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Hot flushes or vaginal problems

Hot flushes

After birth, the hormones in your body change rapidly.

During pregnancy, your body has very high levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. After the birth of your placenta (afterbirth) oestrogen and progesterone levels drop suddenly.

Some women notice they get 'hot flushes' and vaginal dryness after giving birth. This is because of low levels of oestrogen.

If dryness in your vagina makes sex uncomfortable, using a lubricant will help. You will need to use this until the vaginal dryness improves. This will happen when your oestrogen levels go back to what they were before you became pregnant. Your oestrogen levels will usually have returned to normal when you have finished breastfeeding and your periods return.

Sore perineum area

Your perineum is the area of skin between the back of your vagina and your anus (back passage). During labour and birth this area of skin stretches and may tear.

Your midwife or obstetrician may have needed to make a surgical cut in this area during the birth. This is known as an episiotomy.

After giving birth, this area may be sore and swollen. If you had stitches, this area may feel particularly tender.

Keep your perineum clean by:

  • frequently changing pads
  • washing your hands
  • daily bathing or showering to keep the perineal area clean

It is very important to do your pelvic floor exercises.

Contact your midwife or GP if you had stitches and the wound becomes open or starts to ooze green or smelly fluid.

Vaginal discharge or bleeding (lochia)

It's normal to have a bloody discharge from your vagina after giving birth. This will last for up to 6 weeks and is called lochia. This is your body’s way of getting rid of the extra blood and tissue that was in your womb during pregnancy.

The colour of the blood flow is bright red at first. This will change to brown and eventually to a yellow or whitish colour as the uterus heals.

It is normal to see an increase in the amount, or a darkening in the colour of the blood, if you do something strenuous. This may be a sign that you need to take it easy.

You can use a pad. Don't use a tampon for postnatal bleeding. It is safe to use tampons when your regular periods are back.

Contact your midwife, public health nurse or GP immediately if you have:

  • heavy bleeding or large clots, especially if you feel dizzy or weak
  • your vagina starts to smell bad

Pressure or bulge in vaginal area

Pelvic organ prolapse is when your womb, bowel or bladder bulges into your vagina.

Prolapse can occur when there is a weakness in the pelvic-supporting structures. This weakness allows one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus or bowel) to move down into the walls of the vagina.

The pelvic floor is often weak after pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, hormones cause supporting tissues and ligaments to become lax or relaxed. It takes time for them to strengthen again after birth.

Contact your GP, public health nurse or physiotherapist if you think you have symptoms of prolapse.

Symptoms of prolapse include:

  • feeling or seeing a bulge in your vagina
  • an uncomfortable feeling or a feeling of pressure in your pelvis
  • leaking of urine and difficulty holding onto urine when your bladder is full
  • feeling that you cannot completely empty your bladder
  • leaking of poo
  • feeling that you cannot fully empty your bowel, when you finish a poo you feel like it has not all come out
  • pain during sex or decreased sensation during sex
  • aching pains in your lower tummy or your lower back

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2018
Next review due: 20/11/2021