Postpartum Dyspareunia – Why Is Sex Painful After Having a Baby?
2 AM feedings, sleepless nights, and spending all day in your PJs eventually gives way to normalcy returning to your routine. During the first few weeks, you experience steady repair and rejuvenation of the pelvic floor muscles, the vagina, and the perineum. Icepacks and medication help to manage pain as you recover.
At the 10-week mark, your vagina should be feeling a lot better, and the uterus is back to its pre-pregnancy size. At this stage, the doctor will clear you for exercise and sex. Most women manage the transition back to regular intimacy without any issues.
However, for around 17% of women, sex is painful, leading to a condition known as "Postpartum dyspareunia." The low hormone production and baby blues associated with postpartum recovery make you feel fatigued and depressed, progressing to postpartum depression (PPD).
What Is Postpartum Dyspareunia?
Postpartum dyspareunia can occur due to several factors. Tearing of the perineum, infection, or an episiotomy during the birth are common complications. Improperly healed stitches, a pelvic prolapse of the bladder and uterus, and pelvic floor dysfunction are serious complications involved with PD development.
Birth is tremendously traumatic on the body, and the damage to the pelvic floor is extensive. The tension in the muscles from stretching during natural childbirth takes time to relax and return the muscles and ligaments to pre-pregnancy condition.
If you're a new mother under the age of 30, you benefit from youth. Protein synthesis begins to slow at around the 40-year mark, reducing collagen production. Therefore, mothers who give birth after the age of 35 will have a harder time recovering from natural childbirth and C-section procedures.
Rebuilding the Pelvic Floor
There are several ways you can regain control of the pelvic floor. However, if you leave it to heal without doing any recovery work, you can expect sex to feel different. You could develop spasms during penetration that lead to the onset of PD symptoms and pelvic pains during sex.
Rebuilding the pelvic floor gives you the best opportunity of reducing the effects of the condition, reversing the effects of PD. Here are our top strategies for restoring the health of your pelvic floor muscles.
Red Light Therapy
There are several private studies on light therapy that show the treatment is beneficial for improving collagen production and assisting with the healing process postpartum. While there is a lack of clinical research on the effects of light therapy, there is more than enough anecdotal evidence to support its benefit on postpartum healing.
Red light therapy involves using a red light device, and MyElle makes a prime example of these devices. It offers an ergonomic fit inside the vagina. You lubricate the device with a specialized photonic lubricant that amplifies the red light treatment.
Three red light LEDs force light waves deep into the tissues of the vaginal walls and the cervix. These lightwaves help to stimulate energy production at a cellular level, lighting up the mitochondria to enhance metabolism.
The red light therapy sessions last 12-minutes, and you need one every other day. RLT will help fast-track your healing process, bringing your pelvic floor sexual health back to normal health, relieving the symptoms of painful penetration and sex.
Prioritize Your Sleep
In the first 6-weeks, childcare takes a top priority, and the chances are that both you and your partner aren't getting much sleep. However, you adjust to the situation and adapt – as we humans do. As soon as you find things normalizing, start to prioritize your sleep.
Sleep is vital for your recovery. Over the 12-weeks following the birth, get as much sleep as you can – it's a treasured commodity, but you need to get as much as you can. When we sleep, it clears the toxins and inefficiencies in the neural pathways in your brain that make us feel tired.
Do what you can to speed up your recovery and get more sleep. Deep sleep and unbroken sleep are essential, so rely on your partner to feed the baby while you turn off the monitor for a few extra hours.
Check-in with Your Doctor
If you're dealing with painful sex after childbirth, it could be a sign of incorrect healing of your stitches and sutures. Inform your OB/GYN and let them know what's happening. It's also possible you have excessive scar tissue or granulation tissue, causing the pain.
Your doctor may need to do minor invasive surgery to remove this tissue and alleviate discomfort. Your OB/GYN also evaluates you for any signs of the infection, causing any healing problems.
PD can occur due to problems with the pelvic floor that lead to organ issues like prolapse, hypertonic pelvic floor, requiring more than light therapy to help you speed up your recovery. Sessions with a qualified postpartum physiotherapist will help you release tension in trigger points in your pelvic floor muscles.
A few sessions will help you understand how to use Kegels and other pelvic stretches. After a few weeks, you'll notice an improvement in your PD symptoms.
Rely on Your Support Structure
During your postpartum period, you need to rely on support from your partner. Learning to let go of the situation and get some "me-time" is essential for your mental health. Don't think of this time away from your family as letting them down or making you any less of a good mother. It's not selfish behavior.
Take a warm bath with some Epsom salts and your favorite essential oils. Relax and let your skin absorb the healing effect of the magnesium. This mineral helps you recover from the pain and trauma while soothing your nervous system.
Taking the stress out of the situation helps to accelerate healing and relieve the symptoms of PD.