Painful Sex After Birth: There Is a Way For Moms To Enjoy Pleasure Again
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Experiencing discomfort during intercourse in the postpartum period is a common phenomenon experienced by many women. In fact, about a quarter of women after giving birth report having painful sex after birth .
After speaking to many mothers, our team of Quanna sexual wellness experts, including gynecologists, have a solid reference point for understanding and supporting women who experience pain during sex after birth.
This guide aims to shed light on the reasons behind this issue and how it can be managed or even prevented.
A significant number of women report experiencing pain during sex after birth. This discomfort, medically known as dyspareunia, can occur for a variety of reasons and can persist for weeks, months, or even longer after childbirth.
Childbirth is a transformative process. It affects not only your body but also your hormonal balance, which can impact your sexual health. Whether you've had a vaginal birth or a cesarean section, your body needs time to heal and adjust to these postpartum changes.
During vaginal delivery, the perineum—the area between the vagina and anus—stretches to allow the baby to pass through. This can occasionally result in vaginal or perineal tears, or necessitate an episiotomy, a surgical incision made in the perineum to enlarge the vaginal opening . These injuries require time to heal and can contribute to painful sex after birth.
A C-section is a surgical procedure where the baby is delivered through incisions made in the mother's abdomen and uterus, not naturally through the vaginal canal. While this method bypasses the vagina, the incisions can still cause discomfort during intercourse, particularly in certain positions that put pressure on the healing abdominal area.
The pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, and bowel, can be affected by pregnancy and childbirth. These muscles can stretch and sometimes even get injured during delivery. This can cause discomfort during sex, but it's not a permanent state. With time and targeted kegel exercises, these muscles can recover and regain their strength.
Childbirth triggers a drop in estrogen levels, a hormone that plays a crucial role in maintaining vaginal health. Lower estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness and make the vaginal tissue thinner and less elastic, contributing to discomfort during intercourse.
Breastfeeding can prolong this low estrogen state as it stimulates the production of prolactin, a hormone that suppresses estrogen to promote milk production. However, these changes are typically temporary and improve over time.
Painful sex after birth is not a life sentence—it's a temporary condition that can be managed and often entirely resolved with time and the right approach. Here are some practical tips to make sex less painful after birth.
Patience is key when reintroducing sex after childbirth. Waiting at least six weeks before resuming sexual activity is a general recommendation to allow your body time to heal. However, everyone is different, and you might need more time before you feel ready to be sexually active again. Listen to your body and only engage in sex when you feel comfortable doing so.
You can also re-introduce non-penetrative sexual activities slowly into your sex life if you're having pain during penetrative sex. This could be something like heavy kissing and making out. Nipple play if your nipples aren't too sensitive from breastfeeding. Or it could be mutual masturbation.
Lubricants can be a game-changer when it comes to combating vaginal dryness, a common cause of painful sex after birth. There's a wide range of products available over the counter, but Oomf CBD Lube stands out due to its CBD enrichment. CBD has been shown to potentially reduce pain and reduce inflammation 
Oomf is designed to enhance comfort and pleasure and reduce discomfort during intercourse, making it potentially the best lubricant to use after giving birth.
However, it is not advised to use Oomf while breastfeeding. Consult your OB-GYN for more information.
If vaginal dryness persists despite using lubricants, it might be worth discussing hormonal treatment options with your healthcare provider. Topical estrogen creams can help restore the health of your vaginal tissues and alleviate discomfort during sex.
Preparing your body for sex can make the experience more enjoyable. This could involve emptying your bladder beforehand, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce discomfort, or engaging in ample foreplay to ensure your body is ready for penetration.
Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, can help strengthen your pelvic muscles and improve sexual function. Consult with your healthcare provider about the best exercises for your situation.
Discomfort during sex after childbirth isn't necessarily about pain. It can also be about experiencing less pleasure than before. Fear, tension, and apprehension, especially during the initial encounters, can contribute to feelings of dryness and discomfort.
In the early postpartum period, a lack of estrogen can cause various uncomfortable symptoms, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and night sweats. The vaginal tissue's ability to produce lubrication is affected, and the vaginal walls might lose some of their flexibility. Using a quality lubricant and engaging in extended foreplay can help enhance comfort and pleasure.
Many women are surprised to find that sex after a cesarean section can be uncomfortable. Often, this discomfort results from scar tissue resulting from the surgery. Abdominal massages and self-massage at the incision site can be effective in releasing this scar tissue and paving the way toward pain-free sex.
Navigating discomfort or pain during sex after childbirth often involves debunking the notion that the six-week postpartum mark is a green light for sexual activity.
Here are a few tips that could help:
Recommended Reading: How to Increase Vaginal Sensitivity
There are several misconceptions surrounding sex after birth, some of which can create unrealistic expectations and exacerbate feelings of guilt or fear.
The six-week postpartum check is often seen as a green light to resume all normal activities, including sex. However, this timeline is arbitrary, and there's no magic that happens at this point that suddenly makes you ready for sex. The healing process varies greatly among individuals, and for some, it may take longer than six weeks to feel ready for sexual activity.
Another common myth is that painful sex only occurs after a vaginal birth and not after a cesarean section. This is far from reality. Regardless of the type of birth, your pelvic floor supports your uterus and baby throughout pregnancy, and discomfort during sex after a c-section is very common.
There's also a misconception that you'll be eager to have sex six weeks postpartum. In reality, it can take much longer for you to regain interest in sexual activity. Factors like breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and the general demands of caring for a newborn can leave you feeling touched out and uninterested in sex, which is completely normal.
When you decide to resume sexual activity after childbirth, it can be an emotionally charged experience. Here are a few reasons why sex might be painful after giving birth:
Low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness after birth, leading to discomfort during penetrative sex.
If you experienced vaginal tearing or had an episiotomy during birth, you might have scar tissue that makes sex painful. It's essential to wait until these injuries are fully healed before attempting penetrative sex.
Pelvic pain or discomfort during sex after a c-section is common but often overlooked. In addition to recovering from pregnancy, you're also healing from a major abdominal surgery, which can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being.
Breastfeeding can lower your estrogen levels, leading to vaginal dryness. The hormone prolactin, which aids in milk production, can also inhibit dopamine, making it more difficult to become aroused.
Whether you're adjusting to your postpartum body, recovering from a traumatic birth, or simply stressed about the idea of having sex after giving birth, psychological factors can play a significant role in your sexual experience.
Sleep deprivation can lower your libido, which can, in turn, lead to sexual discomfort.
Sometimes, childbirth can unmask latent triggers or tender points in the pelvic floor, making penetrative or deep intercourse very painful. If you're experiencing this, it's crucial to seek professional care as there are many treatment options available.
Experiencing postpartum sexual pain can be discouraging and could potentially lead to avoiding sex altogether, creating a cycle of pain and fear. However, you're not alone. This type of postpartum pelvic pain is very common—and highly treatable. There is hope!
Having an open conversation with your partner can significantly help in overcoming pain during postpartum sex. Discuss your experiences, specify what feels good and what doesn't, and work together to make sex more enjoyable.
Your postpartum pelvic floor is different from its pre-baby state. Take some time to familiarize yourself with your new pelvic floor using your fingers or vaginal dilators to explore your body and identify any areas of discomfort.
Foreplay isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity! Given the hormonal changes and slower arousal response in the postpartum period, your body needs more time to warm up before penetration.
Using personal lubricants can help reduce discomfort during postpartum sex by compensating for the lack of natural vaginal lubrication.
A holistic approach to treating pelvic pain considers all aspects of a patient's health—physical and emotional. Working with a psychologist or counselor can provide the emotional support needed to heal.
Physical therapy targeted at the pelvic floor can help rehabilitate this crucial group of muscles, reducing discomfort during sex.
In some cases, topical or oral medications can help patients enjoy painless sex. In-office procedures like Botox, blocks, and injections can also be beneficial when necessary.
In severe cases, such as pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may be required to treat postpartum sexual pain. Consult your doctor about your options.
Experiencing painful sex after birth is a common and temporary condition. Remember to be patient with your body, communicate openly with your partner, and seek professional help if needed. With time and the right approach, you can reclaim your sexual health and enjoy intimacy once again.