How to Make Sex Less Painful After Birth

a woman holding her head in her hands

For many couples, sex is a source of pleasure and fulfillment. But for new moms, resuming sexual activity can be a painful experience due to hormonal changes and postpartum pain.

It’s not uncommon for women to experience discomfort during sex after birth, especially during penetration. Luckily, there are ways to make sex less painful after birth.

Take a Hot Bath

If you are experiencing painful sex after birth, it is important to remember that this discomfort is normal. The discomfort is likely due to both hormonal changes and physical pain from your delivery. The good news is that these uncomfortable feelings will fade with time. However, if you continue to experience pain or discomfort after trying the suggested remedies, contact your practitioner.

During pregnancy, your hormone levels increase to prepare for childbirth. After your baby is born, those levels return to their pre-pregnancy state, which can cause your sex drive and sexual response to decrease. This can also lead to vaginal dryness and tightness. Additionally, breastfeeding can further suppress estrogen levels, which can lead to pain during penetrative sex.

Many women feel ready to have sex after giving birth, but others don’t. Regardless of what your practitioner recommends, it is important to listen to your body and only engage in sexual activity when you are comfortable. For example, if you had a C-section delivery, your doctor may recommend that you wait for at least two weeks before having sex to allow the incision to heal. In addition, you might find that a different position such as the spoon position can help with pain during sex by allowing your partner to use less deep penetration. Oral sex can be sexually stimulating and even provide amazing orgasms, so it might be a great way to satisfy your desire for intimacy while your body heals.

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Apply Ice Packs

A common cause of pain during sex after birth (also called dyspareunia) is vaginal dryness due to fluctuating hormone levels, which can be exacerbated by breastfeeding or pumping. Applying an ice pack to the area can help ease pain during penetration and increase lubrication during sexual intercourse.

If you had an episiotomy or perineal tear during delivery, be sure to wait until the site is fully healed before attempting sex. Getting intimate too soon can increase your risk of postpartum hemorrhage or a uterine infection.

Try making a “padsicle,” a frozen sanitary pad, to relieve pain and swelling in the area while you’re waiting for the healing process to take hold. You can also apply a cold washcloth to the area for relief. These pads are designed to be slipped into your underwear, just like a menstrual pad, and can reduce pain, bleeding and itching.

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Be Patient

Women tend to assume that after their bodies bounce back from childbirth, sex should feel the same. However, this is not always the case. It’s important to understand why sex may not feel the same after birth and what you can do about it.

One of the main reasons sex may not feel as good after birth is because your pelvic area has changed since you became pregnant. Your uterus and cervix were stretched during pregnancy, so they need time to recover. Additionally, your vagina may be smaller than it was before you had your baby, which can cause pain during sex. You can help make sex less painful by using a lot of lubricant and practicing positions that allow you to control penetration. If you are breastfeeding, you may experience “let down” where your breasts leak milk during sex, which can also be painful.

Additionally, you and your partner will need to have an open dialogue about what is and isn’t working during sex after your baby is born. Be patient with each other and go at your own pace when it comes to sexual intimacy. Remember, if you have a C-section, your doctor will probably advise you to abstain from sex for six weeks to give your incision time to heal. This is important to prevent complications.

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Get Comfortable

At a new parents group I attend, we often have honest discussions about postpartum challenges, including lack of desire and painful sex. Many women are surprised to learn that what they’re experiencing is normal. At the same time, they’re relieved to hear that it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them.

Hormonal changes, tiredness and physical discomfort all play a role in pain with penetrative sex after birth. It’s important to understand what factors influence your experience, and to communicate them clearly with your partner.

For example, it’s normal to feel achy with sex because of the hormone prolactin, which inhibits dopamine and makes you less aroused. In addition, breastfeeding reduces your oestrogen levels, and that can cause vaginal dryness and pain with penetrative sex. If you had a tear during childbirth, or an episiotomy, scar tissue can also make it painful to engage in sexual activity.

If you’re having sex pain with your partner, try different positions and use lubrication to increase comfort. It’s also helpful to practice Kegel exercises, which help strengthen and lift the pelvic floor muscles. In the meantime, it’s okay to focus on your relationship in other ways, such as cuddling and talking. It’s also important to get enough sleep, which can help reduce feelings of fatigue and irritability. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it, whether that’s from your partner or a health care professional.

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