Many women experience painful sex postpartum. Postpartum sex can be painful even months postpartum. When you can start having sex again after having a baby is a common question. It’s only second to “When can I start working out?” There are a few things we want to get back to make us feel like normal human beings after having a baby. Being intimate and having sex with our partner is one of them.
Most women wait until after their 6-week physician check up to get the okay to return to intercourse. Some women may want to start having sex sooner than that. I do encourage you to let your body heal during this time. Because when you try it again for the first time, it might be painful.
Why painful sex postpartum might occur
It’s important to remember painful sex postpartum is a common, often distressing experience. It can occur due to:
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased lubrication
- Reduced elasticity of the vaginal muscles and tissue due to childbirth
- Tears in the perineum
- Psychological factors such as fear, anxiety, trauma, the baby blues and postpartum depression
It takes time to heal postpartum
After pregnancy, labor, childbirth and nursing, our bodies often are not the same. This goes for our vaginas and pelvic organs, too! Leaky boobs, saggy skin, stretch marks, weight gain, and a more relaxed vagina. Hello, body issues! You may never get to the point of viewing your new body as a badge of honor of motherhood. That’s okay. You should still take some time to allow it to recover and to accept some of the changes in this new season of life. Talking to other moms, staying active, and returning to an exercise routine can help.
When it’s safe to return to sex
Here are some common factors that determine when it is safe to return to sex:
- Vaginal bleeding has stopped.
- Scar tissue from an episiotomy or tear has healed. Keep in mind more severe tears or scars can take up to 6-12 months to heal.
Be patient with your body and don’t push through any pain. Learn how to perform gentle scar massage on the area starting 6 weeks after your delivery. This can help soften the tissue and promote faster healing. You can consult a pelvic physical therapist for advice.
Tips for returning to sex after giving birth & navigating painful sex
Check your c-section scar
C-section scars can often be the culprit of painful intercourse. Yes, even if you did not have a vaginal delivery. The vaginal muscles have decreased blood flow and may get tense causing pain with sex. A pelvic floor physical therapist can perform external and internal massage. This will help the vaginal muscles relax and improve blood flow.
What can you do at home? Use vaginal dilators! They look like tampons of different sizes. This will help retrain the vaginal wall muscles to relax. This will also promote blood flow to help decrease pain.
Lube up if you have painful sex postpartum
Pain can occur during sex because your vagina is dry. Estrogen levels may not have returned to normal yet. This is especially true if you are nursing or pumping. Nursing and pumping can cause vaginal tissue to be thin, dry, and prone to tearing. Use a water-soluble lubricant or natural oil like coconut oil (and lots of it!) during intercourse to help decrease friction. Staying hydrated and performing gentle kegel exercises can help promote blood flow.
Returning to your pre-baby sex life? You may think – “No, thanks!” That’s okay. You may have no sex drive. This is normal. Exhaustion, irritability, hormonal, and in desperate need of a shower are a few things you need. Doing your partner a solid by getting busy is low on the list of priorities. Don’t push yourself to do something you don’t feel ready for. Do try to take small steps to stay connected with your partner.
Explore yourself first
You want sex to feel good! Rediscover what feels good for you by exploring yourself solo first. Your sexual health is important and this could be a good first step. Masturbation can help build your confidence and get you in touch with your body again before having sex with a partner.
Find intimacy in other ways
A frequent complaint from new moms is they often feel lonely and less connected. Being intimate is a great way to connect. This can entail having outercourse. That can be anything from holding hands or cuddling to other forms of foreplay or fondling. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or scared, talking to your partner can help. It’s important to communicate how you feel and what your expectations are so that both of you can be on the same page. You can also talk to a therapist if needed.
The takeaway here is to be patient with yourself and your body as it heals. You should return to sex at the pace that is comfortable for you. And remember, painful intercourse is NOT normal. Talk to your doc and request to see a pelvic physical therapist if needed. Physical therapy can help guide you on the path to pain-free and enjoyable sex.
Are you wondering if you are experiencing pelvic floor tension? If so, download my FREE resource – 4 Signs of Pelvic Floor Muscle Tension + 8 Tips to Relax Down there.
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