Breastfeeding changes and transforms your body in so many ways, both inside and out. There are the obvious changes that you can see, like the appearance of your boobs. There are the mind boggling emotional changes, like wondering why you love a crying, pooping human so much. It's safe to say that nursing an infant has a profound impact on a woman's health in almost every way, but what about down there? Does breastfeeding affect your vaginal health too? Of course it does, because what doesn't change when breastfeeding?
Hormones have a lot to do with the vaginal changes occurring while breastfeeding. Very Well noted that the act of breastfeeding stimulates the release of two major hormones: oxytocin and prolactin. Additionally, breastfeeding suppresses the production of the hormone estrogen, as explained on the Healthy Women website. The impact of these simultaneous fluctuations in hormones has a huge impact overall on a woman's health, including her vaginal health.
The important thing to remember is that none of these changes are typically a reason for serious concern. Many women experience them, and shouldn't be overly alarmed by them. It's just good to take note and understand that while these changes may be embarrassing or pose a slight inconvenience, they're not harmful and not forever. Here are five ways breastfeeding could affect your vaginal health.
1. You May Experience Dryness
According to Everyday Health, the most common causes of vaginal dryness include childbirth and breastfeeding. This is due to the fact that breastfeeding causes the production of prolactin to go up, while simultaneously suppressing estrogen, which is responsible for creating lubrication. A dry vagina may make penetrating sex painful, so it's wise to ease into it.
2. You May Notice Discharge
There are actually several reasons for discharge in the postpartum period or during breastfeeding. The most common one is lochia, which is the bloody discharge you get after delivery that can occur while you are breastfeeding, according to What To Expect.
The other type of discharge more directly related to breastfeeding is a brownish or pink discharge, which may actually be your period, according to Parents. Your period is probably going to be very erratic after child birth and during breastfeeding, and may look a little different than it used to - hence tinged discharge. Before your period makes it's full, recognizable comeback, you may go through months of pink or brown hued discharge.
You may also experience a clear, milky, white discharge while breastfeeding. That type of discharge is most likely ovulation as explained in the aforementioned article. Even if you're exclusively breastfeeding, ovulation and therefore, pregnancy are still possible. If you don't want to get pregnant during this time, it's advised that you look into birth control options.
3. You Might Notice A Different Odor
Many women anecdotally report that their vagina smells differently postpartum and during breastfeeding, than it did pre-pregnancy. While there are no scientific reasons for this, there are some medical guesses as to what is in play when your vagina smells off during breastfeeding.
According to Berkeley Wellness, hormonal changes can cause your vaginal secretions to smell differently. Specifically, a reduction of estrogen causes vaginal tissues to be thinner and less acidic, resulting in a smellier vagina. The site also explained if the discharge smells particularly foul, it may be time for an exam to check for infection.
4. You Might Feel Like Your Vagina Itches (A Lot)
A Sahara vagina is an itchy vagina. Again, thanks to the tanking of estrogen while breastfeeding you may be super dry down there. According to Medline Plus, many women experience itchy vaginas when breastfeeding due to lack of estrogen, means lack of lubrication. As advised on the same site, if you notice burning and pain with the itchiness, it may be time to see a doctor as these could be signs of an infection.
5. You May Be More Prone To Infection
At any given time, your vagina sports all types of healthy bacteria and yeast, which is a good thing. When your body goes through changes, like pregnancy and breastfeeding, the healthy balance in your vagina can become disturbed, according to Everyday Health. This imbalance is what causes a breastfeeding woman's vagina to be more susceptible to infection.
If you notice any discharge accompanied by itching and foul odor, it may be a good idea to call your doctor.
In many ways, your vaginal health is a mirror of your overall health. Child birth and breastfeeding are big changes for your body, and are bound to impact certain areas, like your vagina. It's generally nothing to be worried about, and all of the issues you're experiencing will most likely resolve as soon as you finish breastfeeding. And if you are concerned, don't hesitate to call your doctor ASAP.