This is what REALLY happens to your vagina when you give birth
Robbie Williams once infamously compared being down the business end of his wife giving birth to "watching his favourite pub burn down." Male viewpoint aside, many expectant mamas do worry about how their lady-bits will be after their baby is born.
So, how will your poor old vajayjay be after childbirth? What changes can you expect? Will everything go back as it was before? And what about the oft unspoken about issue of vaginal tearing?
Many of us were left traumatised by the classic 90s movie Look Who's Talking when Kirstie Alley's character Mollie uttered the infamous words, "why don't you try squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon and see how hot YOU look?" Hmm, indeed. But, here's some food for thought. Literally...
The average water melon is about 8 inches in diameter and 62.8cm in circumference. The average lemon is about 3 inches in diameter and 23.75cm inches in circumference. Your vagina is 10cm in diameter and 31.4cm in circumference when completely dilated. The average size of a baby's head is 4.5 inches in diameter and 35cm in circumference. Keeping up? Now if Train A leaves the station at 10.02... No, seriously the point here is that your body is made to stretch and deliver babies. The pelvic floor muscles loosen to make room for the baby's safe passage and your vagina is in no way, shape, or form comparable to a citrus fruit. Nor is your baby comparable to a watermelon for that matter.
As unlikely as it may sound, the female body adapts perfectly in order to deliver a baby and has done so for as long as humans have been around. Yes, terrifying stories of episiotomies (that little cut to help the baby's head come out easier) abound and many mums enjoy sharing the fact that they could not sit properly for months... But, unless you have a caesarean, the vagina is the only exit available, so forewarned is forearmed.
According to Dr Sohier Elneil, a leading consultant in urogynaecology, you can expect a certain amount of changes,
"The vagina can feel looser, softer and more 'open'. It may also look and feel bruised or swollen. This is normal, and the swelling and openness should start to reduce a few days after your baby is born.
Your vagina will probably not return completely to its pre-birth shape, but this shouldn't be a problem. We always recommend pelvic floor exercises - sometimes called Kegel exercises - to help tone the vaginal muscles and your pelvic floor muscles and prevent incontinence."
Dr Elneil also advises that it's normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth. This is linked to the lower levels of oestrogen in your body compared with when you were pregnant,
"The vaginal area can feel painful or sore in the immediate period after childbirth. This usually improves within 6 to 12 weeks after the birth.
Once you stop breastfeeding and your periods have returned, the levels of oestrogen revert to pre-pregnancy levels. If you've noticed dryness, it should improve."
First-time mamas have a high chance of experiencing some form of tearing during delivery, and Dr Elneil says you can expect to feel sore after birth, especially if your skin tore or you needed stitches to repair a natural tear or episiotomy,
"Painkillers can help, but talk to your midwife, GP or pharmacist before you buy any over-the-counter painkillers if you're breastfeeding.
It's important to keep the perineal area clean, so always wash your hands before and after changing your sanitary pads, and make sure you change them as soon as you need to. Have a bath or shower every day to keep your perineum clean.
Depending on the size of the wound, you might have a scar when the tear or cut is healed. If you're at all worried about how your stitches are healing, talk to your nurse or doctor - this is especially important if you have a lot of pain or discomfort, or you notice a smell."
So, to save yourself from a future of peeing yourself every time you laugh or sneeze, start your Kegel exercises early - and by early we mean during pregnancy. The most effective way is to contract the muscles of the pelvic floor as if you are trying to hold the flow of pee.
And remember, if life gives you lemons...
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