I dread writing on such a personal topic, but when I was in despair over my condition, I wish I had run across a story like mine. So I break the silence. I’ve discovered over the past year that a staggering number of women suffer from sexual pain after pregnancy and childbirth.
Maybe you’re one of them.
I’m here to say that there is hope. I’m 14 months postpartum and have been fully recovered for months–and my pain was extreme.
If you haven’t had a baby yet, sit up and pay attention. Don’t get scared, just get informed. I learned along this recovery path that many factors pre-pregnancy set me up for this problem. In other words, you can do prevention work. You can also care for yourself postpartum differently than I did.
And if you will never have a baby (perhaps because you’re male) or you had a baby with zero difficulties, just keep in mind that the new mothers around you might be suffering in ways they can’t tell you. If they do tell you, I hope you’ll pass on this information.
Ready to dive in to my (very) personal life? It’s a long story, but I’ll try to make it a little fun along the way.
The Fabulous Birth
Photo by Justice Diven
I birthed our beautiful son, my first, at home with a midwife and doula. It was peaceful, quiet, and amazing. A couple years’ regular meditation practice, plus a birth pool and techniques from a HypnoBabies class, helped me deeply relax and progress quickly and easily.
Because of some concern about the baby’s heart rate at the end, I pushed him out quickly on a birthing stool (deep squatting position) and earned myself a second degree tear. I was disappointed about the tear but glad the baby was safe (with an Apgar of 9 at both readings) and overjoyed by his arrival and the amazing feat I’d just accomplished.
The midwife carefully sewed me up, and we went on our merry way. Well, not exactly. If you’ve had a damaged perineum, you know that the first couple of weeks are no joke. Overall, though, everything seemed normal, and I was in love with my son.
Photo by Justice Diven
At my six week check up, my perineum was extremely sensitive and painful, and the scar looked a bit red and irritated. The midwife suggested I wait a couple more weeks before attempting intercourse. Darn it! But we did, and then we followed every precaution for relaxation, lubrication, and arousal. Yet the pain was excruciating. Excruciating. We waited a week and tried again. Repeat. Repeat. I’m going to get technical here. Mere insertion was excruciating. Actual intercourse was truly impossible.
What the Midwife Said
The midwife said that this was absolutely not normal and referred me to an OB-GYN to get checked out. While tearing is undesirable, it is common* and very rarely causes this problem, though she had heard of other women who had severe intercourse pain after having babies. The stories were scary. She also expressed concern that perhaps she had sewn me up too tightly. I certainly felt “too small,” and she was open to the possibility that she may have contributed to this outcome. (Stay tuned, the story takes a twist later.)
*Note: “common” does not equal biologically normal. We’ll get to that later.