Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Roll of the Labia: The Impact of Childbirth on Sex and Vaginas

There are times when I really miss the way things once were "down there" - times when I'm quite honestly miffed that things aren't quite the way they once were, in part because I believe that had I had a c-section things would be 'the same'. Mr. W. swears its good - but sometimes I wonder if he's just being polite, because it isn't the same for me, so I can hardly imagine that it is as it once was for him. That's not to say that it is bad, it's just different. It's like going to your favourite restaurant only to discover that it's no longer there and has been replaced by some other establishment. You don't know the menu and you've got a deep craving for the old restaurant's 'house special' - but the thing is you can never get the old restaurant's 'house special' again, you're hungry and there is no other restaurant in town so you must learn the new menu. You just wish you would have known before hand that your favourite restaurant wasn't going to be around anymore so that you could have enjoyed and savoured the old restaurant's 'house special' one last time before it was no longer available.

Maybe it's un-lady like or vain to care about anything other than whether or not there's a healthy baby and being able to go about mothering in as short order as possible; a vagina's purpose is to give birth after all - using it for sex is just secondary. Except for many women (myself included), childbirth is/was a secondary purpose, one that I certainly would have exempted my vagina from ever having doing if I had been given the choice.

I imagine if men gave birth, they'd know exactly what the impacts of doing so would be on their penises' form and function and how that varied by mode of delivery. They'd have measured every aspect, both before and after - and would have reems of scientific studies and data on the matter. Of course because men don't give birth - there's scant information out there on how childbirth and mode of delivery impacts the form and function of vaginas.

One scientific study I found, "Sexual function, delivery mode history, pelvic floor muscle exercises and incontinence: A cross-sectional study six years post-partum", by Dean, Wilson, Herbison, et. al in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2008; 48: 302-311 - seems to indicate that delivery by caesarean confers some benefit in this department. The study received responses to sexual function questions from 2765 women at 6 years post partum and found that women who had delivered exclusively by caesarean section scored significantly better on questions relating to their perception of vaginal tone for their own and partner's satisfaction compared to those who had vaginal and instrumental deliveries.

While not scientific in nature I decided to ask a group of mothers who had given birth to indicate whether or not they had delivered by cesarean or vaginal birth and whether or not things were "better", "worse" or the "same". Thirty women in total responded, 12 who had experienced vaginal births or vaginal and cesarean births and 18 women who had experienced only cesarean births. Among the vaginal or mixed birthing women only 2 (16.6 percent) indicated that things were "the same" - 4 (33 percent) reported that it was better 5 reported that it was "worse" (42 percent) and one reported that it "was different but not bad". Among the 18 women who experienced caesarean births 10 reported things as being "the same" (55 percent), 3 reported things as being "better" (17 percent), 4 reported things as being worse (22 percent), and one reported that "sex isn't the same" but did not indicate if it was any better or worse. From this informal and non-scientific survey among women who had vaginal births, 50 percent indicated that things were the same or better meanwhile among those who had caesarean births 72 percent indicated that things were the same or better.

I would think that women's sex lives should matter enough to study this further...


  1. The vagina's purpose is sex. Childbirth may or may not result.

  2. WPBD - I agress with you whole heartedly...

  3. What do you sex is for, Pale Blue Dot? It's to ensure the continuation of the human species. The fact that it feels good is just nature's way of enticing us to reproduce.

    I just don't understand how you can be more considered with the appearance of your vagina than with the safest mode of delivery for your child. Vaginal birth is almost always safer for your baby. Not even laboring before the section puts your child at even higher risk for having health issues immediately postpartum. Babies come out of vaginas, not surgical incisions (I guess you don't care about the permanent abdominal scar a section causes??). If you can't accept that, you have no business getting pregnant.

  4. Actually Anonymous, vaginal delivery is less safe than a c-section. Labor is very hard on babies. This is why OB's opt for sections when things get dicey. I'm not saying that all women should have c-sections, but this idea that natural birth is safest is BS. Under your delusions of safety, anybody having a vaginal delivery has no business getting pregnant since they are putting their baby at risk due to their birth preference.

  5. Anonymous, re: "Vaginal birth is almost always safer for your baby."

    Do you have a reference for this? Because there do seem to be at least some advantages to the baby to get a gentle lift exit instead of being squeezed for hours out of a small hole, including pressure during contractions on their body/lungs. Ya know, the whole misshapen head thing illustrates this visually.

    And I was wondering what your scientific reference would be for this.

  6. Surely it's a no-brainer. You squeeze something out of a vagina, stretching and tearing, obviously sex is not going to be the same for a very long time, if ever. Planned C-sections avoid this entirely.

    I'm sure there are all kinds of other factors affecting how good the sex is after birth such as body image, tiredness, other post-child birth aches and pains but these are personal issues not unique to either a C-section or a vaginal birth.

  7. Since my vaginal birth my crotch has been so different as to be unrecognizable to me. That and the incontinence. It's been such a bummer.

  8. To the first "Anonymous" poster, who posted on May 1, 2012:
    C-sections are safer for babies but (slightly) more dangerous for moms. Vaginal births are safer for moms but more dangerous for babies.

    Here are the risks of a c-section to a baby:
    - Laceration, if the surgeon's scalpel slips.
    - Transient respiratory problems, if the baby is delivered early (possible but rare for full-term babies).
    Aaaaand... that's it.

    But here are the risks of vaginal birth to a baby:
    - Shoulder dystocia (getting a shoulder stuck behind the mom's pelvic bone), which can cause brain damage or death.
    - Umbilical cord compression, which can cause brain damage or death.
    - Placental abruption, which can cause brain damage or death.

    And then, depending on the mom's health status, there may be additional risks to vaginal birth: if she has a genital herpes outbreak at the time of childbirth, the baby can get ocular herpes and be permanently blinded. If she is group B strep positive, the baby can catch that on the way out and become severely ill or die. A c-section would prevent either of those problems.