Postpartum care Postpartum sex: Why it sometimes hurts Sex after baby is tricky enough when you're exhausted, distracted and healing. But how do you cope when it's painful? Read on for the answers. By Kalli Anderson Jun 26, Illustration: Patricia Cavazzini You just had a baby. And for weeks—maybe months—you are too sore, overwhelmed, maxed out on touch and desperate for sleep to even contemplate having sex. And for a lot of us, resuming our sex lives can be, at best, a bit of a learning curve, and at worst, terribly painful.
You may also like: RRSP — Your top 20 questions answered Many couples start having sex again somewhere in the range of four weeks to six months postpartum. For many new moms, the first hurdle is getting used to their unfamiliar postpartum bodies. Montrealer Manuela Santiago remembers feeling like she had to get to know a brand new body after the birth of her son. Breastfeeding can make it especially tricky to think of your breasts in a sexual way.
The discomfort may not necessarily be the result of any one kind of birth—women who experience no tearing during labour can still have pain related to muscles and nerves that were affected by pregnancy and labour in general, she says. Even those who have had C-sections without labouring can experience this kind of pain during sex. Katherine took things slow and the discomfort eased after a few of months.
Amir-Wornell says this is typical. When Sara talked to her doctor about the pain after the birth of her first child, her doctor told her to wait to have corrective surgery until after she was finished having kids.
The muscles and tissue that are connected to the pubic bone in front and the tailbone in back and provide support to the internal organs are sometimes strained, injured or weakened during pregnancy and birth. Symptoms of pelvic-floor injury or dysfunction can range from a mild sense of soreness or heaviness in the vagina, to incontinence.
More serious conditions include pelvic-organ prolapse, which occurs when the tissue between the pelvic organs and the vaginal wall weakens, allowing surrounding organs to bulge into the vagina. Although corrective surgery is sometimes recommended in extreme cases, physiotherapy treatments aimed at healing and strengthening the pelvic floor are often enough to eliminate pain and allow women to regain lost muscle tone.
Angelique Montano-Bresolin, a registered physiotherapist in Toronto who specializes in pelvic health, administers internal vaginal assessments, including soft-tissue techniques that stretch and strengthen, and pressure-point release treatments. She also teaches women how to coordinate breathing and Kegel exercises to gain control over their pelvic-floor muscles. Aside from seeking treatment when sex becomes painful, women should also talk to their partners about it.