You just pushed a alb baby from a 10cm hole. Or maybe you’re the proud new recipient of a 4-6 inch painful scar across your abdomen. Then you spent 6+ weeks bleeding from said sore vag and you’re anxious to be YOU again with your partner, focusing on only each other in pleasurable sex. But what happens when postpartum sex is NOT pleasurable? Or even remotely nice? Well, don’t panic because that’s normal… right? Some discomfort is expected because hello, war zone down there.
But wait, it’s been 3 months, 4 months, 7 months and sex is still horrible. It’s more painful than when you lost your virginity. You’re beginning to dread your husband’s advances because you know it’s going to be so painful. It’s affecting your marriage and libido. What the hell is happening??
Painful sex, which has an actual medical term (dyspareunia), can be caused by a variety of things after birthing a baby, like:
- Breastfeeding making you dry down there. Hormones are crazy and breastfeeding can affect the amount of lubrication your body will naturally produce.
- A newborn’s constant neediness tanking your libido. You aren’t mentally ready, you’re physically exhausted, and the stars are just not No surprise, this will result in painful sex.
- Scar tissue where you had torn during delivery. Scar tissue won’t stretch like normal skin so if your body healed with too much of this, it takes an incredible amount of kneading and massage to work through this painful issue. And even then, some scar tissue will be too thick and will require a surgical procedure to open and re-heal.
- An “extra stitch.” Some old fashioned (and sexist) doctors may do this unnecessary stitch without you even knowing, thinking they are helping your husband’s sex life by making your vaginal opening tighter.
- C-section scar. You might think that because the baby didn’t come out your vagina, then a C-section shouldn’t affect your sex life, right? Wrong. You’ve got a huge scar across your abdomen and if you don’t work to massage and knead it, the scar tissue will seep lower into the muscle. This will cause all sorts of issues, painful sex being one of them.
- Weak pelvic floor muscles. Luckily, most doctors know of the pelvic floor therapy solution and will send you in the right direction to strengthen these muscles and fix your painful sex (as well as other symptoms, like urinary incontinence).
… To name a few. So if you find yourself hating sex because it is so painful (still!) for whatever reason, what can you do to help yourself?
- Communicate with your partner. He doesn’t know the pain you’re in so you need to tell him. Painful postpartum sex, especially months later, will affect how you view being intimate on an emotional and mental level, not just a physical one. So communicate your feelings, worries, and pain with your partner so he can be patient and sympathetic.
- See a doctor and advocate for yourself. You know your body better than any doctor and if something feels off, speak up. If you have suspicions of what might be causing your pain, bring them up and discuss its possibility. Ask about a pelvic ultrasound, numbing cream, estrogen cream, or whatever else you found during your researching.
- Don’t give up. Painful sex should not be something you just accept after having your baby. Keep searching for answers and resolutions. When nothing seemed to be working, my doctor basically told me to “endure until the next baby re-tears you.” There are better professionals out there who will work with you to find a quicker solution.
- Switch doctors if you need to. I should’ve done this because I felt mine gave up on me. But since two different doctors at our office examined me and told me the same thing, I took their word that it was just scar tissue where nothing could be done. I should’ve kept looking for a doctor that would offer more options, like surgery.
- Surgery is an option. It sucks, and it’s mainly for extreme cases, but a procedure is available to basically re-cut you so you can be stitched and healed correctly. A friend of mine who tore end to end with her birth and was stitched up incorrectly had to go this route and in her words, “I should’ve found my new doctor and had this done so much sooner. Sex went back to being pleasurable again once I re-healed!”
If you’re struggling to understand why postpartum sex hasn’t gone back to “normal,” please know that you’re not alone. Many women face this problem but are suffering in silence. But there is relief out there. And it starts with you opening up and talking about it.