Does Your Clitoris Change After Pregnancy? An Expert Explains How Childbirth Impacts It
Let's talk about how our bodies change after having a child. There's a lot happening — everywhere. Things feel different, your skin breaks out, changes color, gets dry, or even turns oily. We don't have to mention stretch marks (your pregnancy tiger stripes), and even our hair can change. But it's impossible to talk about bodily changes without talking about what happens to your genitals. Like, does your clitoris change after pregnancy? Because it sure took a beating if you shoved a baby out from beneath it.
Initially, your clitoris may be swollen and tender to the touch in the period immediately postpartum, according to Health. It is severely stretched and manipulated during the course of vaginal childbirth, and due to that injury, it becomes swollen and can cause discomfort and pain. Also, according to the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, any of the thousands of nerves in the clitoris can experience damage during childbirth which can cause pain and possible sexual dysfunction, be it temporary or otherwise.
Don't expect it to heal overnight. It might change in shape and pigment permanently, according to Parenting magazine, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will impair function at all.
According to the website of Overlake OB-GYN, the healing process can take a while. They reported that it might be a year or more before your genitals feel completely back to normal. Women who experience clitoral discomfort or pain in the postpartum period generally report that the pain continues about as long as they bleed postpartum, or around six weeks. Other women, like those with damage to the dorsal nerve of the clitoris or those women who had a particularly complex birth, might experience more pain, swelling, and dysfunction than women with simpler deliveries, according to Clinical Anatomy.
But don't panic. I spoke with Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS, one of the top experts in the world when it comes to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction and female healing. She tells Romper that it's not all as scary as it sounds. "Your clitoris does not change unless you sustain an injury during birth or some kind of tear. The tear would be on the labia or on the clitoris itself (it is rare but I have seen many patients tear this way) or nerve damage to the pudendal nerve. The most important thing for good postpartum clitoral health is to make sure the pelvic floor muscles are strong and that the clitoral hood moves freely. Otherwise, it can get bound down by adhesions."
Think of your clitoris for a minute. It's a nerve paradise, and when it hasn't been through the trauma of opening itself for the watermelon sized human you shoved out, it's pretty awesome. According to Psychology Today, women have about 8,000 nerves in a tightly compact space just above and around the entrance of the vagina. When that region tears, all those nerves and capillaries freak out, sending blood to the area, causing swelling that presses further on the clitoral nerves, causing discomfort in some women. Imagine what happens when you bite your tongue — another area on your body with tons of nerves. You get a sore almost before you finish biting it. It stands to reason your clitoris would perform similarly.
Orifices gotta orifice, y'all.
As for the hyper-pigmentation you might notice, that's a hormonal and scarring issue, according to Health. Those tiny tears that might happen from the abrasive aspects of childbirth, along with the influx of hormones that change pigments of skin all over your body, are also responsible for the changes in your clitoris postpartum.
As for the clitoral pain some women experience, according to the Institute for Women in Pain, this discomfort brought on by the trauma of childbirth should be addressed because it can be treated if you find that it persists.
As with everything related to childbirth, if you have any concerns, or if something just doesn't look right or feel right to you, that's something notable. This is why you shouldn't neglect any of your postpartum doctor's visits, even if you're exhausted. You and your doctor can discuss all of this, whether it's to determine treatment or to relieve your fears. Either way, it's better to know.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.