Let’s face it, you are exhausted, stressed out, trying to heal- and just not in to it. It has been six weeks since your baby arrived and your doctor has just given you the green light to resume sexual activity. Your health care provider says, “Everything down there is healed and looking healthy. “. However, what your doctor may not have mentioned is that for some women who have recently given birth, sexual intercourse could be painful.
The good news is that this is usually a temporary problem, so new moms: take a deep breath! If you are experiencing discomfort during sex, you are not alone and there are many treatment options available. The pain you may be experiencing may not be due to the actual vaginal birth. Many women that have had c-sections without laboring also find they have dyspareunia (pain during intercourse).
The most common cause of this painful sex after childbirth is due to hormones, particularly low estrogen levels. When a woman has a decrease in estrogen, she usually then experiences vaginal dryness and lack of lubrication. This is especially true if you are breast feeding. According to the La Leche League, low levels of estrogen are normal for about the first two months after childbirth. Breast feeding then extends this continuation of low estrogen. Once a mom stops breast feeding and /or and reduces the frequency of nursing (when baby start eating solid foods) these symptoms tend to disappear.
If you are suffering from dryness, vaginal lubricants maybe the solution. But make sure to use a high quality vaginal lubricant that has the same PH and osmolality of vaginal tissue. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth(WVE): ”Recent research indicates that many lubricants on the market can have longer term detrimental effects on vaginal tissue. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an Advisory Note highlighting their concerns about the pH and osmolalities of lubricants, which included testing results of currently marketed lubricants. These concerns were complemented by the work of several other researchers shortly after. The WHO recommends using a lubricant with a pH of 4.5 and an osmolality below 1200 mOsm/kg.”
Pain with intercourse may also be caused by tight muscles and wounds that are still healing and/or scar tissue that isn’t pliable. Vaginal dilators may be a helpful tool to soften scar tissue. Check in with your health care provider, they may recommend a few sessions with a pelvic floor physical therapist.
And be patient with yourself. Good communication with your partner is important. Painful sex after childbirth is very common; it just takes time for your fluctuating hormones to regulate and for small tears to heal internally.