I have always been super "in touch" with my reproductive anatomy. Maybe it was due to reading Our Bodies, Ourselves as a teen, being a peer counselor in high school, or working for a reproductive health provider for much of my 20s and 30s, but I have always been comfortable talking about vaginas, vulvas, clitorises, and occasionally grabbing a mirror to check mine out. That is, until I gave birth. There are things you can't un-see, you guys, and what your vagina looks like after giving birth is one of them.
Now, I am quite aware that my external reproductive anatomy is called my vulva, and not my vagina. However, following childbirth, I am sad to say I could see both. My labia was torn, there was a large, gaping hole, stitches on my perineum, an insane amount of bruising, and so much blood. I honestly wish my midwife had warned me not to look. I learned the hard way that when it comes to your postpartum vagina and all that it entails, some things are better left to your imagination.
You would think I would have learned my lesson after the first time, but nope. I looked at my under bits after my second child was born, too. I didn't have any stitches that time, so I though it would be better. Sadly, it was bad in different ways. My labia was dry and cracked and one side was longer than the other. I worried that it would never get back to normal, and that I would never enjoy sex again. Fortunately for me (and the rest of us postpartum women, by the way) vaginas are amazing, and I don't have any complaints in that department.
So, in case you are wondering (but don't want to look yourself) and want to know what to expect, here's a preview of what you might look like downstairs after birth. My advice is to do yourself a favor and resist the urge to look.
A Bloody Mess
There was so much blood, you guys. I bled for weeks, continuing to wear the mesh panties I had stolen from the hospital and incontinence pads to catch the heavy flow that was my postpartum bleeding. No one warned me that pads can stick to stitches, either. Ouch. I discovered that if you rinse, and then apply some Vaseline or Aquaphor to your labia and perineum each time you change your pad, your body will thank you.
A Horror Show
My vulva looked like a stranger looking back at me from the handheld mirror. A stranger who had been in a horrible accident and now was covered in blood, stitches, swelling, and tears. My poor vagina. I'm so sorry.
A Gaping Hole
My vagina went from being a narrow ravine to a giant cave immediately after birth. It was huge and scary. I avoided looking too deeply into the abyss.
Dry, Cracked Skin
Even if you don't have stitches, your vagina might still be sore, bruised, or, in my case, dry and cracked after birth. Yikes. It should be back to normal in a few weeks and after it has a chance to heal and your hormones start to regulate. In the meantime, though, I suggest you use a peri-bottle with warm water to prevent stinging when you pee.
Yeah, so it looked like raw meat — dark, purplish-red, bloody, and bumpy. It was so much darker than normal, and I had freaking varicose veins on my labia. Pregnancy is magical, they said. Uh huh.
An Open Wound
During my first vaginal delivery, I actually watched my child enter the world with the help of a giant, full-length mirror. It helped me push to see her beautiful, tiny head covered in hair crown. My vagina, however, was not so beautiful. Right after vaginal delivery, I asked them to put the mirror away. It looked like an open wound: red, swollen, and bloody.
Yeah, one side of my labia was much longer than the other. I mean, logically it made sense, but no one told me that might happen. I was pretty unprepared for my basement curtains to be uneven.
I Have No Idea
So, the last time I gave birth my son got stuck with his hand by his face and facing the wrong way. Fortunately I didn't feel any of that, thanks to my magical epidural. The doctors finally got him to turn around, and I was able to deliver vaginally. From the way it felt, though, I knew I didn't want to know how it looked at the time. So, I didn't look. I waited to visually check it out a few months after delivery. Can I just say that ignorance is bliss? By then, it was pretty much back to normal. I 10/10 would recommend.
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