by Dr. Cole Kampen, PT, DPT, PCES

Welcome, brave souls, to the wild world of sex after childbirth! Your brand-new, amazing body might have mixed feelings about hopping back into the sheets that got you here. As a Pelvic Health PT (and mother of 3), I work with moms and couples every day as they navigate the waters of returning to intimate touch after baby, and I’m here to help you too.

Why Does It Matter?

At Triad Pelvic Health, we believe that your sexual health is an important part of your overall health (physical, emotional, and mental), AND that sexual health does NOT just mean penetrative sex in the missionary position. Finding ways to physically connect with your partner can be important to nurturing your new roles and relationship together. (Plus, orgasms are good for your health ;))

C-Section Scar

Why is Sex After Baby Painful?

You are not alone. Did you know that up to 85% of women report having painful postnatal sex the first time after delivery, both C-section and vaginal! Why are we not talking about this!? (We would have national initiatives in place if 85% of men had pain with….oh wait, sorry…back to my “helpful tips”). In Pelvic Health PT, the most common reasons sex can be painful after childbirth are:

– Perineal tearing (not shocking..ouch),

– Incisional pain or scar tissue (sore!!),

– Hormonal changes of your body as well as at the vulva (burning),

– Decreased lubrication (dry!), and frankly,

– Lack of sufficient arousal related to the whole shebang!

These physical reasons can be treated quite easily with Pelvic Health Therapy, but the lack of arousal can feel more significant long term and take a special approach to address. So let’s dig in.

Sex After Baby

Decreased Arousal: Why it matters.

Even if sex isn’t painful, maybe you’re just not (ever) in the mood. And now your kids are

toddlers….or tweens (Yikes! How did we get here!?!). It’s not because you don’t love your partner, or wouldn’t enjoy it, so what’s going on?

Sexual desire and arousal are NOT simply physical processes. The “feel good” changes that happen when the body is aroused (lubrication, tingling, plumpness of the clitoris, lengthening of the vagina) are dampened when we are fatigued, stressed, or in pain (hello, cracked nipples!). No matter how hard you might want to, these hurdles are hard to get over when it comes to sex and parenthood. Oh and let’s not forget possibly feeling self-conscious, birth trauma, and postpartum anxiety or depression. No wonder sexy-time doesn’t feel like a priority!

But wait! There’s hope!

This new chapter of your life can be a great time to REDISCOVER sexuality and pleasure in your body and your relationship. This is a big topic, but consider these thoughts as a place to begin:

– Continue connecting physically. Snuggle on the couch, in the bed, or with a massage. Let your partner know that you might not be ready for sex, but that this closeness helps with those feel-good hormones of connection.

– Try using a small vibrator and lube. Yes you. When our mind is elsewhere, these little helpers can jump start that arousal cascade to help you find pleasure in your body. We’re happy to help with suggestions on types and techniques.

– Find a mental health provider. Yes you. This sh!t is hard, and you don’t need to figure it out on your own.

– Carve out 30 min each week to emotionally reconnect with your partner, and protect this time like it’s gold. This can be a walk, a meal, or coffee on the porch. Reconnecting emotionally is crucial for returning to physical intimacy.

– Regular movement practices or exercise can deeply help all of the things I have listed above, so talk with your provider if fitness is new for you!

Triad Pelvic Health specializes in working with mamas and couples navigating this territory, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Hope and healing are always possible. We offer free consultation appointments so call to learn more or hop on our website. or follow @triadpelvichealth on IG or Facebook

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