5 Reasons why sex after birth hurts and what you can do about it
Some women will still experience painful intercourse more than after a month after giving birth. This is due to a variety of reasons. Here's how to cope
Even though many healthcare professionals will agree that resuming sex at least a month after birth is okay, some women still struggle with fears that it might be painful.
Painful sex after birth isn’t normal; it means that there is some underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
A new study published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that, by 6 weeks after a delivery, 41% of women have resumed sex, 78% by 12 weeks, and 94% by 6 months.
The recommended waiting time of 4 to 6 weeks after a normal vaginal delivery is to reduce the risk of infection.
But even at 8 months after birth and your libido has somewhat returned, sex can hurt. But why? Here are five of the most common reasons and how you can cope with each of them.
1. The nature of your stitches (or lack thereof)
If you gave birth vaginally, chances are you tore naturally or the doctor cut your perineum (which is the space between your vagina and anus). This means you needed to get stitched up. If your doctor is old-fashioned, then you may have asked them to create an extra “Husband stitch”—which is a method of making the vaginal opening smaller.
Some women ask for this while some “well meaning” doctors take it upon themselves to do this stitch to improve their patient’s sex lives. Whatever the reason, this may cause pain because of the tightening of the vagina.
Even if you didn’t get the extra “Husband stitch” or you tore naturally, chances are you’ll have scarring on your perineum. This may make intercourse painful because scar tissue tightens the skin while heightening its sensitivity. Scarring can also tense up your vaginal muscles, resulting in pain which can be relieved if you relax.
One way to deal with this is by massaging or “kneading” the vagina to relax muscles.
2. Attempted vaginal delivery and a C-section
This means that both your pelvic floor and abdomen have been through the wringer. Scarring from perineal tearing and a c-section means there are a lot of reasons for you to experience painful postpartum intercourse.
Find out more about postpartum intercourse pain on the next page
3. Lower hormone levels = lower sex drive and dryness
Breastfeeding has been known to lower your natural hormone levels, which lowers your sex drive and causes vaginal dryness.
If the vagina isn’t lubricated enough, then sex can create tearing sensations and it’ll make it feel like rubbing sandpaper.
Gentle lubricants such as coconut oil and olive oil may help. KY jelly may do more harm than good for sensitive vaginas.
Mental and emotional shifts can have effects on your physical responses. For instance, worrying that your newborn baby might be waking up anytime in the other room, can cause your vagina to tense up.
The pelvic floor (which are the muscles in the pelvis spanning the vagina, clitoris, and and hips) responds to what we’re thinking. So when you’re nervous, anxious, scared or uncomfortable, your pelvic floor responds by tightening.
This primitive response is your body’s way of protecting your reproductive parts in order to be able to procreate. So it’s not just physical timing that’s vital for deciding when to have sex after birth; it’s also mental readiness that can help you have painless sex.
Just like vaginal deliveries, C-sections also leave scars. When left untreated with remedies such as vitamin E or over-the-counter creams like cocoa butter, these scars can cause bladder and bowel problems as well as painful intercourse.
Another method would be to undergo pelvic floor physical therapy which is a type of physical therapy focusing on pelvic issues.
Pelvic physcal therapists can do procedures to determine what’s causing painful sex and can teach you at-home exercises as well as perform “hands on” therapy in and around the vagina.
The journey back to having enjoyable, satisfying sex may be an uphill climb but it’s well worth the journey.
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