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Q. I know vaginal swelling and even post-orgasmic cramping is normal during pregnancy. I have no external signs of swelling; however, I am so swollen inside that it feels very snug just when inserting my finger. Though it doesn't hurt when having sex, it does hurt as soon as I start to have an orgasm. So much so that I can't have one. There is no unusual discharge and, other than being hypersensitive, I am fine. My husband's not complaining but I'm wondering if this is normal or is something wrong?
-Anonymous, South Carolina
A. It is very common for mucous membranes and sex organs to become swollen during pregnancy. The inside of your vagina happens to be a combo of the two. Add a pending orgasm, which engorges the area with blood, and it's no wonder things get a little snug and sensitive down there! All women have different levels of engorgement and sensitivity, but it sounds like you are within the "realm of normality." (FYI- the "realm" is very, very big!)
If you continue to experience discomfort during intercourse, you and your husband may want to consider pleasuring each other orally or manually. Most girlfriends agree that pregnancy orgasms can be the best of your life. Don't miss out! Since the vaginal area is so sensitive, many women experience orgasms much more quickly and more often.
If the "snugness" you feel is constant (not just during arousal) you should consult your doctor.
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Q. My crotch area seems to be swelling at an alarming rate. It doesn't itch or burn. Could I have an infection?
-Anonymous, New York
A. A puffy, swelling vaginal area is quite normal. The progesterone your body is producing is turning up the volume on your sex organs, engorging them with blood and fluids. You may notice all of your mucous membranes (including the ones in your vagina) becoming much more lubricated and swollen as well.
My friend Grace and I lovingly coined the term, "Cheeseburger Crotch," as that's what it looked like she was stashing in her panties during pregnancy!
Q. I am currently pregnant with my second baby. After having my first I have noticed that my vagina has changed in appearance. My labia have moved further apart and my vagina seems to gape permanently. I can't bear to look at it and feel very inhibited with my partner. I feel a lot looser during sex and prefer not to use tampons anymore as I don't like how it feels when I insert them. My baby wasn't particularly large (nearly 9lbs.) but the midwife did say he was "too big for me." I needed an episiotomy to get him out and it required both interior and exterior suturing. Is this normal or did I not do enough pelvic floor exercises? I'm worried the condition will become worse after my second is born.
A. Pelvic floor exercises are helpful in developing the muscles in the vagina that are used during labor to push the baby out. They can also help with incontinence (urine leakage) problems. You probably had a large incision for your episiotomy due to size of the baby versus the width of your vagina, not because you didn't do enough exercises.
It's normal for a woman's vagina to change and become looser after childbirth. The good news is that women sometimes don't require another episiotomy for a second birth.
It's possible that the interior suturing for your episiotomy has created scar tissue that is causing your vagina to gape. If you find it still to be an issue that really bothers you after your second baby, you might ask your doctor about a minor vaginal surgery to correct it.
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Q. I am 19 weeks pregnant with my third child and have been experiencing a painful swelling on the left side of my vagina, in the back toward my anus. It hurts when I sit or stand. What could be causing the painful swelling?
-Anonymous, New Jersey
A. It sounds like the horrific hemorrhoids that are very common during pregnancy. The majority of my girlfriends and I all experienced them to varying degrees.
My friend Linda never knew what a hemorrhoid was until her 20th week of pregnancy. While in the shower, she felt a bulbous and painful bit of flesh next to her anus. She screamed, called her husband into the bathroom and insisted he inspect it immediately. Linda thought that the baby had dropped down into her bowels and was trying to push a fist out through her butt. Her husband loves to tell that hilarious tale after a few too many drinks.
To keep your hemorrhoids from getting further aggravated, you may try: not straining while having a bowel movement; keeping your feet elevated as much as possible; sleeping on your left side; using Tucks, Preparation H and other topical medicines; and keeping bowel movements regular with stool softeners and/or fiber.
Q. Does this "cheeseburger crotch" go away?
A. Thankfully, yes, the cheeseburger crotch does go away. It normally takes a few weeks after delivery to have your vaginal area return to its former size. If you have a vaginal birth and/or an episiotomy or vaginal tears, it may take a little longer for the swelling to go down. Some women notice a little looser vagina or longer labia lips, but most snap right back into shape. Vaginas are very elastic, ya know!
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Q. A few days ago I had this weird swelling in my vaginal area. It looked as though there was something protruding out of me. I went to the hospital to have it checked out. The Doc told me it was a swollen vaginal wall. What is this exactly? What causes it and when will it go away?
A. During pregnancy your vaginal walls can swell for a number of reasons, including the presence of uterine leiomyomas, an inguinal hernia or venal thrombosis. (See the other half-swollen vagina questions for more details.)
Most of these types of conditions will remain a chronic problem for the duration of the pregnancy, but the discomfort can be alleviated with treatment. You should ask your OB/GYN or midwife what treatment options may be best for your case.
Q. It appears to me, after reading your embarrassing question archives, that I have what you call "cheeseburger crotch." Well, I am happy to know that what I am experiencing is (for the most part) normal. However, when I look inside my vagina with a mirror, it appears that I can actually see my cervix! I don't know what else it could be. Is it possible that my cervix is protruding that far down that I can see it just by looking with a mirror? Should I be concerned?
A. It probably was your cervix that you saw in the mirror. Normally 3.5 cm to 4.0 cm long, the cervix lengthens during pregnancy to protect the fetus, and later shortens in preparation for birth. My cervix during pregnancy most resembled a ripe plum with a small hole in it. I, too, was quite surprised to see it so close to the vaginal opening.
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Q. This is my first pregnancy and the opening of my vagina is swollen, purple and red, and I am having a lot of vaginal discharge. It doesn't smell, but it does hurt (burn/soreness) when touched. I have a friend who has genital herpes and we went swimming together a little while ago. Is my swelling normal or is it a sign that I caught genital herpes from my friend?
A. I highly doubt you have contracted genital herpes from your friend. Herpes is transmitted through mouth to mouth, mouth to genital or genital to genital contact. Swimming with your friend should not put you at risk. The swelling and discharge you mention are perfectly normal symptoms of pregnancy. The pain and burning could be from a yeast or bacterial infection, which can occur more often during pregnancy. You should contact your OB/GYN about treatment to get some relief.
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