Painful Sex After Birth: There Is a Way For Moms To Enjoy Pleasure Again

Written by: Dr Dmitry Loktionov



Time to read 9 min

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 [1].

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.

Dr Dmitry

Dr Dmitry Loktionov - MB. BCh. OB-GYN

Dr. Dmitry is an accomplished doctor, women's health advocate, and founder of Quanna, a next-generation sexual wellness brand. With a background in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, he works towards empowering women with knowledge and improving access to holistic care.

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Understanding Painful Sex After Birth

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.

The Impact of Childbirth on Your Body

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.

Vaginal or Perineal Tears and Episiotomies

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 [2]. These injuries require time to heal and can contribute to painful sex after birth.

Cesarean Section Incisions

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 Role of the Pelvic Floor

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.

The Hormonal Factor

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.

How to Make Postpartum Sex Less Painful

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.

Taking Your Time

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.

Using Lubricants

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 [3]

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.

✓ Pros

  • Stress reduction
  • Enhanced lubrication
  • Potential pain relief

x Cons

  • Breastfeeding concerns
  • Interaction with medications
  • Limited regulation

Considering Hormonal Treatment

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 Ahead

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.

Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor

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.

Navigating Postpartum Sexual Discomfort

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.

Hormonal Changes and Vaginal Dryness

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.

The Impact of Cesarean Section

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.

Tips to Ease Discomfort and Enhance Pleasure

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:

  • Breathe! Deep, controlled breathing can help you relax and connect better with your body, enhancing the sensations of sex and improving orgasms.
  • Try massaging the perineum—the area between the vagina and the anus—can help you explore your body in a comfortable manner, helping you understand your body's current state.
  • Experiment with different sex positions. Certain sex positions can increase pressure and cause pain, while others can be pleasurable without discomfort. Experimenting with different positions can help you find what works best for you.

Recommended Reading: How to Increase Vaginal Sensitivity

Myths and Misconceptions About Sex After Birth

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 Myth

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.

The Birth Type Myth

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.

The Desire Myth

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.

Common Causes of Postpartum Sexual Pain

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:

Hormonal Changes

Low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness after birth, leading to discomfort during penetrative sex.

Tears or Episiotomy

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.

Emotional Distress

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.

Hypertonicity of the Pelvic Floor

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.

How to Find Relief from Postpartum Sexual Pain

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.

Communication about painful sex after child birth


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.

Foreplay postpartum

Sex Lubricants

Using personal lubricants can help reduce discomfort during postpartum sex by compensating for the lack of natural vaginal lubrication.

Psychological Support

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.

Psychological support for painful sex after birth

Pelvic Floor Therapy

Physical therapy targeted at the pelvic floor can help rehabilitate this crucial group of muscles, reducing discomfort during sex.

Medications and Procedures

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.

Medical procedures for postpartum painful sex

Surgical Intervention

In severe cases, such as pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may be required to treat postpartum sexual pain. Consult your doctor about your options.

Embrace the Journey

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.