It wasn’t too long ago that I spent my evenings preparing for same-day surgery.
You see, after giving birth to my beautiful baby girl in the Spring of this year, I experienced a rare difficulty with my body’s postpartum healing.
It’s referred to as labial adhesions.
Disclaimer: The content of this post may be inappropriate for kids under the age of 13.
What Are Labial Adhesions?
In simple terms, labial adhesions occur when the labia (aka lips of the vagina) “stick together rather than staying separated.”
To give you a visual without a vivid photo, here’s my laymen terms description:
Labial adhesions are when the lips of the vagina stick together, creating two holes in a female’s private area.
They usually occur in infants and young girls – known as primary labial adhesion.
However, it can also affect women who have just given birth and women who have gone through menopause – known as secondary labial adhesion.
How Are They Caused?
Well, the basic consensus is that labial adhesions are caused by a lack of estrogen.
Yet there are still other known causes such as:
- Vulval Cancer
- Childbirth Complications
- Scarring Tissue from Surgery or Trauma
Sounds fun, right?
What Are The Symptoms of Labial Adhesions?
I don’t mean to make you wince but here’s the truth, when you have labial adhesions, it is difficult to:
- Have Sex
- Sit Comfortably
Amongst other things, like using a tampon, it’s a small thing that has a very big impact on everyday life.
My Labial Adhesions Story
Now that you have that context, allow me to share my rare postpartum recovery story with you.
How They Were Discovered
Everything came to light at my first postpartum appointment.
I was nervous.
But I’d prayed that I would get a good report from the doctor, confirming that I had healed well because I was anxious to get back into the swing of things.
However, that was not the case.
After reviewing how my body had healed since childbirth, my doctor told me that despite my stitches healing well, I actually had two holes instead of one in my private area.
I looked at her with a blank face.
I had never heard of this before, and frankly, I couldn’t even visualize what she was saying to me.
Seeing the obvious confusion on my face, my doctor decided to use a mirror to show me exactly what had happened down there.
When I looked, it all made sense.
Instead of one opening, the lips of my vagina (medically referred to as the labia), had fused together during healing. This left me with 2 holes.
So that’s why when I urinated it felt weird.
“Oh wow, ok,” I said aloud to confirm my realization.
“How did that even happen?”
Why They Were Formed
Remember I mentioned earlier that sometimes these labial adhesions are formed due to childbirth complications?
But I stood to be corrected.
My doctor explained that in some postpartum cases, particularly among young women, there’s a lack of estrogen after childbirth.
This was what had caused my labial adhesions.
I had never had a lack of estrogen before but after delivery, it was in short supply.
Naturally, my follow-up question to this information was, “Was there any way to prevent this from happening?”
To which I received a ‘No.’
“So, how do we fix this?” I asked.
“Well, we have some options,” my doctor replied.
And that statement right there started the 6-month process of my rare postpartum recovery.
My First Treatment For My Labial Adhesions
The first option my doctor suggested was a non-invasive solution.
She prescribed me estrogen cream and gave very simple instructions. At least they seemed so.
After picking up my prescription from my pharmacy, I needed to rub and massage estrogen cream on and under my adhesions twice a day. We would then have a checkup in two weeks.
The goals of this DIY treatment were to:
- Avoid surgery.
- Loosen the skin that had fused together.
I left the doctor’s office feeling hopeful and motivated that I would accomplish this task without a problem.
But the reality was far from it.
It was very challenging for me to take time during my daily routine to sit on the bed with my legs wide open and try to massage my vagina in order to loosen the skin.
First and foremost, I could barely see down there and using my phone or a mirror only helped so much. Secondly, trying to do that in the morning or evening with a 2-month old was rough. And last but not least, trying to loosen the skin down there was painful.
My initial solution was to have my husband do it for me, but as he tried, I cried out of frustration and pain.
And after that point, I definitely wasn’t consistent.
Plus the week before my check-up, Mother Nature hit, and I definitely wasn’t messing around down there and massaging anything with that going on!
So at my check-up, there was some progress but it was very little.
You know me, I was honest with my doctor and simply told her that I had not been as consistent as I should have been.
She thanked me for my frankness and assured me that we were in this together. Then she asked me to try this first treatment for another 2 weeks.
I did but I faltered again.
Between returning to work, taking care of my baby and trying to find my footing again as a wife and individual, I neglected my physical self-care.
Everything else came before what I truly needed to prioritize – me.
This resulted in an additional month of trying to do the first DIY treatment.
But there was no progress and I just got more frustrated with the increasing discomfort and the entire situation as time dragged on.
My Second Treatment
Around the middle of September, my doctor offered to do another treatment.
It wasn’t much different from the first.
However, with my time struggles and reluctance to DIY the treatment myself, she stated that I could set an appointment with her to more aggressively massage the labial adhesions and help separate them.
All I would need is to pick up a numbing cream she would prescribe, bring the estrogen cream I had in with me to the appointment, and then she would do the rest of the work.
It sounded like heaven to me!
And, my hope returned.
The day of the appointment came.
I had the numbing cream and estrogen cream in tow.
The nurse checked my vitals, and then my doctor applied the numbing cream to my private area.
After 15 minutes, she returned, applied the estrogen cream and began to massage/pull the labial adhesions apart.
At first, it didn’t hurt but about half an hour in, the numbing cream wore off.
So my doctor repeated the procedure again.
She made some progress but after 2+ hours, the numbing cream began to burn because the separation of the labial adhesions made my skin raw.
I asked her to stop.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
The pain was intense, and my head was throbbing from the pressure and hunger.
During the pause, she looked at the progress and asked, “Do you mind if I have my partner doctor look at this?”
I felt like my body was failing me and really needed a break.
The second doctor came in.
She introduced herself and mentioned that her specialty was with women who were experiencing menopause so she had seen labial adhesions before.
After reviewing the progress we’d made, her suggestion was to give me a numbing injection in my private area, cut the labial adhesions and then stitch them.
If that didn’t sound like a good option for me, then my last resort was to have same-day surgery where they would do a similar process with sedation.
“How long would that take to heal?” I asked, curious about the healing process.
“It would be an uncomfortable 1-2 weeks pretty similar to what you experienced in the first 6 weeks post childbirth,” they responded. “What would you like to do?”
I froze. What did I want to do?
My husband was in a different state with my daughter attending a funeral for a beloved family member, and here I was, in a room by myself, trying to figure out the logistics of how a minimally invasive surgery would affect my home and work life.
“May I have 5 minutes to think about this?”
They obliged. “Yes, take the time you need.”
“I’ll check back with you in 20 minutes,” my doctor added.
My Decision For My Final Treatment
As soon as they left the room, I lost it.
The tears I had kept inside burst out.
I was emotionally spent and I just wanted this to be over.
Why did my body have to do this?
Why was this such a long drawn out process?
Right in the middle of my meltdown, my doctor returned.
She saw my tears and began to apologize for the frustration and length of the process.
She took my hand and assured me that she would do everything possible to help me get back to normal.
I thanked her. It honestly helped that she genuinely cared so much about my well-being.
But then came the dreaded question.
“What would you like to do?”
I responded, “I’m going to do the surgical procedure.”
“Ok, let’s do it.”
My Final Treatment – Separation of Labial Adhesions Same-Day Surgery
On October 10th, I had my pre-surgery preparation appointment where they checked to make sure I was physically healthy enough to have a surgery and sedation.
I passed all my tests with flying colors.
From that point, since my surgery was scheduled for October 18th, I spent my evenings preparing for my post-surgery care.
This included picking up my subscription of oxycodone, finalizing my time off schedule with my HR Manager and boss at work plus making sure I had everything set up at home ( food, water, etc.) for my healing process.
The night before, I bathed with Dial anti-bacterial soap, stopped eating after 6 PM and got a good night’s rest.
Then on October 18th, I went in to the same-day surgery office for my procedure accompanied by my husband.
After checking in, I wiped down with the medical cleaning cloths they gave me (which made me so ashy!!), got dressed in my hospital robe, and then cooperated with the nurse assigned to me as she helped get me ready for surgery.
Within about 30 minutes, my husband then joined me in my prep room and my doctor followed about 15 minutes after that.
Having my husband there and seeing my smiling doctor helped my nerves! But I was still anxious.
I had never been under anesthesia before. The closest thing I had experienced was the epidural during my labor and delivery.
Anyway, after a total of an hour and a half of surgery prep, I was wheeled into the surgery room.
After that, all I remember is being told to position my body a certain way, having a mask placed over my nose and mouth, and then…..I opened my eyes in my post-surgery room and saw my husband sitting there smiling. LOL.
“That was a good nap,” I commented.
My doctor then came in and gave me a quick review of my healing instructions, also mentioning that she had given my husband a more in-depth breakdown of what I needed to do.
She then wished me luck and reminded me that I’d see her for my review appointment on October 31st.
The nurse then prepped me to leave, helped me get into a wheelchair and escorted my husband and me to the car.
The minute I got home, I popped one of my oxycodone pills in my mouth, sat in bed and forced myself to rest.
In fact, that’s pretty much what I did from that day on.
I made sure to not overextend my body by eating well, sleeping well and relinquishing control of things I usually did around the house (and trust me, that’s hard!!).
I also made sure to follow ALL my post-surgery care instructions consistently.
This meant that every time I used the restroom, I had to insert a piece of gauze covered in vaseline or numbing cream in between the labia to keep them from fusing together again.
And even if I didn’t use the restroom for some time, I still needed to replace the gauze frequently for sanitary reasons.
I put myself first.
And I’m happy to say that IT PAID OFF!!
A Clean Bill Of Health For The Win!
On October 31, 2018, I had the quickest and best appointment ever!
My doctor reviewed my post-surgery progress and happily told me that my vagina was normal.
Who knew that being told something about you is normal could be such good news? LOL
Despite how tough this situation was for me, overcoming this and persevering despite the setbacks and inconveniences made me feel stronger as a woman.
It made me realize that you truly don’t know how strong you are until you are forced to be strong.
And let me tell you, after that last appointment, I felt like a badass!
But most of all, I re-learned a very important lesson.
I have to take care of myself before I take care of others
It is non-negotiable.
In fact, by not taking care of myself, I put everyone around me at more of a disadvantage.
It reminded me of when my little brother mentioned that on any flight they will ask you to [bctt tweet=”Put your oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else. You can’t help anyone if you’re struggling to breathe.” username=”baydiangirl”]
So with that being said, I wrote this story to shed light on a part of womanhood that is rarely discussed, and I hope that any woman who is experiencing this is reminded that they are not alone and that they are strong enough to overcome this!
And even if you never experienced this, which I hope you never do, I hope this testimony reminds you to take care of yourself!