Having a baby is extremely traumatic for your body. Though it is taxing on your body, most healthcare providers will clear individuals to return to sexual activity at six weeks postpartum. Your postpartum sexual activity will depend on your specific birthing experience. This includes whether you had a vaginal or belly/cesarean birth as well as any stitches due to tearing or an episiotomy. Once your doctor clears you for sexual activity, there are plenty of things to consider before you jump back into it.
Are you mentally ready?
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. Discussing your birthing experience with your partner and any apprehensions you may have about re-introducing intimacy can help prepare you. Keep communication consistent with your partner and start slow. Your body and mind have been through a lot, and there may be residual effects that linger from your birth.
It may also be difficult thinking about the new addition to your family. Re-introducing intimacy may be best at a time when your baby is asleep or if you and your partner are able to have some alone time (impossible as a new parent, right?). 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 returned to sexual activity after giving birth, you should know that no two experiences are the same. Even if you had the exact same birth story, which is nearly impossible, the way your body and mind processed it will be different.
There are many resources available for mental health services if you are experiencing any postpartum mood or anxiety disorders. This includes psychologists, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, sex therapists, and more. If you are having trouble finding someone to talk to, you can visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/ and click “Find a Therapist” for further information.
Are you physically ready?
Though your provider may have cleared you for sexual activity, you are the only person who feels what you are feeling. You may experience residual lower abdominal pain or cramping, even after your uterus has contracted down to pre-baby size. If you are breast/chest feeding, you may experience breast/chest/nipple tenderness when sexually aroused. Additionally, if you experienced any tearing, even what is considered “micro-tearing”, can heal through the development of scar tissue. Scar tissue build-up reduces the elasticity of your vaginal wall, which could make penetration painful.
Products to Help
You don’t have to do this alone! If you were ever embarrassed to use different products in your sex-life, it’s time to leave all of that embarrassment behind! First, introducing new items, even “just” lubrication into your relationship can add a fun, new element to your intimacy. The easiest and most important assistant you can add into your intimate relationship is LUBE! I know, I know… you’re young, your body produces “natural lubricant”, lube isn’t for people like you. WRONG! Lube is for everyone and I guarantee, it will make your intimacy comeback way more enjoyable than trying without it.
After childbirth, due to the changes your body went through and the hormone surges you experienced, it is not uncommon to experience a bit of vaginal dryness. Your self-lubrication could be less than what you are used to. That scar tissue we discussed earlier can contribute to lack of maintained lubrication since it is different than the normal consistency of your vaginal wall. Penetration without proper lubrication can contribute to even more micro-tearing and additional scar tissue buildup. Using proper lubrication can help make penetrative sex more comfortable and reduce the risk of adding to any physical or emotional trauma you may have experienced. For additional relaxation and pleasure, try using a CBD lubricant. My favorite is Bella CBD Lubricant, pictured below.
The Ohnut wearable rings allow you to stack up to four of these latex-free rings as a sort of “bumper” to penetration. Taking control of how much penetration you are comfortable with can make penetrative sex more comfortable for you and still just as enjoyable for your partner. The rings are soft and are able to “hug” the penis for added pleasure.
Everyone talks about Kegel health, but there are more to pelvic floor exercises than “stopping and starting your pee” (which is bad for you by the way… don’t do that)! If you would like to do Kegel exercises without any products, the easiest way to do that may be on the toilet. Make sure you empty your bladder as completely as you are able to. Once your bladder is empty, you can relax and contract the muscles as if you were to stop and restart urination! If you are unsure about the strength of your pelvic floor or if you are exercising it correctly, you should see a pelvic floor rehabilitation specialist! If you would like to add a product, there are many options that you can find on https://medamour.com/collections/kegel-devices/. My personal favorite is the Elvie Kegel Exerciser. Elvie connects through Bluetooth to an app on your phone to track your exercise progress!
Though there are many products that can make your sexual experience more comfortable, the last one I will recommend is a silicone dilator set. Your OB/GYN or other healthcare professional can recommend whether or not a dilator set is appropriate for you, 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. Some of these conditions can develop following childbirth, especially if you experienced tearing or an episiotomy. With tearing, stitches may contribute to scar tissue, or in some cases, the sensation of a “tighter” vagina, which can cause discomfort upon penetration for the first time. Below are a couple helpful options for dilator sets.
If you are concerned about using any products following childbirth, or about your postpartum sexual health, it is important to consult with a physician about your concerns. Postpartum intimacy can be emotionally and physically challenging to navigate. You are absolutely not alone. Just remember, you can get your sex life back post baby, you just have to do it on your terms!
Rhiannon – @sexualhealthhive