And you thought crowning was painful….
The facts about vaginal dryness after childbirth
In prenatal classes, which I have to confess to skipping quite often because I was in the middle of a demanding MBA program, you learn about contractions, pushing, crowning…and then that life-changing moment of birth! We also learn about breastfeeding, jaundice, diaper changing but no one ever talks about what happens to our vaginas after birth.
In addition to the tremendous physical changes (and sometimes trauma) our vaginas go through, the hormonal ones can cause vaginal dryness.
Here are the facts about vaginal dryness after childbirth:
- Symptoms of vaginal dryness typically include uncomfortable or painful sex. One study in England showed that 83% of women experienced sexual problems within the first 3 months after delivery of their first child. Yet only 13% talked to a health professional about the problems.
- Low estrogen is the culprit after birth and during breastfeeding. During pregnancy, our levels of estradiol (a type of estrogen) are very high in order to maintain a pregnancy and grow the placenta. After birth, our estradiol drops to pre-pregnancy levels. This hormonal drop leads to many symptoms similar to those we may have before and after menopause, such as vaginal dryness, anxiety, hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness is typically experienced the first few months after pregnancy and also during breastfeeding. Levels of our female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) typically don’t stabilize until a few months after pregnancy, after which our periods return to normal. While breastfeeding, the production of the hormone prolactin interferes with estrogen and progesterone production and therefore our menstrual cycles.
What can be done about this?
First, speak to your partner to discuss your concerns. Having an open dialogue is important during this period when your body is trying to recover and you are both working to adapt to a new baby. You may need more foreplay or different positions for comfortable sex.
Second, practice habits that help with lubrication such as drinking water, using a vaginal moisturizer, a good lubricant during sex and avoiding vaginal products that will irritate, such as sprays and douches. Ensure that whatever you are using is pH balanced to between 3.5 and 4.5., which is the normal range during reproductive years, in order to avoid infections.
Third, speak to your physician about vaginal hormonal creams. While this is a viable alternative for many women, my view is that these creams are typically tested on post-menopausal women and not postpartum women, so the long-term effects are not known. Also, they are not designed to be pH balanced and therefore their impact on infections and other issues are not known.
While I had the best midwives I could have ever hoped for, neither of them spoke to me about vaginal dryness after childbirth. Neither did my mother. While it’s a daunting task being a new mother, we still need to help ourselves when it comes to vaginal dryness and it’s a crucial aspect of post-natal care that we can’t neglect. Try this new all-natural vaginal moisturizer for dryness after childbirth.