Vaginal Conditions After Delivery
Frederick R. Jelovsek MD
"Does taking a bath increase your chances of getting an infection, yeast or UTI?
I am 29 years old, always have menstrual periods on time, although I am 9 weeks post partum. I seem to get a lot of yeast infections". A.N.
If someone told you there would not be any short or long term vaginal changes after delivery of a baby through the vagina, I am sure you would not believe them. Anytime a 4 inch (10 cm) diameter round object goes through an opening that cannot normally stretch beyond a 2 inch (5 cm) diameter opening, there is a strong likelihood of stretching, tearing and pain afterwards.
When that is added to hormonal changes after delivery with or without breast feeding, a postpartum woman can have significant vaginal pain, dryness, burning, fear of intercourse, vaginal opening looseness, and even difficulty with losing control over urination, bowel movements or holding bowel gas.
Changes Caused By Child Birth
Let us look at some of the changes that can take place in the lower genital tract after normal, uncomplicated vaginal deliveries.
Are vaginal infections or vaginal burning common after delivery?
The hormones of pregnancy, high estrogen and progesterone, decline rapidly after delivery. The result is an almost menopausal state with respect to vaginal lubrication. The condition is called vaginal atrophy with a rise in the pH of the vagina and a shift away from superficial vaginal cells that lubricate the vagina and provide protection from irritation.
This change also takes place on the outside of the vulva and is subject to any irritation from soaps, rubbing, or contact with chemicals in pads, condoms, lotions or other topically applied agents.
To answer your questions about whether baths can cause vaginitis or urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the postpartum time period, the answer is that they can produce SYMPTOMS of UTIs or vaginitis, i.e., pain with urination, frequency, vulvar burning, but they are NOT thought to produce actual infections.
They produce symptoms if soaps or bath oils are used that irritate the already very thin, sensitive skin in those areas around the vagina and urethra. This is more of an irritant vulvitis and urethritis rather than a vaginal yeast infection or a UTI. This does not mean that you cannot get a yeast infection or a UTI after delivery -- you certainly can -- but often it is a case of mistaken etiology.
If one looks at vaginal smears to after delivery to see how predominant this problem is, we find that about one third of non lactating women have atrophic changes for about six weeks before they start improving, but in 5% the atrophic pattern persists for a long time.