What Really Happens To Your Vagina After Childbirth

Pain and swelling.

The average newborn is about 7.5 pounds. As you can imagine, it hurts to push out something that weighs about the same as a gallon of water. You might also need stitches if you tear or have an episiotomy, aka a surgical incision to the vaginal wall made by the doctor during delivery. The realities of vaginal delivery lead to discomfort and swelling right after.

Dr. Heather Rupe, an OB-GYN and WebMD contributor, told me that pain and swelling should be 90 percent resolved in the first two weeks, while the last 10 percent usually takes another month. In order to keep the recovery process going smoothly, she recommends postpartum ice packs and warm water (sitz) baths when you get home. It’s also crucial not to overdo it physically in the first two weeks of healing.

Samsarah Morgan, a doula with Doulas By the Bay and executive director of Oakland Better Birth Foundation, explained that working with a doula can also help mitigate injuries by encouraging gentle pushing techniques and as few medical interventions as possible.

“In hospitals, they tend to give you a cold compress. If they don’t you should ask,” Morgan noted, adding that herbs like witch hazel can help when you get home, too. Many moms I’ve talked to swear by witch hazel pads you can find on Amazon or at a drugstore. Line them up in your underwear for immediate relief.