After having a baby, sex is not among your top priorities. Still, once you’re actually in that time, you might discover that there are more reasons not to have sex than just the added responsibilities your life just received.
Dyspareunia is a fairly common consequence of childbirth, but not everyone experiences it for the same reasons. Likewise, not everyone feels the same levels of pain or even feel pain at all.
Luckily, dyspareunia after childbirth isn’t a bad sign or anything related to dangerous conditions. While it can be uncomfortable and painful, childbirth-related dyspareunia is temporary and easy to treat.
What is dyspareunia?
Dyspareunia can be a scary term when referring to a condition you’re suffering, but it actually means “pain during sex,” nothing more. It can be used to describe pain during penetration, intercourse, or even triggered by orgasm.
Dyspareunia has dozens of possible causes behind its appearance, but if you experience it after childbirth, many of them won’t apply to you. In fact, several of the more problematic factors causing dyspareunia are also tied to the inability to get pregnant.
Still, different factors could cause this condition after childbirth, and just like general dyspareunia, they can overlap.
Naturally, treatment will depend on what’s causing this condition in your case, and after assessing the reason, the pain usually goes away shortly or even instantly.
Why does sex hurt after childbirth?
Again, there are various possible causes of dyspareunia. They can vary depending on your hormone levels and even how you delivered your baby.
• Low estrogen levels
Estrogen peaks during pregnancy to aid the baby’s development. However, right after delivery, these levels go back to normal. Some women might even experience harder dips, resulting in lower estrogen amounts.
With reduced estrogen levels, the vagina generates lesser fluids, even with foreplay taking part. This means that friction becomes an issue when having sex.
Finally, low estrogen is part of a cocktail of hormone changes the body experiences, and all hormones take part, which means that your sex drive can be hindered, reducing lubrication even more.
Breastfeeding plays a huge role in those hormonal shifts mentioned in the last paragraph. In fact, breastfeeding acts as minor menopause, and it dips your estrogen levels even further.
When coupled with the insanely high hormone amounts from pregnancy, breastfeeding makes the estrogen dip a lot more noticeable. It could even reach lower than they did before pregnancy.
Naturally, if the childbirth hormone drop didn’t affect your sex drive and lubrication, this will (very likely) offer the final boost.
• Pelvic muscles malfunction
The muscles related to the pelvic floor are among the top reasons behind dyspareunia after birth. They tend to become tender or irritated after delivery.
Perineal trauma and hormone changes can also make your pelvic floor muscles tender, yet they can still provide you with support.
People also think that c-sections prevent damage to these muscles, but they often forget that the pelvic muscles are just part of a team that provides stability, and it includes the abdominals, low back, and diaphragm muscles. Pelvic muscle malfunction causes more stress on these.
Statistically, c-section patients have higher chances to suffer dyspareunia after six months from childbirth.
• Perineal trauma
Vaginal deliveries are painful; that’s not a secret to anyone. Besides, the process can cause a lot of internal damage to the vagina. These are usually healed before you even start having sex again, but that’s not always the case.
More serious injury, particularly tears towards your sphincter and rectum, can be quite painful for a long time. In fact, women who suffer sphincter tears can experience dyspareunia even one year after childbirth.
These scars are very sensitive, but they can be treated. It’s important to do so, as well, since discomfort can last for several years.
Stress can affect sexual arousal significantly, and new parents go through a lot of stress. From having to take care of the baby to lack of sleep and body image issues postpartum, sexual drive is affected by a lot of agents.
That means lower sex drive and lubrication, again, coupled with the hormonal changes you’re going through.
Mothers are also exhausted most of the day, leading to even less arousal.
• Scar tissue
Finally, all injuries suffered from childbirth (surgery, cuts, tears, etc.) run the chance of leaving painful scars resulting in scar tissue.
Luckily, these scars can be massaged and kneaded to reduce the chance of growing scar tissue and painful sex as a result. However, if this step is skipped, then this tissue, which grows on the inside of the scar, can become really painful, and for larger scars, sex can be unbearable until treated.
How to alleviate dyspareunia after childbirth?
The first step is to identify the cause behind the pain. Luckily, a visit to your gynecologist, or even your GP, can solve this quite quickly.
After it’s diagnosed, the treatment depends on what’s causing it.
- Hormone therapy or estrogen creams can help with hormone shifts.
- Synthetic lubrication can also solve the dryness issue.
- Towards the muscles, your doctor might prescribe physical therapy.
- When it comes to stress, you want to look to manage it better. Talk to your partner to set aside time exclusively for intimacy.
- In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter painkillers before sex and apply ice packs to reduce burning discomfort.
Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.