Here's Why Your Vagina Might Still Be Sore, Even If You Have A C-Section
As if you needed another thing to worry about postpartum.
There are many things to recover from after childbirth, regardless of whether you have a C-section or deliver vaginally. With either method of delivery, you will have a set of recovery rules and accompanying pains that will definitely require some patience and care so that you heal correctly and get back to feeling 100%. When it comes to caesarean delivery, you can expect your abdomen and incision to cause some postpartum hurt — but you might be surprised to know that you can also have some vaginal pain after a C-section.
At first thought, it might not seem obvious that a C-section could cause pain down there — after all, the baby is surgically removed from the parent’s abdomen. But it turns out, it’s not uncommon for some people who have C-sections to have vaginal pain, depending on the circumstances of their delivery. While not everyone will walk away with soreness, it is certainly possible and not anything unordinary.
There are a few different factors that could come into play during a C-section delivery and result in vaginal pain. Romper talked to two experts to help understand what might cause vaginal pain after C-sections, as well as what the healing process will look like.
Reasons For Vaginal Pain After C-Section
When it comes to C-sections and vaginal pain, no one’s experience is going to be the same, and the specifics around the delivery will determine whether or not your vagina might hurt after the operation — for instance, it depends whether you had a scheduled C-section versus an emergency one.
“If you have gone through the process of induction ... you're going to have more pain and sensitivity on the inside of the vagina, and that's because your baby has already worked its way down, or you've had your cervix checked a couple times while in labor,” OB-GYN and women’s health educator Dr. Ali Rodriguez, M.D., explains to Romper. “So, it wouldn't be unusual to have some sort of vaginal pain with those patients, especially if you made it [to] eight centimeters [of dilation] and you had to have an emergency C section for XYZ reason.”
Even if a baby isn’t delivered through the vagina during birth, patients who had been laboring prior to a C-section will likely have post-operative vaginal pain. “This is because during labor, with each labor contraction, the baby's head is thrust upon both the cervix and the vagina,” Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., OB-GYN and assistant professor at Rosalind Franklin University, tells Romper. “Now, consider that during labor, the uterus can generate a force that is up to 100 Gs or 100 times that of gravity. So, if a seven or eight-pound baby is being thrust upon the cervix and the vagina every two to three minutes with uterine contractions for an extended period of time, that is the equivalent to 700 or 800 pounds of weight being pressed upon the cervix and the vagina.”
It also depends on how long a patient was in labor prior to a C-section, Abdur-Rahman explains. For instance, if you were laboring for 10 hours straight and feeling all that weight applied to your cervix, you’re going to experience more vaginal pain than someone who only labored for two hours before c-section surgery.
What The Healing Process Looks Like
Vaginal, incision, and pelvic pain after a C-section will likely stick around for the first two to six weeks after the operation, but the pain is the most intense during the first two or three days, according to Abdur-Rahman. “While some degree of post-op pain may be present for as long as six weeks, most people should notice that their pain is getting better and better each day," he says. He notes that if your pain doesn't start getting better after a few days, or if your pain gets worse over time, it could be evidence of a complication like a uterine or wound infection.
If a patient had labored prior to a C-section delivery, Rodriguez says that at that point she would counsel them similarly to someone who had a vaginal birth. “So typically, that's four to six weeks of pelvic rest, meaning they should avoid using tampons, douches, or anything really inside of the vagina in order to give [the] vagina time to heal,” she says, “Not everyone's going to have that pain for four to six weeks, but that is typically [the case] after vaginal delivery.”
Outside of following your doctor’s instructions to care for your incision wounds, Rodriguez also recommends some at-home methods for vaginal care. These include using witch hazel, ice packs, and wearing postpartum underwear that will be more comfortable as you recover from childbirth.
Though your body will still be healing, you may find yourself able to move around comfortably and pick up your baby not too long after the surgery. “Most moms are up and about and walking the halls the day following their C-section, and are also able to pick up and hold their babies within two days of their C-section,” Abdur-Rahman says. “In terms of moving around comfortably, most moms are able to get around with little more than mild discomfort within two weeks of their C-section." And by the time six weeks has passed, the tissues that were cut during your C-section will have largely healed and regained around 90% of their pre-surgical strength.
Ultimately, the experts recommend listening to your body and monitoring your pain levels, as well as your personal needs. “It can definitely be very isolating, especially caring for a newborn on top of caring for yourself,” Rodriguez says. “So, just remember that you're not alone and that it's OK to ask for help and take a minute to [be] alone and really care for yourself.” If you have questions and concerns or aren’t beginning to feel better after a couple of days, definitely reach out to your doctor.
Dr. Ali Rodriguez, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health educator
Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., OB-GYN and assistant professor at Rosalind Franklin University
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