Having kids changes everything. It changes every aspect of your life and marriage, including sex.
After my second child was born, it took me a long time to feel ready to be intimate again. I hate that there is a belief that women will just magically be ready and willing at 6 weeks. Everybody is different and every body heals differently, emotionally and physically. Once we hit that six-week mark, I tried to be open to the idea of sex. Despite the sleep deprivation, feelings of overwhelm, postpartum depression (PPD) and being touched out, I tried to want to have sex. I wanted to feel connected to my husband and wanted to feel human and whole again.
Unfortunately, when I was finally ready to be intimate, sex was extremely painful. I felt like my body was made of sandpaper.
It is important to note that one study out of Australia showed that “85.7% (women) who had resumed sex by 12 months postpartum experienced pain during first vaginal sex after childbirth” Postpartum dyspareunia is common, yet there just isn’t a lot of information about it or discussion about prevention or treatment available.
I’m sad to say that I just powered through sex and accepted that this was what it was supposed to be like after a vaginal delivery. I tried to hide my daily pain from my partner and minimized it when he asked. I didn’t share it with him because I had many irrational fears about how he would react. I was afraid he would view me as damaged and that I was somehow failing as a wife.
Pain- both emotional, as I was suffering from PPD and physical, as my body wasn’t ready for sex became my life.
I spent months just trying to get through life. Since no one really talks about postpartum sex, I didn’t know who to talk to or what was “normal.” I was exhausted, disappointed, and scared. I thought to myself, “Would I always be like this?”
I finally worked up the courage to ask my practitioner about both my pain during sex and my PPD at my 6 month check up. The PPD was addressed with medication and leaning on my support network of friends and family. It was easier for me to talk about PPD than it was for me to talk about the painful intercourse.
In terms of my painful sex, what she found shocked me. During delivery, I experienced a third-degree tear that had to be stitched up. (This part I knew.) But what I didn’t realize was that the tear hadn’t healed properly and I still had exposed nerves and scar tissue. This is why intercourse was so painful. I required a painful cauterization procedure over the course of several visits to force the area to truly heal. It was as awful as it sounds. It was worth it though! The area has since healed and things are looking up! Sex doesn’t hurt anymore and I’ve begun to heal from both the physical and psychological trauma of the experience.
I’m sharing my story because I think it’s important for women to know that sex after kids doesn’t have to hurt, and if it does, it’s okay to ask your doctor why and to insist on getting help. You are not alone, and experiencing pain during intercourse after childbirth isn’t uncommon.