How to Treat Perineal Pain and Swelling During and After Pregnancy

What Is Labial Soreness?

Labial soreness or swelling refers to the sensation of pressure or tightness around the vaginal opening from irritation caused by discharge, bacteria, yeast, dirt, sweat, etc. A woman’s body naturally produces natural lubricants which are made up of fatty acids (such as oleic acid) and proteins (such as prostaglandins). These substances cause the skin to feel smooth when wet. However, if these substances are not properly absorbed into the bloodstream they may cause irritation. If this happens, it causes discomfort and sometimes even pain. This type of irritation is called vulvar vestibulitis.

How Does Labial Soreness Affect Pregnancy?

The most common form of labial soreness during pregnancy occurs because of the increased production of estrogen in women during pregnancy. Women produce higher amounts of estrogen than men do. This means that the uterus secretes more estrogen into the blood stream which affects all parts of the body including the genitals. When there is too much estrogen in circulation, it can affect many organs and tissues. For example, excessive levels of estrogen can cause hair loss, acne, irregular menstrual cycles and other symptoms such as fatigue and mood swings.

Why Does the Clitoris get Sore During Pregnancy?

The clitoris is actually an organ. It is made up of more than eighteen different parts including muscles, tissue, and blood vessels. The clitoris is a complex structure that has a lot to do with the female reproductive system. During pregnancy, the size of the clitoris doubles in size which causes irritation and pain in this region. Most pregnant women experience soreness or swelling in the genital area. This is called vulvodynia and occurs in about half of all pregnancies. The cause of this swelling is unknown. The pain can range from minimal to severe and even debilitating. It also affects every woman differently.

Will the Pain and Swelling Go Away After Giving Birth?

Some women find that their irritation subsides after giving birth. Others find that it persists or gets worse. The condition can last for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or in some extreme cases it can last for years. If the pain and swelling lasts longer than six months, you should contact your physician right away. It is important to rule out any other potential medical conditions that may be causing your discomfort.

What Can I Do To Relieve the Pain and Swelling?

There are several things that may provide relief during this time. These include the following:

Wear cotton underwear and clothing next to the skin.

Avoid tight clothing and jeans.

Take a soothing sitz bath several times a day (a few times a day is fine). You can make the water as warm as you’d like. Fill the tub up about 6-8 inches deep and just sit in the water for as long as possible. Be sure to add some soothing bath salts or oils for extra relief. You can even use a vaginal suppository.

(This can help provide some extra lubrication as well). Be sure the suppository is labeled as safe to use during pregnancy and inserted properly.

Avoid bubble baths, harsh soaps, and other irritants.

Use a cold compress on your clitoris if the swelling gets severe. Also, use it after you use the vaginal suppository.

Try using a personal lubricant. Use only those that are labeled as safe to use during pregnancy.

Do Kegels to help your pelvic muscles stay strong.

Use a heating pad on the outside of your vaginal area to soothe any pain or swelling you may be experiencing. Be sure to keep the heat away from your vaginal area.

Avoid all sexual activity until the pain subsides. Even then, it is best to limit the amount of time spent engaged in sexual activity until the pain is gone completely.

Sources & references used in this article:

Effect of self perineal care instructions on episiotomy pain and wound healing of postpartum women by HAE Mohamed, NS El-Nagger – J Am Sci, 2012 – academia.edu

Complementary and alternative medicine in pregnancy: a survey of North Carolina certified nurse-midwives by AD Allaire, MK Moos, SR Wells – Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2000 – Elsevier

Episiotomy pain relief: Use of Lavender oil essence in primiparous Iranian women by F Sheikhan, F Jahdi, EM Khoei… – … therapies in clinical …, 2012 – Elsevier