Well that got your attention. Let talk about postnatal vaginas for a minute. There is always a lot of emphasis on postnatal tummies-that’s the bit you can see, but not so much on the mysterious undercarriage. But the fact is your vagina and its associated pelvic floor is your foundation-and everyone knows with any good build- the foundations need to be strong before any work goes on with the walls, right? Plus postnatal vaginas can have issues which are easy to ignore. Such as, general pain, leaking urine, bowel urgency, pelvic organ prolapse and sometimes painful sex.
1/3 of women will have bladder leaks on exertion after childbirth and 50% of women will have some degree of prolapse. So I think its time to shed some light on these issues. It doesn’t have to be boring- it can be quite liberating to feel strong “down there”, it can enhance sexual activity and mean you don`t wee yourself whilst exercising. If they are not good incentives to re-introduce yourself to your postnatal vagina then I don’t know what to say! It is worth noting that the post C-section vagina can still have issues, as pregnancy itself has an impact on how the pelvic floor functions (sorry gals, but the baby/placenta/amniotic fluid weighing down on this muscle over several weeks can take its toll, for sure).
The 2 main issues which can affect a postnatal vagina are pelvic floor tightness and pelvic floor weakness. You can have either or sometimes both! SO its not always about “lift, lift lift”-sometimes you actually need to let it go first and then lift. It is useful to conduct an inventory of your undercarriage postbirth when things have settled, swelling eased and stitches healed. Take a mirror and look at the skin around your vagina, touch it and see if anything hurts. Inspect scars to see if they are tight, stuck or painful . Are there any tissues coming out of your vagina? Use a lubricated finger to check the internal walls of the vagina and sweep side to side at different levels. It is normal for the vaginal walls to have texture but it shouldn’t feel painful . Try contracting your pelvic floor by tightening around the finger if it is weak you may have to use several fingers. with a tight pelvic floor you may have difficulty inserting you finger or there may be some pain when you try to gently stretch the vaginal walls. And do you have any day-to-day symptoms? Here are some to look out for (after the initial healing phase of first 6 weeks postnatal)
- Persistent pain in your vagina or perineum when you sit, walk or have sex
- Leaking urine on exertion or bowel urgency and/or accidents
- Pulling or dragging or bulging inside your vagina or perineum
If you found anything on your inspection or have any of the symptoms above, then its a good idea to seek help through a pelvic floor Physiotherapist or GP/Gynae. There are lots that can be done about these symptoms and they are not things that you have to put up with. Despite what Tena lady say…
Here is a summary of just some of the products available which help to bring awareness to the pelvic floor and vagina. They are also designed to help strengthen and/or release it.
Neen Pelvic Floor Educator
If you want some feedback on whether you are engaging your pelvic floor correctly. this little probe and stick can tell you just that. Its a cheaper option too if you need it. You can also count the number of times you can get the stick to move as a guide for progress.
Pelvic Floor Biofeedback Device
This is slightly more sophisticated version of the above. As you tighten and lift around the inflatable probe, you will see the results on the small screen. You can also do the test periodically to score you pelvic floor improvement out of ten, so good motivation to keep going.
Pelvic floor machine with electrical stimulation
This is one that should be recommended after a proper assessment with the pelvic floor practitioner. If they think that there is weakness in the pelvic floor lift and it needs a little boost to get it going- then they may recommend this gizmo to help. The probe introduces an electrical pulse to the pelvic floor which helps it to contract. It also has settings for urinary urgency and pelvic pain conditions
Elvie Pelvic Floor Exerciser
One for the techies out there. This vaginal probe connects to your smartphone via bloothtooth. It guides you through a strengthening program via a series of challenges and tracks your progress.
kegel Smart pelvic floor exerciser
This little probe measures your pelvic floor strength, then selects a program for you. Then when it vibrates, you tighten your pelvic floor each time. No phone or other device required.
The following devices can be used internally for pelvic floor release
curved wand made from medical grade glass can be used to release a tight pelvic floor for use at home in between or after physio sessions. It can be used to target the specific areas of tension or trigger points within the pelvic floor with its blunt end. You should see your pelvic floor Physiotherapist before using and watch this video link below to make sure you are not going to do any harm to the other structures in the pelvis such as the bladder and urethra.
Intimia Personal Massager
This is another fun way to release some adverse tension which may have collected in your pelvic floor. Again your pelvic floor therapist can assess this via an examination. You can then use this angled massager/vibrator to gently press (video demo) onto the tight spots and release them.
Yes Organics Lubricant
Don’t forget the lubricant! You will need lots of lubricant if using some of these devices or if venturing into sex post childbirth. Childbirth and nursing can affect the vagina`s normal ability to lubricate itself, so its super useful (and comfortable) to have some on hand. Avoid any lubricant that has scent or colour or temperature added as these may irritate the delicate tissues.
There is no substitute for a proper examination with a pelvic floor Physiotherapist, who can assess your postnatal perineum and pelvic floor function (which can also be done as part of a Mummy MOT check) or you can ask to be referred to a gynaecologist via your GP . Then you will be given the right program for you which may or may not involve some the equipment above. There is good evidence behind the effectiveness of the right pelvic floor rehab program improving the symptoms mentioned above which can change your life for the better. There are some excellent products like the ones above to get things right down there. So don’t settle for Tena lady or pain. You desere better- Make your vagina happy again
Most of the products above are available through the following UK based company
If you have any questions about the information above you can contact me on email@example.com or come along to our next postnatal pelvic floor workshop.