When it comes to your post-birth nether regions, don’t believe everything you hear—that is, if you’ve heard anything at all! Whether your baby was born vaginally or via cesarean, it is common to have swelling, pain, and possibly even bruising in your pelvic floor, vulva and/or vagina in the first week or two after you give birth. But what happens when weeks and months after, that vaginal pain or discomfort remains? While pelvic pain after childbirth is common, it is not normal. At the six week postpartum visit, most care providers are just looking to see that there are no open wounds. They don’t evaluate scar tissue, tissue resiliency, or muscle tone. So if when you got the green light for sex and exercise, you felt anywhere from a bit lost to radically unprepared for either, you are not alone.
In countries like France and Holland, all new moms receive in-home post-birth care that includes postural rehabilitation, pelvic floor reconnection and recovery support. Doesn’t that make so much sense? Here in the US, our one brief six-week check-up is often the full extent of our postpartum care. If we are lucky, we are given a mental health screening. But what is left out is real talk about how the birth went both physically and emotionally, and how our body is functioning. Birth injuries can make us feel depressed. But anti-depressants won’t help if the source of your feelings is that your body is not functioning like it did before.
I can tell you from experience that searing low back pain, the sense that your organs are going to just fall on the floor and you can’t do anything about it, going to the bathroom in your pants when you didn’t even feel an urge to go is all very depressing. I am also here to tell you that I recovered fully from all of those symptoms I listed without surgery.
You do not have to live with the discomfort of having to go pee all the time or leaking when you sneeze. You do not have to live with burning, stinging, or tearing sensations during sex. You do not have to live with the feeling of bulges where they shouldn’t be or feel like you are sitting on an egg. You do not have to get used to the feeling that your organs might just slip out onto the floor. You also don’t have to acclimate, tolerate, or decide that any of these things are things you just have to live with from now on. While some of these conditions may be common, they are not normal! To receive more care, we often have to strongly advocate for ourselves. And even then, many women report that their care providers continually tell them everything is fine, even when it doesn’t feel fine.
If you are feeling insecure, uncomfortable, or are in pain “down there” after birth, I strongly urge you – ok, I’ll beg you – to seek out pelvic floor physical therapy, holistic pelvic care or a scar tissue remediation practitioner. Next month, I’ll address WHY these things happen to our vagina. Until next time…