Treating Painful Sex after Childbirth (Postpartum)

Painful sex after childbirth affects many women – although few ever discuss this common “side effect” of delivery. In this article, Toledo area pelvic health expert Karen Liberi MS MPT WCS explains how pelvic therapy can eliminate pain during sex, to restore the enjoyment of intimacy after childbirth.

Just getting your sex life back after delivering your baby isn’t easy. You and your partner are likely sleep deprived and exhausted – as well as distracted by interruptions from the baby monitor when your new bundle of joy needs to be fed, changed or rocked back to sleep.

But when sex is downright painful, especially during penetration, it may be time to seek professional medical help from a therapist who has advanced board certification in pelvic floor physical therapy.

What Causes Painful Sex After Childbirth

Typically gynecologists advise patient to wait to resume sexual intercourse until about six weeks after delivering a baby. After this time period, however, some woman may still be healing. Obviously, a woman with a large episiotomy will require more time to heal than a woman who had no tearing.

However, even women who experience no tearing during delivery can still experience pain during intercourse related to muscles and nerves that were affected during pregnancy and delivery. In fact, even women who have had C-sections without labor may experience pain during sex as a result of pelvic floor muscle and nerve damage from carrying their child.

Additionally, hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy and especially during breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s natural lubrication which can further compromise sexual comfort and enjoyment.

When to Seek Help for Postpartum Painful Sex

If it has been 12 weeks or more since you have delivered your child, and lubrication alone does not ease the pain of intercourse, it may be time to consult a pelvic floor specialist. Similarly, if you are now noticing any “strange sensation” during sex – such as a feeling of “bumping”, tightness or rubbing in a new place, or or a ridge that was not there before delivery – pelvic therapy can likely help.

What is Pelvic Therapy for Painful Sex After Childbirth

For pain during postpartum sex (if the patient did not have pain with sex prior to pregnancy) the pelvic floor therapist will begin by focusing on the possibility of scarring. This can include compromised tissue mobility of the episiotomy scar, a perineal scar, or even a c-section scar.

The pelvic floor therapist will also assess the pelvic floor muscles for any elevated “tension levels” that may be contributing to the pain, as well.

In many cases, the pain a woman experiences can also cause a fear of returning to intercourse – and the fear itself can then lead to a very real muscle tension or “gripping reflex” that further exacerbates the pain of intercourse.

In some cases the pelvic therapist will introduce dilators as a “stepping stone” to minimize the anticipatory gripping reflex of the vaginal muscles with insertion and movement.  This is called “graded exposure” to help reduce the fear of return to intimacy.

For patients who had experienced pain with sex prior to intercourse, the therapist will also identify other factors besides the pregnancy and delivery that may be contributing to the pain.

Additionally, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help teach body awareness and how to relax and elongate the pelvic floor muscles, to make both the fascial and muscular systems healthy again, to eliminate the pelvic floor muscle spasms that can contribute to painful sex.

Pelvic Therapy for Postpartum Painful Sex – Toledo

Karen Liberi and her caring team of pelvic therapists will coordinate your postpartum pelvic care with board certified OB/GYN Dr. Andrew Croak, counselors, and nutritionists to create a comprehensive treatment plan at NWO Center for Pelvic Rehabilitation and Wellness.

We will work together with you as a team to ensure you successfully return to enjoying intercourse and intimacy with your partner once again.

Expert physical therapist Karen Liberi MS MPT WCS, has advanced board certification in pelvic floor physical therapy. She has helped hundreds of women in Perrysburg, Toledo, Northeast Ohio and Southeast Michigan get rid of postpartum pain during intercouse and resume a happy healthy sex life.

Schedule a Toledo Area Postpartum Painful Sex Evaluation: 419-893-7134 (ext. 5)

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