Long before your bump started to show, people likely chimed in with their unsolicited but well-intentioned advice on childbirth. In between the overshared opinions and urban legend level horror stories, it can be hard to figure out what you can truly expect to happen during delivery and recovery. If you plan on — or are just curious about — having a cesarean section, don't buy into the hype that this won't affect your vagina. I must have been told a million times how I was "lucky" to avoid a vaginal delivery. So what happens to your vagina after a C-section? As it turns out, quite a few different changes happen downstairs, no matter how your baby comes out.
Fortunately, as is the case with most of the changes that happen to your body during pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery, these things are all temporary. So even the most uncomfortable or inconvenient aspect of how a C-section can affect your vagina — from swelling to bleeding — won't last long. Of course, if there are any sudden or painful symptoms after childbirth that don't seem to improve or are interfering with your ability to function on a daily basis, then please don't hesitate to reach out to a medical professional. In the meantime, however, you can check out all the unexpected things that happen to your vagina after having your child via a C-section.
1. Increased Tenderness
Your uterus is about the size of a watermelon during your third trimester, as the official website for the American Pregnancy Association (APA) noted. To get back to its original size (an average, non-pregnant uterus is about the size of an orange), you may feel some cramping as your uterus gets back to its old self. These contractions, or "after-pains," can cause your vagina to feel particularly tender, sensitive, or even slightly painful, as the Mayo Clinic reported. Again, this is both normal and temporary. However, if you develop a fever, call your doctor because it could be an early sign of infection, not just uterine contractions.
1. Excess Bleeding
"Even though you didn't deliver your baby vaginally, you’ll still have vaginal bleeding as your uterus contracts back to normal size," Chaunie Brusie, a registered nurse in labor and delivery, told HealthLine. I remember being utterly shocked by the amount of blood that came out of my vagina after having my son. On a scale of one to the elevator scene from The Shining, it rated somewhere around Carrie. But it makes sense. All that blood has to go somewhere and your vagina makes for a very convenient outlet. That's why most hospitals will send you home with some very fashionable mesh underwear and enormous pads.
3. Possible Stretching
Many folks have the misconception that a C-section and vaginal delivery have nothing in common. But some women end up pushing for a good amount of time before the doctor deems that it's time to go into surgery. "If you push before the C-section — the baby puts a lot of pressure on your perineum, cervix and entire vaginal area — you may experience some vaginal stretching and discomfort post-delivery," according to What To Expect. So even though the stretching is minimal compared to a vaginal delivery, a loosened pelvic floor can still occur during a cesarean section.
"Women who have C-sections are also likely to find themselves swollen, thanks to the IV fluids they received," Dr. Kristina Sole, Associate OB-GYN at the Cleveland Clinic, told Parents. "Labor also pushes to your face and extremities any extra fluids that you've been carrying." Even if you didn't do any serious pushing before your C-section, the weight of carrying your baby for nine months plus the pressure your medical team applies while delivering your baby via C-section can all contribute to a redistribution of excess fluids. The swelling in your vagina (and potentially your vulva as well) is only temporary.
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