Is sex painful after childbirth?
Pelvic pain is common, known to affect close to 1 in 5 women. Sadly, a large portion of these women experience painful sex after childbirth. While it is common it should not be seen as normal or something you should put up with just because “you have had a baby”. Pain with sex is distressing and can result in loss of libido, strained relationships and have a negative impact on self-esteem and mood.
What is it and what can be done?
The Green light: This is typically what happens at the 6 weeks check up with your GP or obstetrician, the go ahead on resume normal activities after having a baby such as sexual intercourse. Unfortunately for some women they can begin to encounter problems such as experiencing pain that was not there before. This pain, also known as dyspareunia can occur at initial contact, with deep movements, with certain positions or even after the activity. There are many reasons that can cause pain – some of the physical causes can be as follows
- Scar tissue from a repair done such as an episiotomy
- Nerve damage
- Vaginal dryness – due to the influence of hormones changes commonly seen when breastfeeding
- Pelvic floor muscles overactivity
Unfortunately, many women do not seek help or are given unhelpful information such as
Have a glass of wine prior!
It is important to seek help with a healthcare professional such as midwife, obstetrician or doctor. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can also have a part to play.
What can a pelvic floor physiotherapist help with?
- Determine if your pelvic floor muscles are contributing to your pain and give you strategies to help manage it this can be
- Stretching program
- De-sensitization program
- Mindfulness program
- Teach you how to connect with your pelvic floor muscles to help reduce any spasms and muscle overactivity that may be contributing to the pain.
Seeking early treatment will help to assist with early recovery. Do not be discouraged if it is something that has gone on for too long.
If you require more help or you are looking for an individualised program, please reach out to a Women’s Health Physio. Click here to find one in your area.
Baddock, S. (2019). Overview of physiological changes during the postnatal period. In S. Pairman, S. Tracy, H. Dahlen & L. Dixon (Eds), Midwifery: Preparation for practice (4th edn, Chapter 27). Elsevier.
Kealy, M.A., Small, R.E., & Liamputtong, P. (2010). Recovery after caesarean birth: A qualitative study of women’s accounts in Victoria, Australia. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 10(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-10-47.
Thompson, J.F., Roberts, C.L., Currie, M., & Ellwood, D.A. (2002). Prevalence and persistence of health problems after childbirth: Associations with parity and method of birth. Birth, 29(2), 83-94. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-536X.2002.00167.x.
DISCLAIMER This is general information only. For specific advice about your healthcare needs, you should seek advice from your health professional. Inner Active Pelvic Health and Physiotherapy does not accept any responsibility for loss or damage arising from your reliance on this blog, see a qualified professional before instead of seeing a health professional.
Tafy Seade is the owner and principal of Inner Active Pelvic Health Physiotherapy, a practice that solely focuses on pelvic health rehabilitation services helping to restore confidence and strength in women after pregnancy and childbirth. She plays an active role as a committee of the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health state group. She enjoys combining education, research and practice in advancing the field of pelvic health.