Sex can lead to pregnancy which leads to birth. Sex is fun, sex is enjoyable (well it should be – when it’s not then we need to address it – stayed tuned for a blogpost on that )
We get so caught up in the wonder of pregnancy and childbirth that a couple’s return to sexual activity following the birth – sex after birth – is just assumed as not being an issue and that you will pick up where you left off….not always so.
When I follow up ladies for their postnatal check up to ensure that they have started to regain control of their pelvic floor, bladder, bowel , core and co-ordination of their pelvic muscles and pelvis, one of the questions I ask is have you had sex yet? if so, are you experiencing any pain or problems? This is a topic so often overlooked or under-asked by health professionals. Everyone assumes that they were able to have sex previously (must have done it right because they got pregnant!) so why shouldn’t things just fall back into place afterwards?
Sex after birth can be quite confronting for both partners. For the mother there can be the fear of pain from a healing perineum and stitches. Some women are quite traumatized by the birth experience and feel betrayed by what their bodies have put them through – the thought of anything going near their vagina can be terrifying.
Prior to pregnancy and birth women and their partners only see their genitals as a source of mutual pleasure. Post birth they can have a very different view. Some partners can also be quite traumatized by witnessing the changes that occur to their partner’s vagina during the birthing process and may be fearful of causing further pain or freaked out by what they witnessed, especially bleeding / tearing and stitching. It can be quite helpful for some couples to have some counselling from someone experienced in this area . I actually think a “debriefing” would be beneficial to many people to deal with the emotions evoked by birth for some people.
Initial attempts at sex may be painful, this may lead to tension of the pelvic floor muscles and tissues which is typically how dyspareunia ( painful intercourse) and vaginismus
(spasm of the vagina) can develop and so begins a frustrating cycle of attempts, pain and failure.
For some women, laxity of the vaginal walls and weakness of the pelvic floor can lead to reduced sensation during sex and further disappointment. Now is the time to start retraining the pelvic floor to improve strength,support and ultimately sensation. Visit our shop for suggested products to assist you with this.
Sex doesn’t necessarily have to involve penetration, especially on the initial attempts of having sex after birth of your baby. There are many pleasurable things a couple can do together without actual penetration. A gradual slow return to sex is preferable. Take your time and communicate with each other.
Use of a good lubricant will help to ease any post natal vaginal dryness and help make sex more comfortable. We recommend SYLK (which is an all natural paraben free lubricant ).
There is some excellent information in Mary O’Dwyer’s book – an essential read for all women to assist in their recovery after the birth of their baby
Some women may benefit from the use of vaginal dilators to assist with gentle stretching of vaginal scar tissue or tightness resulting from stitches once the area has healed. Dilators are graduated in size and length to allow gentle insertion from a small length and diameter to larger ones until you can comfortably accomodate your partners penis. As you are in control of the size and depth of penetration you can gradually progress yourself as you feel comfortable. This may take some time but is well worth the effort.
Using pelvic floor relaxation techniques along with dilators can be very helpful. This CD is designed specifically for the use with dilators or trainers to help you learn to relax your pelvic floor muscles and tissues to allow gentle and gradual penetration during sex.
What you shouldn’t do is give up , pretend that it’s not happening and gradually fall into the no sex zone. Yes things change – often after baby arrives you can’t just have spontaneous wild sex wherever and whenever you want….but you can have it – you just need to be creative and flexible ( with planning , not physically …although it can help !) Sex after birth – it’s different but can be even more fabulous than before.
This information is intended as a guide only remember – if you are experiencing problems, you are not alone- discuss with your doctor or women’s health physiotherapist.