Introducing or reintroducing intimacy into your relationship for the first time after experiencing sexual trauma or after giving birth can be extremely difficult. Many individuals experience some level of post-traumatic stress following either of these events which can cause their body to reject any new feelings of arousal. There are some ways to help change your physical and psychological responses from negative to positive; here are a few:
It is incredibly important, before engaging in any sexual acts of intimacy, to be sure that it is something you want. If you do want to be intimate with your partner, ask yourself if you are ready for it. Have you discussed your trauma or birthing experience with your partner or a professional? Is your partner aware of what may trigger you and how to slow things down or stop if you start feeling uncomfortable? Being open and honest to whatever degree you feel comfortable with your partner with help you to feel at ease when any sexual intimacy is initiated.
If your partner is not aware of what you are feeling and you communication is lacking, it will be a negative experience for both of you. Since you are in control of your own body, it is up to you how long you wait before being sexually intimate with your partner. Do not let anyone make you feel rushed or compared to another individual who went through something “similar.”
Though someone else you know may have given birth or experienced sexual trauma, you should know that no two experiences are the same. Even if your situations sound very similar, your minds are not the same and you may process very differently. If you feel that you are not able to work through your negative thoughts toward sexual intimacy on your own, DO. NOT. PANIC! There are many resources out there, including psychologists, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, sex therapists, and more.
As the only person who knows exactly what you are feeling and how you want your future sexual experiences to go, it is your responsibility to set boundaries with your partner(s). The importance of communication cannot be stressed enough. If you would like to take things slow and ease into any acts of sexual intimacy, that is your decision. It is important to note that not all intimate encounters have to end in sex and there is no race to the finish line.
There is a difference between sexual trauma and childbirth, but many individuals can feel similar affects. If you have experienced sexual trauma, it may not have been specifically centered around your genitals. Some individuals struggle with nipple stimulation, certain area of their body being touched, or even some language used during sex. Any of these can be triggering and a hard stop to an individual who has been sexually abused or assaulted. It is important to communicate this to your partner, so you do not have to feel uncomfortable in any way and they are not left confused as to what they did wrong.
Individuals who experience traumatic childbirth may have a number of reasons to feel uncomfortable about being intimate again. Vaginal birth and cesarean birth can cause physical trauma to your body in different ways. Additionally, if your birth did not go as planned, you may feel additional trauma centered around certain parts of your body. Depending on how you birthed your child, you may have scar tissue build up that can be painful or areas that are sensitive to touch. It is necessary that you communicate these areas with your partner so they can proceed with caution.
Products to Help
There are a number of products that can be used to help ease you into your first sexual experience following trauma.
The most important is lubricant. Throw out any ideas you previously had about using lube; it may be exactly what you need! After childbirth or sexual trauma, multiple factors contribute to a lack of self-lubrication. Scar tissue buildup on the vaginal walls and feelings of uncertainty can contribute to vaginal dryness. Dryness or poor self-lubrication can be physically painful but can also contribute to further emotional damage or embarrassment.
Vaginal penetration without proper lubrication can cause microscopic tears in the vaginal walls, resulting in additional scar tissue build up. If you find yourself needing a little extra help relaxing your vaginal walls, try a CBD lubricant! My favorite is Bella CBD Lubricant, pictured below.
Another product that may help, would be a sort of “bumper” that limits the depth of penetration to create a more comfortable sexual experience. Ohnut wearable rings allows you to stack up to four of these latex-free “bumpers” to take control of how much penetration you are comfortable with and make sex more comfortable.
Though there are many products that can make your sexual experience more comfortable, the last one I will recommend is a silicone dilator set. This is something that can be discussed further with your OB/GYN or other healthcare professional, but if you have scar tissue buildup, vaginismus, or another painful sexual health condition, you may need some help with vaginal dilation to reduce or eliminate pain during sex.
If you are concerned about using any products, or about your sexual health, it is important to consult with a physician about your concerns. Just remember, you can get your sex life back, you just have to do it on your terms!
Rhiannon works as a birth and postpartum doula and is pursuing a career as a Psychologist. She currently has her MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration and will be graduating with her Master’s in Psychology this upcoming May. Beyond that, she will continue on to pursue her doctorate in Clinical Psychology and will concentrate her practice in sex therapy, work with women/families through pregnancy, postpartum, fertility issues, adoption, and more. Rhiannon is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with MedAmour!