Vaginas deserve trophies. Hello, self-cleaning organs that can deliver both pleasure and babies. Speaking of which, there's lots of talk about there after the childbirth. Pushing a tiny human out of that much tinier hole does, in fact, have an effect. But for most people, it's probably not as bad or permanent as you've heard.

While childbirth is no picnic for your nether region, your vagina can handle it. "The vagina is very resilient," Sherry Ross, MD, an ob / gyn and women's health expert and author of the 52nd She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health . Period. She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period., tells SELF. Still, it can take anywhere from 12 weeks to a year for your vagina to go back to its normal state, and some things may never be 100 percent the same again, Jessica Shepherd, MD, a minimally-invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.

If you give birth vaginally, here some changes you can expect your vagina (and some nearby parts) to go through afterwards.

1. Your vagina may dry out for a bit.

When you're pregnant, elevated levels of certain hormones, including estrogen, are coursing through your body. Then, after you give birth, your estrogen drops, which can cause trouble for your vagina.

Estrogen helps to keep your vaginal tissue moist with a clear lubricating fluid, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Without enough estrogen, not only will you not have the same level of moisture, your vaginal tissue can shrink and become thinner. Sahara situation down there. Shepherd says.

If you're not breastfeeding, your vaginal moisture should go back to normal within a few weeks. But breastfeeding can keep those estrogen levels low and shift you into what's sometimes called "postpartum" menopause, "which can make you dry the whole time you're nursing. Ross says. Once you stop nursing, your vagina should go back to its normal and hydrated state pretty quickly.

In the meantime, using lube can help relieve discomfort during sex. This soreness can not change its head when you're not having sex, though. If you're dealing with intense, painful postpartum vaginal dryness, ask your doctor about vaginal lubricants or moisturizers made specifically to address this issue. Depending on your situation, they may have OTC recommendations. They may also prescribe estrogen (it comes in various forms, including some you put directly into the vagina) to help increase your vaginal moisture, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

2. Your vagina (and possibly perineum) will be sore as hell.

Your perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. Though it’s not specifically a part of your vagina, it can also tear during a vaginal delivery. ”If you can imagine a cantaloupe coming out of your vagina, it’s no wonder that the perineum is affected during childbirth,” Dr. Ross says. With that said, perineal tearing isn’t a guarantee.

Between 53 and 79 percent of vaginal deliveries will cause some kind of tearing, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but there are actually four degrees of lacerations, with each building on the ones before it.

  • First-degree tears only Involve the skin around the vaginal opening or the perineal skin, according to the Mayo Clinic, and they may or may not need stitches. These are typically heal within four weeks, Dr. Shepherd says.
  • Second-degree tears inflict damage to the perineal muscles, which help support the uterus, bladder, and rectum, and usually require stitches, Mayo Clinic. Dr. Shepherd notes that these also tend to heal within four weeks.
  • Third-degree tears are lacerations of the perineal muscles and the muscle around the anus. Unlike the less serious tears, these may require surgical repair in an operating room, not the delivery room. These can take up to 12 weeks to heal, Dr. Shepherd says.
  • Fourth-degree tears, which affects the perineal muscles, muscles around the anus, and the tissue lining the rectum, are the most serious. Like the third-degree tears, these usually need to be fixed in an operating room, but they can take even longer than 12 weeks to heal, Dr. Shepherd says.

According to a July 2016 ACOG practice bulletin, it's hard to pin down the true incidence of different kinds of tearing, but the third- and the fourth-degree varieties may only make up around 11 percent of all labor -related lacerations.

No matter the degree, if you tear during your delivery or your doctor's cuts the area in what's known as an episiotomy (this is used in most cases or gets stuck on the way out, you'll feel pretty damn. To soothe the pain, you can try things like applying ice packs to the area, or cooled witch hazel pads (according to Mayo Clinic. You can also use a squeeze bottle to douse the area in warm water while peeing, or look into numbing sprays with lidocaine. Shepherd says.

3. You could have some scar tissue that could make sex uncomfortable for a bit.

If you had a tear or episiotomy after a vaginal delivery, you're probably going to have some scar tissue in your vagina and on your perineum afterwards . Unfortunately, even the thought of having sex after this might make you wince. "The extent of the damage in this area will determine how much you feel scarring in this area [during] sex," Dr. Ross says.

The scar tissue is usually heals over time, making sex more comfortable as you go. But if you find that it's not getting better with time, talk to your doctor. Some women need surgery to remove the scar tissue and get rid of the pain. Shepherd says.

4. Your period may get heavier-or lighter.

Being pregnant throws your hormones out of whack, and your body has to be reset after your baby has vacated the premises. This even applies to your uterine lining, which builds up before you get your period. Of course, you will not get a real period while you're pregnant (though you might have some spotting). But when you begin to get a postpartum period, it may be lighter or heavier than before. If your estrogen is generally lower than it was before you got pregnant, your uterine lining can be thinner. Shepherd says, giving you a lighter period. If your estrogen is a little higher, your lining may build up more thickly, creating a heavier-than-before period.

5. Yes, your vagina may be a bit wider, but do not let that out of you, freak you out too much.

While your vagina and vaginal usually shrink back down after stretching during a vaginal birth, having a big baby, a baby with a big head, or several vaginal deliveries. Ross says. The result: Your vagina might be slightly wider than it was in the past. This may not be something you pick up on much, or you might. Sometimes, a tampon is actually the giveaway.

"Some women notice tampons may not stay inside the vagina like they used to before having babies," Dr. Ross says. "A slender or regular tampon may be out of the question to use comfortably and may fall out easily." It's not that you put in a tampon and it's a shoot out of your vagina-instead, it may slowly slide out while it used to just stay put. Kegel exercises may also help here. Ross says.

6. You can peee yourself from doing basic things like walking downhill, jumping jacks, and even laughing and sneezing.

Childbirth can damage your pelvic floor , which is made up of muscles and other tissues that help keep organs like your uterus, bladder, and bowel in the correct positions so they function properly, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Childbirth can also affect the muscles and nerves that control your bladder and urethra (the tube through which pee leaves your body). All of this can lead to pee leaking out of your body at inopportune times./111 This is good news is [this urinary incontinence] will improve over time, but it's definitely true, Dr. Ross says. This issue's quite common; 25 to 45 percent of women have some sort of urinary incontinence, whether it's caused by childbirth or not, according to

“The good news is [this urinary incontinence] will improve over time, but it is definitely a symptom that is not talked about enough,” Dr. Ross says. This issue’s quite common; 25 to 45 percent of women have some sort of urinary incontinence, whether it’s caused by childbirth or not, according to the NIDDK. What's more, women are twice as likely as men to have this condition, and the discrepancy is due in part to pregnancy and childbirth.

Kegel exercises may help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and combat urinary incontinence, Dr. Ross says. But if you're not experiencing much improvement or this issue is affecting your life, definitely talk to your doctor to figure out your options, which can range from learning behavioral modification to pelvic floor techniques. . Your orgasms may also become a weaker, depending on how your pelvic floor has changed.

7. Your orgasms may also become weaker, depending on how your pelvic floor has changed.

"During orgasm, the muscles of the vagina and uterus produce powerful, rhythmic contracts. These contractions are a source of pleasure ... as they release muscle tension, built-up during the [excitement and plateau phases, "Dr. Shepherd says. If your pelvic floor has weakened due to childbirth, those contractions may no longer be as strong, so you can find your orgasms. But all hope is not lost! Here, again, Kegels can help you strengthen your pelvic floor and, over time, regain some of that intensity.

While all of this can not frustrating to experience, you, just, what, you, vagina. And no matter what, know what you should not embarrassed to bring any of this up with your doctor-if anyone can help you figure out a fix for something that's bothering you, they can.

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