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Many new moms experience painful intercourse. It is so common that in a study of over 1000 women, eight-five percent experienced pain during their first vaginal intercourse postnatally. At three months postpartum, forty-five percent were still experiencing pain, and at eighteen months postpartum, twenty-three percent were still experiencing pain with sexual intercourse. Even though this is common, it is extremely important to check with your obstetric provider to make sure that everything is healing correctly.
Painful intercourse can be caused by many factors such as:
- Hormonal changes – Decreased estrogen (especially when breast feeding) can lead to thinning and dryness of the vaginal tissue. This is usually a short-term problem. Think lubrication! Using a high-quality, water-based lubricant can be a very effective tool.
- Exhaustion – Even though many doctors will give a new mom a 6-week green light to resume sexual activity, many women will find that they need more time. Most new moms (and dads) are exhausted from both lack of sleep and the demands of taking care of a newborn. Couples may find that it is hard to experience the pre-baby levels of arousal and desire. Sex may be the last thing on a woman’s mind. Parents should give themselves time to heal and adjust. Remember that time is your friend.
- Perineal Trauma and Tender Pelvic Floor Muscles – spontaneous tearing and episiotomies are common during vaginal deliveries. Many women are able to heal from tears without further problems. If you are experiencing painful intercourse due to a perineal tear, please consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist. These tears can be very successfully treated and vaginal dilation therapy, using Soul Source silicone dilators, may be an important part of your treatment plan.
- Caesarian sections – Many women believe that delivery by C-section protects the pelvic muscles. However, studies have shown that women at six-month post-C-section are experiencing pain with intercourse. It is important to remember that the pelvic floor muscles are part of a team of muscles that includes the abdominal muscles. These muscles work together to provide support and stability to the pelvis, facilitate childbirth, and have an important role in sexual activity. Hormonal changes may also be a contributing factor.