It's a miracle — you birthed a baby, and didn't break your vagina (though when the Advil wears off, the lady herself might beg to differ). What does the future hold for the little organ that expanded so heroically, and so improbably, to permit your baby's entrance into the world? What about if you had a C-section? You're probably wondering what'll happen to your vagina your first week postpartum, from stitches to clots and everything in between.
When they discharge you from the hospital, they'll likely give you a user's manual for your new vagina, and it's important to follow instructions to the letter. (I know, I know. Shouldn't they have given you something like this at puberty, too?) No sex for six weeks, no tampons, and if you have stitches, dab, don't wipe, until they heal. Stitches heal in seven to 10 days, as noted in What to Expect, which also warned readers to expect some burning. (Remember the ring of fire? Stitches are the slowly-cooling embers.) Your manual may also suggest you try a stool softener, and best of luck with your new vagina.
Postpartum bleeding is heaviest the first 24 hours, according to Healthline, no matter what kind of birth you had. As for clots, they can range from several dime-sized clots to one, big huge tomato-sized monstrosity during the first day, which is easily the most brutal. Bleeding should slow and blood should darken — indicating that it's not coming from a fresh wound — within two to six days. And guess what? Once your first week is up, you won't be buying sanitary napkins in bulk anymore. Huzzah.
So, I'm not going to lie to you. The first week is intense. You'll be managing stress incontinence (peeing when you sneeze, cough, or laugh), according to Mayo Clinic, and using the bathroom like a normal person isn't going to be comfortable. Expect burning, stinging, and aching, and a little necessary constipation, too. In week one, you will be shocked — shocked — by just how much organic material you wind up shedding, but remember, it's all to the good.
You have to admit, it's impressive. The vagina truly is a wonder. Even in the first few days, discomfort will already begin to decrease as vaginal tissues heal and perineal bruising fades. Your vagina is elastic, snapping back like Lycra. Chances are, in a few weeks you won't notice a difference between pre and post-baby vagina — especially if this is your first — though the interior contours may well change. According to What To Expect, however, the change may be so subtle that only a trained doctor or midwife will notice the difference.
How much discomfort and pain you experience in the first week postpartum depends on exactly what happens in the delivery room. If you have stitches, that'll make things extra unpleasant. But honestly, stitches or none, the vagina goes through some trauma here, so it's normal to bleed, ache, and pass clots. It's also normal to call your doctor and complain — it's their job to listen and reassure you that nothing's seriously wrong.
However, if your bleeding is severe and showing no signs of stopping, if you feel nauseous or faint, experience blurred vision and racing heart, or if the area around the perineum and vagina swell painfully, skip the doctor and call 911 immediately. According to March of Dimes, these may be signs of postpartum hemorrhage, a rare but serious condition requiring emergency medical attention.