You’ve had your baby… yay! You go for your 6 week postpartum check with your maternity healthcare provider and they assure you that your soft tissue healing is complete… yay! You get the “all clear” for getting back to all of your “usual” activities and you can totally be intimate with your partner again… yay!!!!… wait… what???
There are many factors influencing comfort with return to sex. Aside from feeling emotionally ready to do so, one’s desire to be “ in the mood” can be limited when dealing with fatigue, a new postpartum body, and the sensory overload that comes with a new baby attached to you most hours of the day and night!
Then there are the additional factors of riding the ups and downs of the hormonal “roller coaster” and potential pelvic floor issues also influencing readiness to return to intimacy.
A study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 85.7% of women experienced pain during their first vaginal sex after childbirth. Pain with vaginal sex was reported by 44.7% of women at 3 months postpartum, 43.4% at 6 months, and 28.1% at 12 months (McDonald et al., 2015).
What we can learn from this study is that not all women will experience pain or discomfort with vaginal sex after childbirth, but it is very common.
Here are some reasons why this may be the case from a pelvic floor perspective:
Difficulty relaxing your pelvic floor muscles
Believe it or not, It can be common to end up with extra tension in these muscles after childbirth. This can be a problem after vaginal or c-section deliveries.
If you’ve had any perineal tearing, an episiotomy, or a c-section you may be dealing with some tissue that doesn’t stretch and move as easily.
Trigger points in your pelvic floor muscles
Just like we can get knots or tight bands in our neck, shoulder, and back muscles, we can also develop knots or tight bands (also known as trigger points) in our pelvic floor muscles. These trigger points can be painful during sex.
Lack of vaginal lubrication
This is especially true if you are breastfeeding! Hormones change during breastfeeding and our natural vaginal lubrication decreases.
There can be a lot going on postpartum. Bottom line: Give yourself time to figure things out and ask for help.
Tips from pelvic physiotherapy may include:
- Learning to relax your pelvic floor muscles
- Learning to mobilize your scar tissue
- Learning to release your pelvic floor trigger points
- Using extra lubricant
Working on the above can take time and energy, but there are many ways to bring intimacy back into your relationship (aside from sex) while you do. When you feel ready… sex can, again, be a great experience… yay!!