This was written by one of my nearest and dearest friends AGES ago for my blog, but am just getting my act together to post. — It is honest, it is true and I bet many of us can relate to her...Don’t worry it has a happy ending. 😉
Sex is talked about a lot. Post partem sex…not so much. Especially when the sex after baby is painful. My husband and I were married 6 years before our son was born and we had a healthy and fulfilling sex life. My water broke at 39 weeks and we had a smooth labor and easy delivery, minus some vaginal tearing. My doc mentioned it and the subsequent stitching up at some point during the blissful first few moments of bonding with our son. I remember feeling some discomfort and pain for a few days following, but honestly didn’t think much about it again. During my six week post partem appointment, we got the much anticipated “all clear!!!” before leaving the office. My husband and I went home excited to reconnect and well…you know! After putting the babe to bed that night, we attempted sex and it was awful. I cried. He was shocked and confused, but we assumed it would just take some time and eventually sex would be wonderful again. We kept trying. It got worse. The pain was more than I could bear. I couldn’t think about sex, I would dread my husband’s advances and we eventually stopped trying to find a solution. We just pretended the elephant wasn’t in the room. Not only was my husband losing lots of my attention to our infant, he knew that his wife was in pain and thought he was the cause.
I had never heard of anyone struggling with sex after having a baby, aside from being too tired to stay awake for it. I didn’t realize something was wrong, or that it could be fixed. When our son was about 9 months old, I went in for my annual exam. I casually mentioned to my OB that sex was too painful to consider and “why didn’t anyone tell me sex is terrible after having a baby?!”
She said painful intercourse post partem does happen, but is NOT NORMAL. She explained the tearing and hormonal changes that were occurring in my body while breastfeeding, would cause sex to be “different,” but that I should not be experiencing such intense pain during intercourse. Initially she prescribed an Estrogen cream to be applied vaginally, that would hopefully provide more lubrication. She also told me about a type of physical therapy that treats these issues in woman. I basically said, “that’s really interesting, but no thanks!”
So I used the cream as prescribed and after a week or so, James and I attempted to have sex again. I was devastated when I felt no difference. We tried again a few times before returning to my doc and I told her I was willing to meet with the PT. Physical intimacy with my husband was a desire of my heart and the lack of it, was taking a toll on us both. I was physically and emotionally sick over this issue.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, the first appointment with my physical therapist was all kinds of embarrassing and overwhelming and akward! She asked all kinds of questions about all kinds of personal things-urine, poop, sex…ack! Then she felt every nook and cranny of my lady parts! If I remember correctly, there was even measuring of said nooks and crannies. All that to say, over several months of treatment, I began to trust my therapist and do everything she said, because it was working! Initially, she used gentle stretching and massaging to loosen things up. She explained the scar tissue I had as result of vaginal tearing and stitching up, following delivery of my son. Some of the treatment was even mental. She noticed how tense my whole body would become as she even moved close to my vagina. With her guidance, I began to understand an unfortunate cycle. There was pain during sex after childbirth, but also I had become so fearful of the pain during sex, that the mere thought of it caused my body to tighten up, resulting in more pain.
I attended weekly sessions and once my vagina was able to comfortably accept the stretching from her fingers, she ordered me a set of vaginal dilators. Woot!! Along with our appointments, I used them to stretch at home. Over time, I began to go up in size and not experience pain or discomfort. My husband and I agreed to not even attempt sex, until my therapist thought I was ready. I’m so thankful for his support and understanding, during what was an annoying and slightly depressing scenario. When she gave us the go ahead, we had the first pain free sex in more than a year! It felt like a miracle. Zero pain, just joy and pleasure.
I had absolutely no reason to think sex after giving birth would be so drastically different. I certainly didn’t know it would cause so much pain. Because of my experience, I talk openly with my girlfriends who are pregnant or have recently delivered. I hate to think of the private pain many couples are experiencing and not aware of the help available to them.
If you need help finding a pelvic health physical therapist in your area, let me know! Or you can visit: www.pelvicrehab.com to look up a practitioner in your area.
One more thing – you should NEVER experience pain during physical therapy treatment or examination. No treatment technique or examination is performed without your verbal and written consent. Be open and honest with your therapist and you will have amazing success!