If you’re pregnant for the first time, you might feel a little worried. After all, pushing a baby through your lady bits kind of seems like squeezing a bowling ball through the eye of a needle.
But don’t worry — women have been doing this for literally thousands of years, and pregnancy will get your vagina delivery-ready by your due date. But what you may not realize is that to get there, there are many changes in store down below.
Those changes start earlier — a lot earlier, in fact.
So we’d like to introduce you to your changing anatomy and tell you what else you might expect over the next 9 months. This is your vagina on pregnancy:
1. Your vagina might turn a Smurfy shade of blue
When you think of a certain body part turning blue, you generally don’t think of a vagina — but that’s exactly what can happen when you’re newly pregnant.
Known as Chadwick’s sign, it’s caused by increased blood flow down below. Unless you’re literally looking for it, you may not even know that it’s happened since it doesn’t cause any discomfort. Regardless, the blue or purple hue should disappear shortly after you give birth.
This change of color in the vagina, labia, and cervix can occur as early as four weeks, making it one of the first indications that you could be pregnant.
2. Your vagina might become an orgasmic wonderland
During pregnancy, your body’s blood volume can increase by as much as 50 percent, and some of that extra blood heads downtown, making your nether regions swollen and extra sensitive.
Add higher-than-normal levels of oxytocin, estrogen, and progesterone to the equation and that just might translate into heightened arousal and bigger and better orgasms, as well as increased desire.
This can happen in the first and second trimesters, so remember to communicate any changes to your partner! Because on the flip side, this blood rush could lead to sensitivity and discomfort.
3. Your vagina might sprout varicose veins
It’s not uncommon to develop these telltale bulging, purple blood vessels on your legs during pregnancy because of the added pressure and weight of your belly. But believe it or not, they can appear on your privatest of private parts as well.
According to one recent study, around 18 to 22 percent of pregnant women will develop this medical condition, usually in the second or third trimester. While not everyone will experience discomfort or even know they have this problem, some people will feel swelling, pressure, or pain.
The good news is that most vulvar varicosities will disappear a few weeks after childbirth.
To tackle varicose veins on the vagina, try:
- wearing special pregnancy undergarments with compression features
- using cool compresses on the afflicted area
- avoiding sitting or standing for too long
- increasing your water intake
- elevating your legs and hips when possible
4. Your vagina’s pH levels change
Translation: You’re likely going to smell and taste different — so heads up when your significant other is down under. That taste may be more “metallic or salty,” according to The Journal of Perinatal Education.
A change or increase in odor — while likely occurring because of your fluctuating hormones — may also seem more pungent to you because your olfactory senses are also heightened during pregnancy.
Still, if the smell seems overpowering or foul, or comes with burning or itching, you could have an infection and should definitely talk to your doctor.
5. Your vagina might feel like it’s being stabbed
And chances are no one told you this can happen. So when you’re actually experiencing it, you might end up calling your doctor in a panic because you legit think you’re dying.
But generally speaking, it’s nothing to worry about and is a pregnancy side effect known as “lightning crotch.” (Yep, really.)
It’s caused by the baby pressing on certain nerves or because of cervical changes, and it often occurs in the third trimester when you’ve been sitting or lying in the same spot for a while and then get up.
Do what it takes to get yourself comfortable, if you feel this happening.
Methods to mitigate the pain:
- staying active
- limiting movements that involve bending or lifting
- trying a pregnancy massage
- wearing a support brace
6. Your vagina is more vulnerable to infection
Topical antifungals are preferred as a first line of defense, especially in light of a recent study that linked the common oral medication fluconazole (Diflucan) to a possible increased likelihood of miscarriage.
You may want to look into alternative remedies and lifestyle changes before trying any oral medication.
The other problem you might be facing throughout your pregnancy? Urinary tract infections (UTIs) — which aren’t only uncomfortable but also achieve the amazing feat of making you feel like you have to pee even more than you already do.
7. Your vagina will produce more discharge
Stock up on panty liners. Shortly after conception and often before you even realize you’re pregnant, your private parts go into hormonal overdrive, producing more discharge to keep your cervix protected and to help prevent infections.
The technical term for this discharge is leukorrhea, and it should be relatively thin in consistency, have a milky color, and smell mild — similar to your normal discharge, only heavier, more frequent, and stickier.
If, however, it takes on a yellow or green color, looks thick, or smells foul, you may have an infection and need antibiotics. Later in pregnancy, you may also lose the gooey mucus plug on your cervix, which indicates that labor is coming.
8. Your vagina might get super itchy
Even if you like giving cutesy nicknames to your private parts, Itchy and Scratchy probably isn’t what you had in mind. Unfortunately, itchiness down there is a common pregnancy symptom that can happen at any time.
The cause? The increased discharge and pH changes mentioned above, which could irritate sensitive skin, or a yeast infection.
Talk to your doctor if this annoyance doesn’t go away or is accompanied by other troubling symptoms, such as abnormal discharge, ulcers, or a burning sensation.
9. Your vagina’s flora may get funky
Yep, your vagina is loaded with bacteria, which sounds unwanted but is actually completely normal. Starting in your first trimester of pregnancy, though, that bacterial environment can undergo changes.
Why does that matter as long as it doesn’t cause an infection? Because, according to multiple studies, people who are pregnant with lower vaginal levels of Lactobacillus have a greater likelihood of delivering early.
Someday, measuring vaginal bacteria will help determine whether the individual is at risk for preterm labor, but for now, more research is still needed.
10. Your vagina might not change in the key area it needs to
Where, exactly? The perineum, the area between your vagina and anus that often remains tight and, as a result, tears during childbirth.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that between 53 and 79 percent of those going through labor experience some sort of vaginal tearing, while other medical professionals put that number closer to 90 percent for first-time moms.
And according to one 2014 study, those who experience a severe tear during their first birth are 5 times more likely to experience another in subsequent births.
But there’s a potential solution: Massaging the area, especially in the last month of pregnancy, can cut down on your risk of experiencing this painful problem.
So now you know
These vaginal changes may seem strange, but most of them are completely normal. Try to relax a little and remember that these pregnancy symptoms often reverse after you give birth.
Still, if any of these symptoms are getting in the way of your day to day (or do end up permanent), don’t hesitate to mention it to your doctor. They’ll be able to recommend treatments or alternatives.
After all, once you’re welcoming your gorgeous newborn into the world, there will be plenty of other life changes to keep your mind busy.
Dawn Yanek lives in New York with her husband and their two very sweet, slightly crazy kids. Before becoming a mom, she was a magazine editor who regularly appeared on TV to discuss celebrity news, fashion, relationships, and pop culture. These days, she writes about the very real, relatable, and practical sides of parenting at Momsanity. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.