Pain During Intercourse After Baby and Why it Matters
Ah. The thing that nobody wants to talk about after a baby. I get it, you just squeezed a small human weighing at least six pounds through one of the smallest holes in your body. Sex is probably the last thing on your mind right now because (1) Blood? Uh, yeah. (2) You feel SO unattractive, and (3) Lets be honest - you're a little scared about what it will feel like after the trauma that your body just experienced. Don't worry I've been there, too. But I have to tell you - sex is SO important. And not necessarily because of all of that lovey-dovey stuff. It's important for YOU. Psychologically and physically. Now, I am by no means an expert. However, I did study a lot about sexual relationships during my bachelor studies in Psychology at Brigham Young University. I know, it sounds super weird. It's not - there's a lot that happens during intercourse and it's important to know! But today, I want to focus on what happens when you may be feeling pain during sex. If you allow it to go on long enough it can be extremely detrimental to your enjoyment and your relationship!
If you attended your high school health class then you probably know that whenever you have intercourse and experience a climax there are a bunch of different hormones that start bouncing around in your brain. These hormones are what tell you to feel good or bad about the intercourse. They also burn the memory of the act into your brain. You may not consciously remember it, but your body will always remember how it felt. Why is this important to know? Because many women experience discomfort or pain during intercourse after baby. When you experience pain during intercourse, but continue to have sex anyway, your hormones begin saying this: "This hurts!" "This isn't enjoyable, it feels bad! Did I do something wrong? Why is this painful?" If you allow the pain to continue on long enough the buildup of these "hormonal memories" can lead to psychiatric and physical problems. You may even stop experiencing climaxes (which is the best part!).
Like I'm sure so many of you experienced during your pregnancies, I had a huge jump in libido. But after my daughter came it dropped a ton - mostly due to the long hours I was now spending trying to take care of this new little human in my life! So, we waited the prescribed 6 weeks (I delivered via c-section so it was a little shorter) and then eased very slowly and very cautiously into it - just like the doctor and all of those WebMD articles had advised. But that first time back was painful.I mean gritting my teeth and tensing my entire body painful. It felt like there was a piece of sandpaper scraping my insides. I just kept thinking, "it still feels good, right? It feels good to be connected to my husband this way again, right?" So it was extremely confusing. I can remember feeling so many mixed emotions (those hormones were trying to decide what to feel so that they could pass that on to me). Luckily I am married to one of the kindest and most thoughtful husbands in the world. He had noticed me tensing, stopped, and talked to me about what had happened and how I was feeling. From there, we were able to make a plan. We theorized and experimented with what may be wrong. We worked together to try and figure it out. It was amazing. If you get nothing else from this post today please pay attention to this: talk to your partner when you are feeling any pain or discomfort. Talking about your sexual relationship is an important building block for openness and trust. Especially where sex is an emotionally charged act, women need that openness and trust in their partner. When you talk to your partner about pain that you (or they) are experiencing and you work together to figure it out it builds that trust in your partner brick by brick. Fast forward a few months and the pain had still not gone away. After visiting my general care doctor to no avail, we scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist office (I know, why didn't I do that before, duh?!). I went in with my then 7 month old who was crawling around the entire room. I got up in the stirrups and my doctor took a look. "Yeah, you have a ton of scar tissue." What? How on earth did I have scar tissue? I had a c-section! "This is how it would have happened. Since you're a red head you naturally have more brittle skin. When you became pregnant and your estrogen was being redirected to your uterus, your vaginal wall became even more brittle than before. When you got induced and were contracting hard you started to get small tears in your vaginal wall. It looks like those tears never healed correctly so they have left the nerves exposed and raw. That is why whenever you have intercourse it feels like sandpaper." Uh...k. How do I fix it then? "There's only two ways to fix it. There's an estrogen cream you can try, but with how extensive yours is it probably won't do much. The other option is to cauterize it." Come again? "We chemically cauterize it. It clears out all of the old scar tissue and allows for new tissue to grow correctly." Can I be numbed for that? "No, because it's a chemical cauterization we can't use anything to numb it. We can give you some pain medicine, but that's it. This will definitely fix it though." Well alrighty then. Super fun. I bet that is everyone's dream after you have your baby - getting one of the most tender parts of your body chemically cauterized. I guess it's kinda like a chemical peel, right? Wrong. My husband went with me for the actual procedure, and let me tell you - even though I was hyped up on a narcotic I still had no shortage of choice words to say. My doctor talked to me about how long it had been going on for and how it was lucky that I came in early to get it taken care of. She told me how a lot of girls will let this type of pain go on for years. YEARS! She explained that when women allow it to go on that long that it can cause the physical and psychological problems I touched on earlier. In fact, it can get so bad that even during foreplay a woman can experience the pain because of how conditioned her body has become. My doctor said that if it goes on even longer a woman could eventually stop climaxing due to those layered "hormonal memories" of pain. And then, if they ever want to fix this, they actually need to go to a therapist (psychological therapy and physical therapy) in the hopes that they can learn how to recondition their mental and physical responses! For the record though, this treatment really did work. Go figure.
The Take Home
Ok, if you skipped over my story because you found it too awkward, I totally get that. I'm an over sharer - what can I say? But let me give you the take home: sex is important in a committed romantic relationship, and if you are experiencing pain after baby (which is quite common) do not let it go on long. Unfortunately for some women it may always hurt. For many it does not have to though. Even with how soon I got treated for my condition I still have some troubles with those "hormonal memories." Let me just be straight up with you for a second: you are probably not going to want to have a lot of sex after baby comes anyway because you are going to be exhausted. But, how much less are you going to want it when it is also a painful experience? These factors alone can be huge issues in relationships - and quite possibly the first steps to breaking down a foundation that you and your partner have worked so hard to build up. This isn't to say that intercourse is the end-all-be-all of relationships. Not even close (you only need to take a look at my lovely grandparents to know that). But, sex is a delightful perk and something that only you and your partner share with each other. Those moments of complete trust and acceptance can mend the saddest heart, calm the most troubled mind, and allow some joy to shine during the most stressful days. You deserve that. Your partner deserves that. You both deserve to experience the comfort that comes from knowing that someone completely accepts you when you are most vulnerable. So, don't let pain go on for too long. Know that you don't have to grit your teeth and bear it. You are in control. You just need to know your options. If you are feeling pain, visit your doctor (and I mean a physical visit, not just a call to the nurse line). If you've let the pain go on for a long time, still visit your doctor and follow the recommended treatment whether that means speaking to a psychotherapist or attending physical therapy. It is all to get your body back to feeling great! You (and your body) have definitely earned it. With love and wishing all of you the best of luck, Michelle Anne
Have you ever experienced pain during intercourse after baby? What did you have to do to fix it? What would you recommend to the mamas out there who are trying to figure things out? Comment below with your answers!