If you have lots of questions about sex after birth—you’re not alone. Many women struggle with sex issues postpartum, like bleeding during sex or postpartum sex pain.
We’re here to ease your mind—these problems are common, and they have a solution! Keep reading to discover the most common reasons for postpartum sex pain and how you can relieve the pain with tried-and-true methods.
Is Postpartum Sex Pain Normal?
If you’re experiencing postpartum sex pain after having a baby, it’s important to know that this issue is common—but it’s not normal.
Postpartum sex pain is usually due to an underlying issue, like vaginal dryness, prolapse, or an episiotomy. Identifying what is causing your postpartum sex pain is essential in finding a solution, such as rest, lubrication, or pelvic floor physical therapy.
Common Reasons for Postpartum Sex Pain
Though it’s common to experience postpartum sex pain—there are multiple different reasons why you specifically may be struggling. Keep reading to learn a few of the most common reasons for postpartum sex pain and to discover their respective solutions.
Note: You can get pregnant before your first postpartum period, which may occur as quickly as four weeks after giving birth, so you should always use protection during postpartum sex.
An episiotomy is a surgical incision made in the tissue between the vaginal opening and the anus (called the perineum) during delivery.
Episiotomies are performed to prevent larger vaginal tears during childbirth. They’re often recommended during emergency situations if the baby’s shoulder is stuck behind your pelvic bone, if there is a complication with the baby’s health during the delivery process, or if forceps or a vacuum are needed to remove the baby from the vaginal canal.
Recovering from an episiotomy is uncomfortable. It’s common to experience postpartum sex pain while recovering from this surgical cut. Although the stitches typically dissolve on their own, sometimes, they can tear during sex, causing postpartum sex pain and bleeding during sex.
Prolapse after pregnancy may be a scary proposition to consider, but it’s helpful to know that most women have at least a grade one prolapse for up to six weeks after delivery—when your organs (bladder, vaginal canal, rectal tissue, etc.) are slightly lower than they are supposed to be. You can read about the three additional (and more severe) grades of prolapse in our blog post about prolapse after pregnancy.
Unfortunately, prolapse after pregnancy can lead to postpartum sex pain—especially when the walls of the vaginal canal or your rectal tissue are slightly prolapsed into the vaginal canal. If you suspect your postpartum sex pain is due to prolapse, it’s wise to invest in pelvic floor physical therapy to remedy the issue.
3. Tissue Healing
During pregnancy, several things are happening to your body—increased blood flow, weight gain, and the growth of your baby—that add pressure on your tissues. Then, during delivery, the pushing adds more pressure to your tissues. After your baby is born, your uterus has an large wound (the size of a plate!) from the placenta falling out.
Needless to say, after going through pregnancy and childbirth, your uterus needs time to heal. Although the “standard” for tissue healing is six weeks, it can always take longer for your tissues to return to their normal size. It may be three months or even longer. If you’re experiencing postpartum sex pain without prolapse or an episiotomy, it may just be because your body needs more time to heal.
Vaginal dryness is extremely common after giving birth and is a prominent reason for postpartum sex pain.
Postpartum vaginal dryness primarily happens because of low estrogen—especially for nursing mothers. However, whether you’re breastfeeding or not, dryness occurs due to hormonal changes and can be remedied by using lubrication during sex up to six months postpartum.
How to Relieve Postpartum Sex Pain
Whether you’re experiencing postpartum sex pain because of one (or more) of the problems listed above, we have good news—there is a solution! Usually, one of the following remedies can help to alleviate postpartum sex pain:
Sometimes, all your body needs are rest and healing to prevent postpartum sex pain. One of the most important practices is to listen to your body. While recovering, you should try to stay off your feet as much as possible to help your blood flow and encourage a quick, healthy recovery.
2. Sitz Bath
If you had an episiotomy or needed stitches from a vaginal delivery, a “padsicle” (frozen sanitary napkin soaked with witch hazel, lavender essential oil, and aloe vera) could help to alleviate the discomfort. However, if you don’t have any “padsicles” already on hand, a warm sitz bath can be just as soothing and expedite healing.
As we mentioned, lubrication can be extremely helpful to combat dryness during postpartum sex up to six months postpartum, making postpartum sex much less painful. We recommend using water-based lubrication (as opposed to oil-based) since oil can damage latex condoms.
4. Physical Therapy
Pelvic floor physical therapy is one of the best ways to alleviate postpartum sex pain—especially if you’re dealing with tissue inflammation or prolapse.
First, pelvic floor physical therapy can give you confidence about the healing process, and we can also give you tips about how to strengthen your body as quickly as possible. Second, manual therapy can help decrease inflammation, reduce tissue restrictions, resolve asymmetries, and more. Overall, pelvic floor physical therapy can give you more confidence in your postpartum body, translating into pain-free postpartum sex!
Say Goodbye to Postpartum Sex Pain with Moment of Truth Physical Therapy
If you’re looking for a pelvic floor physical therapist in Peoria, Arizona, who can help you accomplish pain-free postpartum sex, look no further than our knowledgeable, caring team at Moment of Truth Physical Therapy.
Schedule your free discovery session so we can get to the bottom of what’s causing your postpartum sex pain and solve the problem with our physical therapy services!