Woman with knickers embroidered with female reproductive system shows of post birth stretch marks.

Your body may feel and look different after giving birth to a baby…

When you give birth, things change very quickly. You have a new addition (or additions) to the family – a baby to love, take care of and nurture. It can feel wonderful, bewildering, amazing and terrifying all at once. On top of the biggest change (the whole new person that can’t even hold their own head up yet) there is also yourself to think about and take care of.
 
The changes to your body when you become a parent are internal and external, physical as well as mental. Your body won’t look or feel the same as it did before you got pregnant, and that’s ok! Your vagina might be different, but it’s a completely natural part of growing and experiencing having children. There might be a few new stretch marks for you to love and appreciate, and your boobs might have more jiggle too. Let’s learn more about how your whole V-Zone (the vagina, vulva and V-shaped front you can see) may change after giving birth, so you know what to expect after you’re done expecting.

So, what happens to your V-Zone and vagina after birth?

It’s natural for your V-Zone and especially your vagina to change after you’ve given birth. That’s because for a baby to travel through the cervix and vagina (also known as the birth canal), the entrance to the vagina needs to stretch. The sides of your vagina also separate and widen, almost like opening an umbrella. Sometimes, the bit of skin between the vaginal entrance and anus (known as the perinieum) may tear, or even be cut by a doctor or midwife to allow the baby to come out, which is called an episiotomy.  The idea of an episiotomy can be daunting, just remember that you will be asked for your consent, offered pain relief (usually local anaesthetic to numb the area) and will be given stitches afterwards. [1]

Up to 9 in every 10 first time mothers who have a vaginal birth will experience some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy, [2] so it’s an extremely common occurrence that the majority of women have experienced as part of delivery. Though the idea of tearing, cutting and bruising can be scary, it can help to talk to women around you who have given birth and gone through it all before, to help comfort you. You can also discuss this at any medical appointments leading up to the birth to get reassurance on what might happen, and how you will recover from it.


Your vagina may feel a little wider 

After having a baby pass through it, your vagina might look wider than it did before. It may also feel looser, softer and more “open”. [3] It could also look or feel bruised and swollen, but this should go down in a few days after giving birth as you settle into being a new mother.
 
Though your vagina probably won’t go back to exactly how it was before, this is natural – and not something to worry about. Pelvic floor exercises can help to tighten up the muscles surrounding the vagina in no time at all! You can do these in short bursts easily while doing other things like while standing in a queue, when watching TV while your baby naps or while driving or sat on the bus while on your way to run some errands. You can even start during pregnancy. Pelvic floor exercises are also a great way to help reduce the little drops of pee that so many women experience after giving birth.


Your vagina might feel drier 

After giving birth, you have lower levels of the hormone oestrogren in your body, compared to when you were pregnant. This can be linked to your vagina feeling drier than you are used to. If you decide to breastfeed, then your oestrogren levels may also be lower than if you decide not to.
 
If you’re struggling with dryness, particularly if you start having sex again, then using a gentle lubricant can do wonders to ensure you feel more comfortable. Of course, it may not be the first thing you want to do after having a baby, and a lower libido is completely normal! [4] Talking to your partner about intimacy when it does come up can help you manage it together, and approach sex in a way that makes you feel comfortable when you feel ready to. If dryness does continue getting in the way of things or you’re experiencing pain, talk to a medical professional to get more advice.


Your vulva might be sore 

Your vulva will have been through a lot, especially if your perineum needed stitches after tearing or getting an episiotomy while giving birth. It will probably feel quite sore, but this usually improves within 6 to 12 weeks after giving birth. Painkillers might be able to help, but always check with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist if you are breastfeeding. Hang in there, and just know it will improve every day and you’ll get through it eventually.
 
While you are healing, it’s important to keep the area clean while coping with after birth discharge. You can do this by washing your hands before changing your towels, changing them often and regularly having a bath or shower. After some time everything should settle down.
 
Practising self-care as a new mum is very important, especially remembering to take care of both your physical and mental health. It can be nice to ask for support from your partner or family so you can take a little time for yourself, even when things may seem manic, to put on some relaxing tunes, light a few candles and have a break in the bath.

What will your postpartum belly and body look like?

It’s not just your V-Zone (the vagina, vulva and V-shaped front you can see) that changes after giving birth. Your entire body has to transition from growing new life to nurturing it outside of your body. Here’s a couple of completely natural changes you might notice in the mirror:


Your stomach after birth 

Your belly that stretched as your baby grew within it might still be baggy after your baby is born, and bigger than it was before you got pregnant. It’s just because your muscles and skin stretched.
 
Though you might feel pressure to “bounce back” to your pre-baby body, it’s absolutely normal to not have flat washboard abs – you’ve been a little busy growing and looking after a literal human, thank you very much! Eating well and getting in some exercise when you are able to will keep you feeling fit and strong, and your belly should gradually go down in size. This isn’t a race, so there’s no need to compare yourself to other new mums or fitness influencers on Instagram – go at your own speed and you’ll get there when you’re meant to.


A few stretch marks after pregnancy

Stretch marks appear when the skin is stretching and the middle layer of your skin becomes broken in places. They can be pink, red, brown, black, silver or even purple, depending on your skin type, and appear on your belly, upper thighs and breasts. It happens to 8 in 10 pregnant women [5], so you’re not alone. They may gradually fade to become paler, and become less noticeable as time goes on. Think of stretch marks as beautiful reminders of you of how strong and worthy you are.

Your body is capable of so much – it can change, grow, and repair itself to give new life. It will look different and a little strange at first after you’ve given birth, but that’s completely natural. Be proud of what your body has gone through, look after it by taking the time to check in with yourself, and don’t neglect your health and wellbeing. Even if your beautiful bundle of joy is screaming like the kraken, you’ve got this – and when you haven’t quite got everything together, your partner, friends and family are there to help along the way.
 
If you’d like to learn more about what can happen after giving birth, read our articles on discharge after giving birth, and when to expect your first period after pregnancy.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.



[References]

[1]  https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/you-after-birth/episiotomy-during-childbirth

[2]  https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/tears/tears-childbirth/

[3]  https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/vagina-changes-after-childbirth/

[4]  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/loss-of-libido/

[5]  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stretch-marks-pregnant/

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