Giving birth is scary for a lot of reasons. Obviously, you're about to become a parent, which is terrifying, but let's be honest — the state of your vagina is on your mind, too. But what if you have a C-section? Are you free from worry or does your vagina change after a C-section?
According to the National Vital Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, C-section births dropped for the third year in a row to 32 percent in the United States, while the low-risk C-section deliveries dropped to 25.7 percent. But some of those low-risk C-sections? They could have been elective. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted in 2013 that while the numbers weren't exactly known, it's estimated that 2.5 percent of all births in the United States are elective C-sections, meaning they are done by a mother's request and not for any medical need.
According to Dr. Seth Plancher, OB-GYN at Garden City OB-GYN in Garden City, New York, some of those requests might be motivated by a woman's vagina. "Lots of women choose a C-section over vaginal delivery in order to preserve vaginal integrity," Plancher says, and it makes sense. He notes that he's not aware of any vaginal changes after having a C-section, even if you were in active labor before surgery. "I do not think that labor prior to a C-section should have any effect on the vagina unless the mom was pushing for several hours and the head was very low," he says in an email interview with Romper.
So does that mean your vagina's free of any changes? Not exactly. According to Plancher, pregnancy can affect your vagina due to the increased blood flow. "Many women actually get large varicose veins, which are similar to hemorrhoids," he says. "These often go away after delivery, but not always. They seem to increase with age and number of pregnancies."
You'll also still experience some postpartum vaginal bleeding after a C-section. Plancher notes that bleeding after a C-section will most likely be the same or less than if you had a vaginal delivery. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this bleeding is called lochia and can change over time and increase if you're doing too much activity. It will change from pale pink or dark red to a light or yellow-tinted color. If your bleeding seems to ramp up, it's a sign that you might need to rest and put your feet up for a while. And despite the fact that you didn't have a vaginal delivery, tampons are still off limits and you should stick with menstrual pads.
So if your vagina changes after a C-section, it's most likely to do with pregnancy and not the actual birth of your baby. (Unless you were moments from pushing the baby out and had to be whisked away.) But with that incision, you won't get a chance to get a good look at your vagina for a few weeks anyway. Stock up on those pads, kick back your feet, and relax. Your vagina's fine, no matter what.