In anticipation of Valentine’s Day this week, we thought we’d cover one of the big fears that women have about life after baby: sex. Many women wonder if it will ever feel the same, how much it will hurt, and what their sex life will be like once baby comes into the picture. Below, some of the experts at FitPregnancy give the scoop on sex after birth.
By Tamekia Reece, a writer in Houston who specializes in parenting, sexual health and relationship issues.
Will intercourse hurt when we start having it again? Will my vagina be loose? Will my partner still enjoy sex with me? More pregnant women and new moms than you might think fret about issues like these. To put your mind at ease about your after-baby body, here’s the scoop on the biggest sex-related worries women have.
Worry No. 1 > > Sex will be painful.
Real deal: Having a baby causes the ligaments that support the uterus to stretch, making it lower slightly, says Mark Chag, M.D., an OB-GYN at Harbour Women’s Health in Portsmouth, N.H. While discomfort caused by the penis hitting the uterus during intercourse is normal (and easily remedied by switching positions), pain is not. As long as you wait until you’re given the green light by your doctor (usually six weeks), sex should be painless, Chag says. If it isn’t, talk with your doctor, especially if you had an episiotomy; you could have another tear or an infection. But even when you’re physically ready for sex, you may not feel like having it. Blame fatigue, hormonal factors or the possibility that it’s just nature’s way of making sure you don’t get pregnant again too soon.
Worry No. 2 > > My vagina will be stretched out.
Real deal: Nikki Perry, of Salem, Ohio, is worried that her vagina will get “stretched out” during her second delivery. “It’s 10 years later and I’m 10 years older, so I’m concerned,” she says. Although the vagina obviously expands during childbirth, “it is very elastic and returns to its normal contour afterward,” says Jennifer Berman, M.D., director of female urology and sexual medicine at Rodeo Drive Women’s Health Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. If you’re concerned about tightness, do Kegel exercises or other pelvic-muscle-strengthening moves. To do Kegels, repeatedly squeeze and hold the same muscles that control urine flow several times throughout the day. Doing the same during intercourse can help keep your partner happy.
Worry No. 3 > > Nursing will make my vagina dry.
Real deal: “Because of low estrogen levels, lack of vaginal lubrication is common after delivery, especially for nursing mothers,” Chag says. However, he adds, most women find the problem corrects itself once they stop breastfeeding. In the meantime, use a vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly. If you use a lubricant insert such as Lubrin, your partner won’t even know the difference. If this doesn’t help or if dryness persists for longer than two months after you give birth or stop breastfeeding, talk with your OB-GYN.
Worry No. 4 > > I’ll look funny “down there.”
Real deal: After a traumatic delivery that resulted in fourth-degree tears, Rachel T., of Newport News, Va., wouldn’t have sex with her husband for weeks after being cleared by her doctor. “I felt like a vaginal Frankenstein,” she says. While your vaginal area may be swollen and discolored after you give birth, it returns to its normal appearance within four to six weeks. “The vagina is like a rubber band,” Berman says. “It’ll bounce back.” And so, probably, will your love life.
Ease into intercourse: You might want to devote more time than normal to hugging, kissing, mutual masturbation or oral sex.
Be prepared: Have plenty of lubricant on hand.
Use protection: Remember, breastfeeding is not a reliable form of birth control, and you can become pregnant again before your menstrual periods resume.