Will My Vagina Go Back To Normal After Giving Birth?

I am working on a series of posts covering embarrassing questions that women often have concerning pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  If you have a question you would like covered, I would love to hear it.  You can e-mail me at mamabirth09 (at) yahoo (dot) com.
Thank you~

Will my vagina go back to normal after giving birth?  This is a question that a lot of women have during pregnancy.  Every once in a while somebody gets up the nerve to ask it during one of my birth classes.  But even when nobody asks I think a lot of women WONDER what will change with their body "down there" after they have given birth.  Most are just too afraid or embarrassed to ask. 

I think there are a few ways to approach this topic and a few things to think and talk about.

First~ Our bodies are meant to and designed to stretch.  I know that the stretching required to birth a seven or eight or even ten pound baby sounds absolutely mind boggling when you have never done it before.   Probably at one time it hurt to just make love, and a baby is much bigger than that.  Nevertheless, you body is designed to birth.  The tissues in the vagina and surrounding areas fill with blood, they stretch and they move.

Then, surprisingly enough, they go back to their original shape.  Now a baby is pretty big, so it does take some TIME for your body to bounce back.  (And there are a lot of factors, which we will talk about later.)  Care providers often recommend that you not have intercourse for about six weeks after giving birth. 

No matter how wonderful your birth was, having a baby is a big deal and it is a big deal for your body.  It needs time to recover and return to normal.  If you were to look at your vaginal area in the first few days and weeks after giving birth it will probably look different than it did before you had a baby.  Healing takes TIME.  There are a lot of reasons to rest and recover after giving birth.  There are a lot of reasons to wait to make love after having a baby.  Letting the tissues heal and go back to normal is one of them.

Often by the six week mark the tissues in the perineum have healed, swelling has subsided, bleeding has stopped and if there was tearing or stitches, it has healed too. 

(Is anybody else just PRAYING that my dad isn't reading this post right about now, because I sure am.  Dad- stop reading!)

The best comment I have ever heard on this subject came from a reader on the blog.  She mentioned that it is strange how men never worry that their penis will be ruined after they have an erection, but women routinely worry that their lady parts will be permanently stretched out after having a baby. 

She is right.  A penis can get bigger and can shrink back down with no ill effects.  A vagina can stretch and move and then go back to normal too.  Your partner was designed to do that, and you are designed well too.  Sometimes, yes, your vagina will go back to a "new normal".  There are many factors at play here which should all be covered below.

~A second factor in in how your body and your vagina recover after giving birth is just how the birth goes.  Was giving birth traumatic?  Did you tear badly?  Did mom have an episiotomy? While it is rare to tear badly (probably only about 10% of women have a 3rd or 4th degree tear) it DOES happen.  Women who have bad tearing (a third or fourth degree tear that extends through muscle or into the sphincter) will probably take longer to heal.  Some women report that extensive tearing can cause them to have pain for about six months and some even report that things are never quite the same for them during intercourse.

Some women choose to not be stitched for tears after giving birth while some prefer it and feel that it will help the tissues heal more as they were. (Personally I always ask to be stitched, even if the tear is just skin.  Others disagree.  I think the tendency to avoid stitching things up can become a problem later in life.)

There are some things that women report help PREVENT deep tears though.  Some things that seem to help are:

~  Choosing a care provider who does not perform episiotomies routinely. 
~  Birth in a position of your choosing, using gravity or lying on your side rather than on your back or in stirrups.
~  Preparing your body for birth by squatting and strengthening your pelvic floor with kegels.
~  Birthing unmedicated or allowing the epidural to wear off for the end of labor so that you can push with control and can feel the ring of fire and "back off" during crowning.

While none of these things are a sure fire way to prevent vaginal damage, they do tend to help minimize the chance of a bad tear and thus a longer recovery.

~A third factor to consider is your relationship with your partner.  The truth is that in a loving relationship this shouldn't be a huge issue.  Pregnancy and birth will almost undoubtedly CHANGE your body in many ways.  Having a baby means that your body and your life and your soul will never be quite the same again.  Some women have stretch marks, others have scars, breast changes are typical, weight gain and weight loss, even loose skin are all signs that we have grown and given life. 

Hopefully a relationship in which a child has been born will be one of respect, love, giving, compassion and understanding.  Even men get stretch marks, lose their hair, get older, go gray, gain weight and CHANGE as they age and care for their families.  Having children helps us focus on some things that are more important than our appearance and our skin. 

~A fourth thing to talk about when considering the recovery of your body postpartum is exercise.  Many women report that doing kegels really helps their recovery and especially helps their vaginal area return to it's normal tightness after giving birth.  (I realize that kegels are going out of style in certain circles.  I think this is foolish, but feel free to ignore me.)  It does make sense that the act of birth requires recovery, even rehab for our bodies.  It also requires REST in the first few weeks after giving birth.

Getting up and doing, lifting, running, over-exerting ourselves too soon (before that six week mark) may seem like a good idea at the time, and may even be necessary.  But if you push your body too hard too soon after giving birth you will likely pay for it.  Give yourself a chance to rest and heal.

The short answer to the question, "Will my vagina go back to normal after having a baby?" is YES, it will.  The female body wasn't meant to be broken in two by the act of birth.  If this were the case our species would have been short lived and wouldn't have ever reached this point of population.  Obviously we work and are capable of giving birth numerous times.  Not only are women capable of giving birth- they are capable of satisfying their partners AFTER they have had a baby!

Yes, you will recover.  Yes, you will heal.  Yes, you will look the same again.  Giving birth doesn't ruin us or our bodies or our vaginas. 

(Please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, and tips below.  Unless you are a pervert who just Googles the word "vagina" for creepy reasons.  In that case, go away.)


Anonymous said…
I had a homebirth with a midwife- an excellent midwife, and it was the best birth it could have been under the circumstances. I had shoulder dystocia and the midwife had to do an episiotomy as the baby was totally black and time was running out. Fortunately, she cut skin and no muscle. I choose not to have it stitched, believing it would heal itself. Unfortunately, when the baby was 2 days old, everyone in the house came down with the flu and my help abandoned me. I had to get up, despite a harrowing birth, and care for a newborn and 2-year by myself. It healed open. I also lost my ability to experience an orgasm in my uterus as a result of that birth. Can anyone give me any insight into how I could improve my situation? He's 8 now and I haven't had any more children since then.

BTW, despite the shoulder dystocia and the scary few minutes, he turned out just fine. No broken bones, no damage that a trip to the chiro the next day didn't fix. The dystocia was caused by the cord around his neck multiple times, keeping him from rotating.
Unknown said…
Great post! Thanks for answering a question so many are even afraid to ask :)
Becca said…
My short answer: no.

My long answer: "normal" is a relative term. Sex after birth, cesarean or vaginal, takes time and patience. If you are in a loving relationship, it won't matter how your vagina is.
MelissaH said…
Even after 3 pregnancies I've never had to worry about my vagina returning to "normal". But my breast on the other hand...

I guess I have to get used to the new "normal". :-)
Unknown said…
I'm glad you're addressing this! Thank you!! I had a fantastic birth experience with a wonderful CNM. She did have to cut just a little bit and then I tore pretty substantially. I healed up just fine, but did some damage to an already existing hemorrhoid. Now my little man is 8 months old and I still am in pain from scar tissue. I am hoping it will eventually feel "normal" but right now I'm definitely not operating at 100%. SO worth it, though!
Mama Birth said…
A lot of women and care providers do not stitch a woman if the tear is not into muscle and leave it alone if it is only in the skin.
My PERSONAL (I am not a professional care provider) is that this is a mistake. I always ask to be stitched up even if it is a small tear. I believe that you can have it fixed but it would require surgery. You would need to talk to your health care provider. So sorry!
It is impossible to give an answer for everybody because the truth is that everybody is different- some are the same, some aren't. A good man will say it is better than ever. HA!
Katie said…
I recently heard about a uro-gynecologist who said she'd never have a vaginal birth because she knows what it does to "down there", and chose an elective Cesarean birth (several years ago). I was FLOORED! How could someone so knowledgeable about the female body be so distrustful of it?! Also, what messages was she sending to her patients?

I had a blessedly uncomplicated birth with my son 16 months ago, only "skid marks" and no tearing. I can't say everything is back to pre-pregnancy and pre-birth state, but I can't say it bothers me. The changes definitely don't interfere with my daily life, and they actually remind me about what amazing processes my body has gone through. Cheesy but true!
Darina said…
I really love that you're addressing this topic. But I've got to say I respectfully disagree. I don't think your vagina goes back to "normal" after a vaginal birth. I think it will always be a little more spacious - which is good for those of us who struggled with getting a tampon in pre baby. It won't stay baby sized... but it won't go pre baby tiny either. Just like the rest of your body, most women don't go "back" to how they were, there will always be changers, markers of pregnancy and birth - darker, larger nipples, perhaps stretch marks, a slightly stretched abdomen. I understand the fear that goes with being "changed", the desire to return to "normal". But normal is not just a pre pregnancy body. Maternal bodies, bodies that have given birth and shown the signs are normal too.
sara r. said…
It's a new normal, maybe. But I agree, personally. After 2 children I can't tell a difference and neither can my husband (I asked!). I had a small tear and one stitch with my first, and no tearing with my second.
I also think that diet can help to prevent tears- more healthy fats help the skin to be more stretchy.
melissa v. said…
My vagina wasn't more spacious. Even after my 10 pounder! Everyone is different, I guess, but I did go back to 'normal.' I have a scar there from my tear, but it causes me no trouble and SIZE wise, I'm pretty sure it went back to what it was before.
And sex is better. For us.
Good post.
Salixbabylonica said…
I know this post is old, but I stumbled across it a while back and have been thinking about your take on the subject. I'd like to respectfully suggest that childbirth educators change their approach to this topic. Instead of saying "Yes, you will go back to normal" and "sex will be better than before, eventually" I wish they would just say "Probably, Odds are Good, Maybe," because that is the truth. I know you want to reassure people, but I think it would be more helpful to acknowledge that the price of childbirth is higher for some people so that they can prepare themselves in advance.

We don't prepare people for natural childbirth by assuring them that everything will be fine and they won't have any problems getting the birth they want; instead, we're careful to armor them against disappointment by cautioning them to be confident but flexible and accepting in the face of problems.

Even with non-severe tearing, you may not go back to normal. I'm two years postpartum and things are not even remotely "normal" for me (my husband can't tell the difference). I had a large baby and a small episiotomy which tore (though not, according to the midwives, severely) with my homebirth, with post-birth transfer to NICU. Even though I insisted on being stitched up, some of the stitches tore out while I was "doing too much" - i.e. shuffling in agony down the halls of the hospital, between my son's hospital bed, the bathrooms, and the pumping rooms so that I could preserve our nursing relationship. I've been to several different providers who said essentially "Oh, well, sucks to be you" and told me that the episiotomy healed all the way back together, so even if I could afford it, there's no surgical option to help.

And yeah, I know I did it to myself; I wouldn't have caused permanent damage if I hadn't been walking around so much. But the way it is presented seems to be just blame - "Well, if you hadn't done too much, this wouldn't have happened to you." I just wish there was a way to say the hard truth that I caused my own condition while acknowledging that I really had no choice unless I wanted to abandon my son for weeks.
Anonymous said…
idk what normal really is but I had 2 kids and even tho I didnt gain much weight I have a lil extra skin from the stretching I had 4 degree cut and a 2nd degree cut :/ the scar is really small..
Im not gonna lie I hate my vagina Im saving to get a surgery even though some people thing is a bad idea but im 21 and I hate how it looks now:(
sister had all csections and down there she says it didnt change and she gain over 50lbs 3 times!
Kris said…
Things do change, to what degree depends on a number of factors - age, size of baby, degree of tearing / trauma, tissue makeup, etc. Women can have muscle and ligament damage to areas of the pelvic floor that cannot be seen after delivery and are often never diagnosed or repaired. This may be a minority of women, but it can and does happen. Support tissues between the bladder, vagina and rectum (that hold everything in place) may not 'heal' to their former strength once severly weakened or torn. All of these things can affect whether your vagina returns to 'normal' or not. A recent study of female ob-gyns asked how many would choose elective cesarean to protect the pelvic floor and more than 30% said they would. I suspect this is why the uro-gyn mentioned above chose c-section. They deal all day long with women who experience urinary and fecal incontinence and prolapsed organs after childbirth. It may not be the majority, but they are well aware of the possibility.....and its just not something one can predict. The best preventor is maintaining a strong healthy pelvic floor before and after pregnancy. Kegels should be a life long habit. I also believe perineal massage can greatly benefit a first time mom to minimize tearing. Dont be afraid to get in touch with your lady parts! I was pro-natural childbirth (and absolutely didnt want a c-section) - but at 3 months PP - wish i had. Lastly, trust that your body will heal to the best of its ability.
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MommaX said…
I think this blog is misleading. The best answer to the question will my vagina go back to normal isn't a definitive yes as the author seems to be so confident of. The answer is maybe. If you are lucky. If you're not you could end up with severe muscle damage and tearing that will not heal on it's own. I had a 10 lb. 3-1/2oz. baby. I have an injury from this birth that cannot be repaired by surgery. It would take a literal miracle from God for my vagina to ever be the same. Can my partner tell? Yes, very much so.
Pregger6 said…
I never had a single tear with any of my five births and always had an intact perineum. I pushed out a 9lb.5oz. boy, my biggest, without any tears. I think it is because I was adamant with all my care providers that I did not want an episiotomy, and also because I had midwife attended births and they helped support my perineum during delivery. Even after five babies, my vagina is pretty much the same. At least that is what my husband says.
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Unknown said…
Well maybe I have just been unlucky then. I had my baby 2 years ago and yes, my HUSBAND is very loving and supportive and does not care at all about the changes my body has gone through, but I however on the other hand, care a lot.

I have not enjoyed sex at all after giving birth. My vagina and labia and everything else has changed completely. I do and have always done Kegels, but I guess the price I paid for having my baby is losing an enjoyable sex life. I was really tight and had good muscles before birth and felt very prepared.

I am quite surprised that I seem to be the only one that has a less enjoyable sex life. I didn't think it was that rare to have negative lasting effects, but good for you ladies :)
Unknown said…
I have had a recent birth... two weeks ago. This was my third child. After having my first I tore substantially and received a lot of stitches. I also waited a very long time before having sex afterwards (8 months or more). When I finally did, I felt as though nothing had changed. I was actually more confident in my body. After my second child who was more than a pound larger and I had no tearing my vagina did look different. Was it looser? Not really but, It was not as pretty. I just had my third vaginal birth and was worried that my vagina would be even "uglier" (can they be ugly?) but, even though it has only been two weeks, I had a very quick delivery along with this baby being my smallest, I feel great. My vagina actually looks nicer than before, my stomach is thinner than before I got pregnant, and I had minimal breast changes in comparison to my first two. Every single pregnancy is different. Every single woman is different. I don't think I will chance having another one. Two weeks postpartum and loving my body more than before?? I NEVER would have thought that possible but, here I am! Good luck ladies, I am sure that you are all beautiful, remember you are your own worse critic!!!
Unknown said…
Hi! I have given birth two months ago the delivery was very very difficult- I stayed in travalium more than 20h with the water broken, the expulsion was horrible- was pushing for 2h and he could not get out, stucked between the bones, finally the doc used a vacuum to take him out, with no episiotomy done, so I was torn:( and she put several stiches. Unfortunately one of the stitch was broken after so that now I have one of the lips, broken:(
Sex was painful at the beginning ( after 6 weeks) but after was better than before, though I feel much larger than before. Can be because before I was very very tight and now I m large...in any case, I can say I m very depressed of this aspect, because I will never be the same again down there. And for some reason ( I don t know why) , the doctor didn t put any stitch at the entrance at the pussy so now I have a huge hole!! Did anyone experienced better sex after the delivery, though feeling larger and less tonic in the muscles?
Unknown said…
I'm am sorry I am 39 weeks pregnant and I thought this blog was really positive but some of you women who have given birth already are extremely negative!!!!!! I know you are telling us how it really is but please try and be positive to believe that the body can return back to normal it may take months or even years but I believe all things are possible you just have to speak positively and look after yourself as much as possible especially after birth. Please don't send negative messages as it scares people who are expecting, I understand there can be complications but let's focus on the positive rather than the negative and how we can do our best to look after ourselves afterbirth and have a positive mindset.
Unknown said…
I agree. While it may not necessarily be the same for all women, it will eventually go back to its original state after a period of healing. As you’ve said, the only situation where it may not return completely are the ones with trauma or massive tearing involved. In those situations, it may be best to inquire about alternative ways to get it back to the shape you want, be it through exercise or through surgical means.

Greta Brand | New Woman M.D.