In a previous blog, we shared what to expect after a vaginal delivery, regarding pain and healing. However, it is not uncommon at all for women to now undergo c-sections – either emergency or scheduled. While the vaginal walls may not be fully stretched as they would a typical delivery, you can still expect some changes to your uterus post-baby.
If you don’t push beforehand, you shouldn’t expect any stretching of the vagina after birth. If, however, you were in labor and pushing before the call to move into a c-section, you may find that the pressure applied to the perineum, cervix and entire vaginal area caused stretching. This could result in some vaginal discomfort in addition to the abdominal pain you may feel from the surgery site as well. However, if the baby’s head never made its way through the vaginal opening, stretching should be minimal and discomfort or pressure will likely be limited to the surgical site.
Because the vagina has the elasticity to expand but also the capacity to retract, you’ll find that no matter how far you got into the process of a vaginal delivery (or not), that your vagina will return closely to its pre-labor state. Pelvic exercises can also help with this return.
Oftentimes, women who have c-sections are still encouraged to hold off on intercourse or penetration of any kind for 6-8 weeks because not only was the surgery major but your uterus is still healing from the pressure of baby and the excess blood still releasing. The cervix can still be susceptible to easy access and postpartum hemorrhaging is a possibility if made contact with. You may have a lot of swelling and bruising on the mound of the vagina between the incision site and your urethra or top of pelvic area. Be gentle with getting up and moving around.
You also may find that when urinating, you feel pressure in the vaginal area despite not having a vaginal delivery. Remember, your body and all of its hormones were still signaling for a regular delivery so your body may be responding as if it still believes a vaginal delivery took place.
The best way you can help your vagina rebound after birth is by doing pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises during pregnancy to keep the muscles in that area toned. You’ll also find that breastfeeding will contract the muscles within the uterus and this will also help return the body to a pre-pregnancy state.
Remember to consult with your OBGYN or medical professional to ensure that you are healing post c-section and that your incision site is staying clean and free of any infection-causing concerns. Be gentle with yourself. Though you did not have a vaginal delivery, you did have major surgery and birthing a baby is just that – you BIRTHED a baby.