perineal area can help reduce swelling and discomfort if you have bruising and tenderness.
Pain relief: If you have had a significant tear or stitches you may find it more comfortable if you use simple pain relief such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Reduce pressure: You can reduce the pressure on your perineum by using a doughnut pillow/cushion when you are sitting.
3. Stay comfortable
Loose clothing: Opt for loose, breathable underwear such as cotton and bamboo. Also wearing looser clothing to allow adequate airflow, minimizing pressure and irritation of the perineum
Avoid straining: To aid healing, avoid heavy lifting or any activities that strain the pelvic floor.
Keep bowel motions soft: Eat adequate fruit and vegetables daily to keep your bowel motions soft and regular. Kiwifruit (with skin on) and prunes can be particularly useful. If you are experiencing constipation, speak to your healthcare provider about safe stool softeners or supplements. Straining during bowel movements can cause discomfort, open wounds, and delayed healing.
4. Pelvic floor exercises
During pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles undergo a lot of pressure and stretching, leading to weakening and loss of muscle tone. Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen these muscles, relieve pain, and promote faster recovery.
Start these exercises as soon as you feel comfortable after childbirth.
Kegels: These are simple pelvic floor exercises that involve contracting and relaxing the muscles used to stop the flow of urine or a bowel motion. Aim for 10 repetitions, three times a day. Once you can contract and relax, try holding a contraction for up to 5 seconds.
Perineal massage: Massaging the perineal area with oils can also help increase blood flow and promote healing. Ask your healthcare provider for guidance on how to properly perform perineal massage.
Pelvic physiotherapist: If you have had tears in the vagina or perineum or have concerns about your pelvic floor recovery, a specialist pelvic physiotherapist can assess your pelvic floor health and give you a personalized pelvic floor rehab plan.
5. Sex after giving birth
It’s normal to feel apprehensive about resuming sexual activity for a few weeks after giving birth. Many women wait till 6 weeks postpartum and for many others it may be months before you even have the energy and sleep adequately to think about sex.
However, when you feel physically and emotionally ready, sex can be a positive experience that brings couples closer together and can provide you with pleasure. Here are some things to think about when reigniting your sexual relationship.
Take it slow: Start with gentle foreplay and don’t rush into intercourse. Allow your body time to respond without expectations.
Use lubrication: Breastfeeding can cause vaginal dryness, so using a water-based lubricant can make sex more comfortable. Avoid oil-based products that may disrupt the natural pH balance and increase the risk of infection.
Communicate with your partner: Open communication is essential in resuming sexual activity after childbirth. Discuss any concerns or discomfort you may be experiencing and find ways to work through them together.
Get creative: Be open to trying new ways of connecting. Exploring sexual fantasy, foreplay, and different positions that may be more comfortable for you after giving birth. Remember, every woman’s body is different, so find what works for you. Again, this can take time to find out what your body likes and responds to. Be gentle with yourself.
Addressing concerns and seeking help
Monitor healing closely after the birth. Postpartum bleeding (light bleeding after birth, called lochia), is normal. It generally starts periods-like in quantity. The flow is usually red and gets lighter in amount and darker in color over time. You should contact your healthcare provider if bleeding becomes excessive or has a foul odor.
If you had a perineal tear or an episiotomy (to enlarge the vaginal opening), monitor it closely for signs of infection, like increasing pain, redness, or discharge.
If you have abnormal vaginal discharge, i.e. is significant in quantity or has a foul smell you should see your medical practitioner as you could have a vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or uterine infection such as endometritis.
Essentials When Taking Care Of Your Vagina After Giving Birth
Recovering from childbirth is a gradual process, and it’s essential to take care of yourself physically and emotionally during this time. Rest, stay comfortable, do your pelvic floor exercises, and communicate with your healthcare provider about any concerns or discomfort.
Remember to give yourself time and be gentle with your body. And most importantly, enjoy this precious time bonding with your baby and adjusting to motherhood. So take care of yourself! Happy healing!
Dr. Deborah Brunt is a dedicated GP with a deep passion for women’s health. As the clinical director at Ōtepoti Integrative Health in New Zealand, she combines her personal and professional experiences to offer valuable insights. Dr. Brunt is also known for sharing expert hormone and menopause health tips at the Meno Thrive Hub, where she empowers women with essential knowledge and support.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace advice from a healthcare professional. If you have any concerns or questions about your postpartum recovery, please consult your health care provider for personalized care.
How to take care of your vagina after giving birth FAQ’s
How long does it take to heal after vaginal birth?
The healing process after a vaginal delivery typically varies from woman to woman. However, it’s common for the initial recovery period to last about six weeks. During this time, the vaginal soreness, swelling, and any vaginal tears begin to heal. Women may experience vaginal bleeding, similar to a menstrual period, for a few days to several weeks after childbirth. This bleeding, initially bright red, gradually changes to a darker color and decreases in amount. It’s important for new mothers to monitor vaginal care throughout their recovery and consult their OB-GYN if they experience any concerning symptoms.
How can a woman take care of herself after giving birth?
Postpartum care is crucial for a woman’s recovery after giving birth. Key aspects include:
Hygiene: Using a peri bottle with warm water to clean the vaginal area, especially after using the toilet, helps maintain hygiene and reduces the risk of infection. Changing sanitary pads regularly and using witch hazel pads or an ice pack can help with swelling and pain.
Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers, numbing sprays, and stool softeners can help manage pain and discomfort. For hemorrhoids, using hemorrhoid cream and taking warm sitz baths can be beneficial.
Physical recovery: Kegel exercises strengthen pelvic muscles and aid in recovery. A warm bath can also help relax muscles and reduce soreness. Explore the 555 Postpartum Rule to promote, rest, recovery, and bonding with your new baby.
Mental health: Postpartum depression is a serious concern, and it’s important to monitor mental health. Seeking support from healthcare providers, support groups, or a mental health professional can be crucial.
How can I tighten down there after giving birth?
Kegel exercises are effective in strengthening pelvic floor muscles after childbirth. These exercises involve repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, and bowels. Doing Kegels several times a day can help tighten the pelvic muscles over time. It’s recommended to start gently and gradually increase the intensity of these exercises.
How long do you need to wear a sanitary pad after birth?
After giving birth, women generally need to use maxi pads for vaginal bleeding, known as lochia. This bleeding can last for several weeks, with the first week typically having the heaviest flow. The exact duration varies, but it’s common to use pads for about 4 to 6 weeks. During this time, the bleeding will usually transition from bright red blood to a lighter, dark red, or brownish discharge. Women are advised to use clean pads and avoid tampons during this period to reduce the risk of infection.