parenting

Let’s Talk About…Postpartum Sex

Can I be honest with you all?  I’ve been struggling with sex ever since I gave birth to Charles a little over six years ago.  While I’m certain I’m not the only one, I thought I’d share my own struggles and partial solutions with you.

Holding me back

When I think about it, there are so many factors that have contributed to my struggles with being intimate since giving birth.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Exhaustion

When I first came home with Charles, I was so exhausted that just taking a shower seemed like a mountain to climb, so you can imagine how I felt about sex.  Of course, I got better at dealing with having a newborn to take care of with each successive baby, but even now, this extreme fatigue is a contributing factor to my struggles.  By the time I can finally sit down at the end of the day, I’m just too tired to do much of anything.  Considering I get up at least once during the night to nurse Adrien (and up to three times when he’s sick or teething) and that I’m the only one who wakes up when something’s up with one of the older kids at night (like when Elliot falls out of his bed), early morning is not a good time for me either as I feel that I need all of the precious minutes of sleep I can get.

Fear:

With my first baby, I was so tender that I couldn’t imagine myself ever having sex again.  Then, as the weeks went by and I started healing, I was struck with fear: What if my scar rips open?  What if it hurts?  Indeed, my first experience at intimacy after giving birth to Charles was both painful and uncomfortable and though I did invest in some lube soon after, the fear of pain remained with me.

Even now, though I know I don’t have to fear pain anymore, I deal with another type of fear.  What if I become pregnant again?  I mean, my husband and I have decided that our family was complete.  We’re using protection – condoms because I don’t want to be on hormonal birth control for a few reasons.  We’d already decided that it would make more sense for him to get a vasectomy than for me to get my tubes ties, but until that happens, I am stuck with the fear of conceiving another child when I’ve just only finished grieving over the fact that we’ve planned on not having any more children.

Pain:

This is one factor that held me back for a long time.  Indeed, my first experience was painful around my perineum and the pain persisted through all four postpartum periods.  Over time, I also started to have pain during penetration near my cervix.  No matter how well lubricated I was and no matter which position we tried, I always had pain in one or both areas.  Though it wasn’t necessarily a sharp pain, it was definitely uncomfortable.  Fortunately, this is a problem I’ve found a solution to.

Discomfort:

I think that likening the dryness of my vagina to the Sahara Desert during a sandstorm would be an apt description.  Without surprise, this makes for very uncomfortable penetration.  From what I’ve read, vaginal dryness is pretty common, especially for women who are breastfeeding (we have our hormones to thank for that).  From experience, I know that things get back to normal by the time I’ve weaned my babies (around 12 months in my case).  Until that happens though, I’ve found that there is no such thing as too much lube…

Hormones and Emotions:

Allow me to let you in on a little secret.  Right now, if you were to tell me that I could\would never have sex again in my life it would be too soon.  That’s how far down the drain my libido is.  I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the climax and the proximity to my husband when I finally am able to coax myself into being intimate, I’m just saying that it takes a LOT of effort for me to get in the mood.

I sexually identify as an avocado.

Not in the mood.
Not in the mood.
Not in the mood.
Oh yes tonight is the nigh-
Too late, I’m over it.

@hotmessmama via Twitter

When I saw the above post on my Twitter feed a few months ago, I couldn’t help but laugh.  I immediately recognized myself.  This, people, this is how I feel and it is frustrating.

Since I’m here talking about this pretty taboo subject, I may as well lay it all out for you.  Another big reason I’ve been having trouble getting in the mood is that ever since deciding that our family was complete, I see having sex as a waste of time.  I feel horrible when I see those words written out, but it is how I feel.  Each time that the opportunity comes up, I think that I could be tidying up\doing dishes\doing meal prep\sleeping\doing laudry… instead of doing the proverbial deed.  The cold hard truth is that ever since 2010, when we first started trying for Charles, sex has been about building my family.  Now, it feels like it’s lost its raison d’être and I’m finding it difficult to wrap my head around it.

Finding some solutions

Getting help

In my area, there is a physical therapy clinic that specializes in pelvic floor reeducation.  I consulted with them about four months after giving birth to Adrien because we had decided that we didn’t want anymore kids and I figured I might as well have my pelvic floor and abs checked out.

You know what?  I should have gone waaaaaay before!  Not only did I have diastasis recti (ab separation) as I had suspected, but I also had adhesions in the scar tissue along my perineum and knots in my pelvic floor muscles.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Knots.  In the muscles that make up my pelvic floor.

As it turns out, all it took was two sessions with the therapist.  During those two sessions, she was able to work out the knots and the adhesions.  She gave me a few exercises that I could do at home and sent me on my merry way with a promise that things should be a lot more comfortable for me from now on.

It took me a few weeks to find the courage to try again; I mean, I had dealt with pain for six years.  But you know what?  It was gone!

Open and honest communication

I am so very thankful to have married the man I did.  My husband is gentle, understanding, patient (oh so very extremely patient on so many levels!).  His perception of me (both as a person and of my body) has only changed in a positive light since I’ve become a mother.  He is also the one who has painstakingly kept the lines of communication open between he and I on this very subject.  I am forever grateful to have him in my life.  Thanks to him, I’ve been able to be open about everything.  From the pain, to the discomfort, to the stress and the fatigue all the way to the way that I feel about sex.  We have been working together to finding a new way of defining our sex life (because it will never be what it was before deciding to build our family and it will never be what is has been in recent years while we were having our children).  The bottom line is that this communication has been very important in helping me through these frustrating times.

You Are Not Alone

The number of women who reported having sex one to two times a month, increased from 14% pre-pregnancy to 51% a year after giving birth. (source)

I was curious and did a bit of research.  Here are some numbers regarding postpartum sex.

  • Vaginal dryness is an issue for 43% of women three months after delivery (the percentage drops to 35% a year after giving birth).
  • Painful penetration affected 43% of mothers three months into the postpartum period (the percentage drops to under 20% after a year).
  • Over a quarter of new moms don’t attempt to have intercourse until four months after their baby was born – well beyond the six week mark.

If you have dealt with\have been dealing with issues with postpartum sex and would like to share your experience anonymously, feel free to drop me an email through my contact form.  You can also leave a comment down below if you feel up to it.

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