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Alt Sex (December 19, 2007) 

Dear Andrea:
I have a good one for you! What does being pregnant and having a baby do to your body? Is it true that birth will enlarge your vagina, or make it loose? Does it worsen if you have more children? Is it noticeable to men? What about if you have a C-section? Are there other postpartum changes to a woman’s body that affect how much she enjoys sex?

Dear Trep:
The harsh truth is that pregnancy and childbirth usually do cause physical changes, although these are by no means always dire or even particularly notable. The change you sound most concerned about is vaginal looseness and yes, it does happen. The vagina is not, as I am constantly repeating, a fixed size — like a train tunnel. It is a “potential space,” like a sock. Even so, it’s supported in the pelvis by a whole complex of structures, not only muscles but connective tissues of various types, which can get stretched out of shape, weakened or even torn. Tone at the front of the vagina, where we feel most of the sexual sensation, can be lost due to perineal stretching, tearing or the increasingly unfashionable, but still sometimes necessary, episiotomy. Nerve damage is fairly common too, and we need those nerves for more than just sensation — they tell our muscles what to do. So, while the sort of looseness that a million extremely crass jokes are built upon may be rare, it’s probably not as rare as the completely pristine and unchanged postpartum vajayjay. Change happens, and yes, pregnancy itself (carrying a smallish medicine ball firmly lodged above your cervix for half a year) is enough to do some of the changing. I looked up “changes after childbirth” or some such thing on About.com yesterday and found the usual sprightly lecture on doing your Kegels. Under the “Did you find this article helpful?” heading was a large, crabby “No!” which cracked me up, and I’m sorry the Kegels didn’t work for Crabby Reader, but in truth, they’re about all we’ve got in our looseness-mitigation and restoration of continence arsenal. There are surgeries, but surgery is expensive and risky. In truth, a (lengthy) course of Kegels, energetically performed, can vastly improve muscle tone and indeed can help prevent its loss in the first place. Exercising your vagina can feel undignified, but being afraid to sneeze (or laugh!) for fear of leaking is just damned depressing. After all the Kegels there may still be a little extra space up there, but frankly, that can be put to good (or at least entertaining) use.  | RDW

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