Postpartum

Take a pause when you’re in pain
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Postpartum Vaginal Spasms Sound Horrific, But Here’s What They Are

Spoiler: they’re no fun.

Let’s face it, your vagina and whole undercarriage goes through some things after giving birth. Anyone who’s delivered vaginally will gladly talk your ear off for hours about Tucks pads and disposable underwear, but for some, things just hit a bit different. For some of us, the healing process can feel just as traumatic as the birth. We are struck with painful, gripping perineal and vaginal spasms that rocket through our downtown with the power of a freight train. This is not the blissed-out, baby-is-finally-out-of-me, gentle healing we expected. I mean, yeah, we knew there’d be pain, and lots of it, but what causes these postpartum vaginal spasms?

What Causes Postpartum Vaginal Spasms?

I wanted to get the details for all of my fellow spasm-stricken cohorts, so I spoke with experts to find out what they are, and what to do about them. Felice Gersh, M.D. OB-GYN, founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group tells Romper that it’s actually pretty common. (So why did no one warn us?) She says that “During a vaginal delivery, the perineum and the vaginal canal undergo a significant amount of trauma as the baby descends and exits the mom’s body.” Because of that, “those tissues have to go through a period of recovery” as you heal after birth. She notes that “During that time, some women may experience various sensations, some of which may be perceived as spasms.”

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What Do Postpartum Vaginal Spasms Feel Like?

Spasms feel terrifying. They feel like something is going wrong, like you’re not actually healing properly, but apparently, that simply isn’t the case. Pelvic floor therapist Dr. Tara Salay adds that perineal spasms are “more common if a woman suffers a tear during delivery or has an episiotomy because scar tissue then forms here.” (As someone who suffered a nearly fourth-degree tear, this tracks for me.) It is literally the feeling of your body knitting itself together millimeter by painful millimeter. Some of us just feel it differently, and perhaps more keenly than others. Maybe, like me, your baby was a complex presentation, or a quick delivery. The birth canal stretches over the hours of labor, and if your baby decides they’re coming right this minute, there’s going to be more trauma. More trauma means more that’s required to heal, and that means that you’re going to get more of those healing sensations. It sucks, but there it is. It’s natural and normal, but it’s a real pain in the vag.

How Can You Treat Postpartum Vaginal Spasms?

But thank the sweet gods of postpartum care that there are ways to get relief from the dogged cramping of postpartum vaginal spasms. Dr. Gersh suggests that “applying warm compresses and taking warm site baths can help the discomfort and accelerate the healing processes,” thus making them go away more quickly. And Dr. Salay says that if you’re struggling, pelvic floor therapy can really help you ease the pain and tension. And as with everything postpartum, there’s always that sweet, sweet ibuprofen that was banished from you while you were pregnant. However, both of the experts insist that if your pain is super severe, or it just won’t quit, call your OB-GYN and get evaluated to make sure that healing is all that you are feeling, and there are no other potential complications.

Experts:

Felice Gersh, M.D. OB-GYN, founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group

Dr. Tara Salay, Pelvic Floor Therapist