Sex after birth can feel different; how could it not? Many postpartum women note experiencing vaginal dryness, general discomfort, and pain during the initial sexual encounters after pregnancy. This, paired with the physical recovery from childbirth and caring for a newborn, can make sexual desire and satisfaction harder to achieve. The good news is, in most cases, sex after birth becomes more comfortable and enjoyable over time, as the vaginal tissues fully recover, and you find more time for yourself and your partner. But, if you experience painful sex or pain after sex for a few months or more, it’s time to see a medical professional. You deserve a healthy and satisfying sex life after pregnancy; thankfully, your body is resilient, and there are solutions.
1. Water-based Lubricant
Sometimes the solution is as simple as a good water-based lubricant. Postpartum hormones, especially those activated while breastfeeding, can cause excessive vaginal dryness (atrophic vaginitis), which can lead to pain during penetration. A lubricant should help relieve vaginal dryness and allow for smoother, more comfortable intercourse. However, if the pain and discomfort persist, stop. In some cases, painful sex can indicate scarring or improperly healed tissues. If this is the case, it’s best to seek appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible. In some cases, physical therapy for scar tissue might be sufficient;n others, surgery may be required. The good thing is that there are resources for you to fully heal and to embrace physical intimacy again.
2. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Pain is our body’s way of telling us a problem exists that needs to be solved. If you continue to experience painful sex postpartum, I recommend seeing your OB/GYN or primary care physician and requesting a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist.
One of the more common causes of chronic pain during intercourse stems from core weakness and pelvic instability, which often accompany diastasis recti (abdominal separation). When the hips and pelvis are hypermobile due to weak, overstretched abdominal and pelvic floor tissues, other muscles compensate. This can lead to spasms, joint misalignment, and patterns of chronic tightness (hypertonicity) that cause pain during penetration. Other common symptoms of a tight pelvic floor include tailbone pain and constipation. Physical therapy presents a host of interventions to restore balance and freedom from pelvic pain, including targeted core strengthening, manual release techniques, and biofeedback tools to gain control over both engagement and release of the deep core muscles.
3. Every Mother
In addition to 1:1 physical therapy, our EMbody program addresses many of the causal factors of pelvic instability, including abdominal muscle weakness, pelvic floor weakness, and abdominal wall separation (diastasis recti). Our foundational core exercise - which informs every move in every workout -coordinates the engagement of the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor while exhaling to decrease intra-abdominal pressure. This deep core activation strengthens the muscles and resolves diastasis recti, improving core integrity and pelvic stability.
We also provide breath coaching, specific guidance on when (and when not) to Kegel, and tips to maintain a neutral and relaxed pelvic floor. Many women have used our app as a complement to 1:1 appointments with a pelvic floor physical therapist, and some have exclusively used Every Mother, dramatically improving their core health and freeing themselves from pain during intercourse.
You don’t have to settle for painful sex after birth. Reach out for help! This is a powerful act of self-love, and I encourage you to do this for yourself first and foremost. Not for your partner, not for your relationship. For you. Accessible resources exist to support a full recovery so you can enjoy sexual intimacy and nurture a richer, more satisfying sex life than ever before. Release the pain, and embrace the pleasure.
To learn how to safely restore core strength and function while emerging stronger than ever, join the Every Mother diastasis recti exercise program - the only proven program to resolve abdominal separation.
By Leah Keller, creator of the EMbody Program™. Learn more about Leah here.