Pain-free sex after giving birth?
October 21, 2007 9:11 PM   Subscribe

How long after giving birth before sex becomes enjoyable again?

I gave birth several months ago, delivering vaginally with minor tearing that required a few stitches. Since then, sex has been painful. At my 6-week check-up, my doc indicated that things had healed up nicely, so I don't think there's an anatomical problem (though I haven't ruled out going to see a different ob/gyn just to double-check). My husband and I have attempted penetrative sex several times since then, but it just plain hurts. We use plenty of lube, so that's not the problem. In fact, it feels more like my vaginal opening is smaller than it used to be and needs to be stretched out more, which makes NO SENSE given that I just got a baby out! So, I am wondering, is it common for sex to be painful well after giving birth? And how long after giving birth did it take for it to feel painless and enjoyable again?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I've heard stories of doctors making "improvements" when stitching up tearing (google "Husband's knot"). Hopefully this isn't the issue, but you may want to be aware of it.
posted by Benjy at 9:16 PM on October 21, 2007

Get a second opinion from a different doctor, preferably a female doctor who has given birth. All I know is that what you're talking about is (relatively) common and that many women these days opt for corrective surgery.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 9:18 PM on October 21, 2007

Oh, I forget to mention vaginismus, which can occur post-birth. More information on that here.
posted by Benjy at 9:18 PM on October 21, 2007

I just read something like 70 replies to this very question on a women's board, and the answer averaged out at about 9 months for pain-free PIV sex. It actually made no difference if the birth was vaginal or c-section. Its a natural physical and hormonal recovery process that does not normally require any kind of surgical intervention.

So while you are technically cleared for landing after six weeks, please give yourself lots and lots of time.

If you want to send me MefiMail, I'll be happy to give you the board address where you can read plenty of experiences from the, err, trenches on this.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:35 PM on October 21, 2007

Maybe try a different position, in my experience the pain was felt at the rear opening of the vagina (at the episiotomy site).

I found being on top was most comfortable, as I was able to control the angle of penetration. After about 6 months, things seem to be back to normal.

Congratulations on the baby!
posted by JujuB at 9:55 PM on October 21, 2007

If its still sore after 9 months to 1 year, you've probably been sewn up too tight. It's a quick procedure in the day surgery to fix and you should be back to normal straight away (well after the tiny icision heals).
posted by singingfish at 10:18 PM on October 21, 2007

Congrats on the new baby. You should take your question over to Ask Moxie. A recent similar question about post-partum menstruation yielded over a hundred responses, and many of them talked about post-partum sex as well.
posted by anastasiav at 10:19 PM on October 21, 2007

I'm not a woman, but all I know is that it was three months before we could even *talk* about having sex, and maybe six months before it was normal.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:34 PM on October 21, 2007

DarlingBri: If the forum isn't closed to the public, then I think other curious people would like to read those responses. Plus, anon won't have to give up her anonymity to read them either.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:51 PM on October 21, 2007

I am neither a woman nor a doctor nor a father, but I know a general phenomena of bodily strain and injury is that after a trauma to the body (which I could imagine being the birth of a baby or the following stitches), the muscles around the injury will tense up in an effort to avoid further injury.

For example, I've heard of doctors recommending vigorous gum-chewing to people whose jaws tense up after having their tonsils removed. However, I would consult a doctor before supposing "vigorous love-making" to be the solution.
posted by Zephyrial at 5:41 AM on October 22, 2007

Philomathoholic, it is indeed a members-only forum (although anyone is welcome to register) - otherwise I would have just linked to the thread in question. I promise to respect Anon's privacy, though, should she wish to contact me.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:30 AM on October 22, 2007

You may have to simply take some ibuprofen, maybe a glass of wine (you not him) and get past the pain a bit. That's what worked for us. (Sans the wine, but I can see where that would be helpful to some.) The first time back simply DOES hurt but it gets better.

One other thing-if you are breastfeeding that does affect lubrication and sexual drive somewhat.
posted by konolia at 6:39 AM on October 22, 2007

My wife had a baby 6 months ago. I would like to be able to provide an answer, however we are still waiting. So, I'd say over 6 months is normal.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:19 AM on October 22, 2007

This happened to me with my first child and not with my second. The episiotomy had gotten infected and the doctor had totally missed that at the 6 weeks checkup. I went back at 12 weeks and said, Look, it hurts when I have sex, my husband is going crazy, what do we do here? and at that point he found the infection, put me on antibiotics, all cleared up in 7 days.

For future reference, with my second child I had a midwife and NO episiotomy - she just let it tear, saying that was the natural way. It healed up totally fine in about 4 weeks; we didn't even wait for the full 6 weeks and lo and behold, no pain at all. So if you have another, keep that in mind.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:21 AM on October 22, 2007

I started to enjoy sex again about 6 weeks after I finished breast feeding. The hormones associated with breast feeding killed my desire, plus we could not do breast play as I found it unpleasant, which really killed the whole thing. If you breast feed for a long time, you could be in for a long wait.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:36 AM on October 22, 2007

I tore pretty badly after I had my first child and got (badly) stitched up, and it took well over a year for sex to stop hurting. The aforementioned surgery probably would have helped.

I didn't tear with my second baby and it took four months or so.
posted by streetdreams at 11:47 AM on October 22, 2007

Get a second opinion (or even a third). I know many women who had to see a couple of doctors before someone was able to identify (and take seriously) the problem. In one case, the OB/GYN provided a cream that, after a few applications, ended pain that had been going on for 6 months.
posted by acoutu at 12:16 PM on October 22, 2007

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