In my last blog post, I shared my journey back to intimacy after having my first baby; how I healed from my 2nd degree labial tear and my experience with Vaginismus. If you haven’t read that one, you can check it out here. This post is to share the process I came up with to help me get back to having comfortable and ultimately even more enjoyable sex after having a baby! If that sounds like something you want, then keep reading.
I was 4 months postpartum and experiencing intense pain when my husband and I tried to have sex. After speaking with my midwife, again, and receiving no answers or guidance, I began researching how to help myself.
With 15 years of experience as a sexual health educator, I remembered learning that vibration was a great tool for women who had undergone chemotherapy treatments and were “desensitized” or had little to no feeling in their genitals. The vibration helps to stimulate healthy blood flow and can help to reawaken the nerve endings.
Another thing that wasn’t explained to me was the scar tissue that would develop where my 2nd degree tear was and how to help that area heal. Again, vibration and massage is vital to breaking up the scar tissue and promoting healthy blood flow back into that area.
Something I feel is really important and is not talked about NEARLY enough, is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy!! This, in my opinion, should be standard care offered throughout a woman's pregnancy and postpartum journey. At the very least, I believe doctors should be explaining the benefits and suggesting it to every single momma they see.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy (PFPT), not only helps you to heal after having a baby (vaginal & c-section), but can also help prepare you for the birth process and be like preventative care. **I believe it is important to note that PFPT is not only limited to those that are pregnant or have given birth. There are many reason someone, might look to a PFPT for help--ie after a hysterectomy, any type of pelvic/hip/lower back injury, etc)
Think of it this way: when someone has surgery, they are automatically referred for at least 6-8 weeks of physical therapy to help them heal and get mobility back in that area. They work on the scar tissue, they’re given exercise to do at home, etc.
When a woman has a baby, her body changes drastically throughout those 10 months. Body parts shift and grow, she gains weight and that is all supported by her pelvic floor! Then, the amount of work her muscles go through to actually birth the baby, let alone the MAJOR surgery she has when delivering via C-Section.
How are we NOT offering her support to heal after that??
This blows my mind, honestly, and makes me so sad because I know that so many women experience a tough time healing and they think that there is something wrong with them, or that they are experiencing this all alone.
So if you’re reading this and you’ve been struggling with healing after having your baby; if you’re expecting or know someone who’s expecting or has had a baby, please share this with them! Here is a link to the podcast interview I did with pelvic floor therapist, Dr. Kelsey Beach where she explains her process in supporting mommas during their perinatal journey. Here is a site you can search your city to find local providers (US only).
I want to touch on the biology of having a baby and how that impacts our body and sex drive. I see a lot of posts in my Peanut group, from women asking if they need to wait the full 6 weeks before having sex again.
The answer, YES!
This is not a recommendation from your doctor “just because”, but you can cause serious damage or risk getting an infection if you have sex or insert anything into the vagina before the 6 weeks.
This is because you have a wound the size of a dinner plate in your uterus from where your placenta was attached. This is why they say no baths or inserting anything into the vagina because you run the risk of getting an infection and that is the last thing you want to deal with when you have a new baby.
The other thing about our bodies, it takes up to a full year for it to recover after having a baby. Yes, you can feel like yourself before that, but think about how much your body morphed to grow your baby; lungs expanding, increase in blood volume, organs literally being pushed and rearranged…there’s a lot. It makes sense that it would take some time for her to get back to a similar place she was before baby. With that said, your body does not want to have another baby right away, so it’s not going to want to have sex for a while.
Biologically speaking, your body goes into “care for baby mode”, your hormones fluctuate to start healing itself. It’s producing milk which drops your estrogen, which drops your libido. You body is protecting itself and giving you time to heal and bond with your baby. It’s natural to not want to have sex during this time, but you will get your libido back in time. Give yourself grace with this, be patient and communicate with your partner how you’re feeling.
There are plenty of other ways to keep the intimacy in the relationship without sex. Intimacy does not mean sex and you can have sex without intimacy—they are not mutually exclusive. I tell my clients that after having a baby,
it’s almost like dating your partner all over again.
Start out slow, have a nice make-out session. Surprise each other with a fun date night, that can literally be a picnic in the living room. Take turns giving each other massages or have a game night. Get creative, maybe there are somethings you did when you first got together you haven’t done in a while, bring those things back and feel that connection begin to deepen.
When you do get the “all clear” to resume normal activities from your medical provider, that is when you can begin this practice. If you’re not feeling up to it yet, that’s okay, you can begin whenever it feels right for you.
The practice I used is pretty simple, but it’s all about consistency, try to make this a daily practice. Another thing I want to mention real quick—to get back to intimacy,
you first have to be in tune with yourself.
The biggest obstacle I see women facing is trying to get back to intimacy too soon because they’re concerned about their partner having to wait any longer. Putting that type of pressure and guilt on yourself is not going to get you in the mood to be intimate.
After having a baby you have to get reacquainted with yourself; your body is going to be different. Touch and sensations will feel different, and that’s okay! But you do need to take time to 1) figure what touch does feel good to you now and 2) get your body used to receiving enjoyable touch again. Your body went through an intense journey to bring your precious baby into the world, it’s going to remember the last sensations it felt—and they weren’t enjoyable.
TIPS TO GET REACQUAINTED WITH YOUR BODY & INTRODUCING TOUCH
I began with gentle manual massages around my labia to help break up the scar tissue. This was also great because it helped my body to feel comfortable with touch again. I would spend 5-10 minutes a day doing this. I would start by applying a little lubricant to the area, using my index and middle finger, massaging in gentle circles with slight pressure around the scare tissue working my way inward to where I could feel the “knot” of scar tissue.
**Tip: breathe as you’re doing this. Slow deep breathes in through your nose, and out through your mouth. You want to create a safe connection with touch and if you do feel pain, the controlled breaths will help alleviate some of the pain rather than tensing up.
After working on the scar tissue I would take sometime to just breath and gently run my fingers around my outer and inner labia, again reestablishing a safe connection with touch while also getting reacquainted with my postpartum body.
After I felt comfortable with the manual touch, I began introducing a vibrator. This was just a small little bullet type toy that was only for external stimulation at this time. Here's a link to shop a variety of bullets or the Vulva Luva kit is a great deal! It comes with a toy, lubricant, wipes, enhancement gel & a cute bag.
Then I followed the same steps: apply a little lubricant, I would do slow gentle circles around the scar tissue until I reached the knot and then I would press the bullet a little more firmly to help break it up. Now, if this vibration is feeling good and you want to enjoy a nice “O” after, go for it girlfriend!
Again, the vibration will promote healthy blood flow to the area, helping you to heal quicker. It also helps to awaken the nerve-endings and gets them rewired for feeling pleasure again. This is super important because our brain filters things out that it doesn’t deem important, and the longer you go without sex/pleasure, it filters that out and no longer desires to have it. You know that phrase:
“if you don’t use it, you lose it”, that kind of applies to this.
This practice helps to get your body feeling safe and feeling pleasure—and pleasure does not mean orgasms. You can enjoy the sensations without having an orgasm. So your brain will start to seek out that pleasure more often.
A few more steps that I think really made a difference in getting back to sexy time with my husband—including him in my practice. Once I felt comfortable with my massages—both manually and with a vibrator, I started that practice again, with my husband.
I would take his hand and place it on my vulva (the outer part). I would guide him and show him the touch that felt good/comfortable. This was now helping my brain and body to feel safe with someone else’s touch. This is key if you attempted to have sex and felt pain, you need to show your body that outside touch is not a threat.
Once that felt comfortable, I would then have him use the vibrator on me; first guiding him, then allowing him free range to explore as I enjoyed the sensations and pleasure that come through. **Reminder to breathe during all of this. Slow, deep breathes in through your nose, out through your mouth, really connecting and being IN your body. Use your voice, and let them know how you’re feeling, if you would like lighter pressure, for them to go slower, whatever it maybe, communicate what you want.
When you’re ready for penetration, use the vibrator first; again this will help relax the muscles, get the blood flowing and increase sensations. Then with lots of lube, have your partner insert just the tip (haha) but for real. Take a deep breathe in, as they insert exhale slowly, then have them just sit there for a little bit to let your body get used to that sensation. Take a few breathes and be present to what your body is feeling, communicate to your partner. If you’re feeling comfortable, have them go a little deeper, then stop and breathe. Repeat this process as much as you need.
The important thing to keep in mind here, is that you still may not be having full sex. This is about establishing safety with your partner and getting your body used to the new sensations. Have them go as deep as comfortable, and know that if you’ve had enough, to let your partner know. Then if you’re feeling up to it, you can do some mutual masturbation.
This practice helped me so incredibly much! And it’s helped hundreds of women I’ve worked with.
Manual massage to get comfortable with touch and break up scar tissue
Use a small vibrator to promote healthy blood flow, relax the muscles and awaken nerve-endings to new sensations
Breathe — to help alleviate pain and help you get INTO your body
Introduce partner, first with manual stimulation
Have partner use vibrator on you
Just the tip—try insertion, going slow and breathing in between
Mutual masturbation is great at any point in this journey to create intimacy and connection. The more your body has pleasure and orgasms, the more it will want to have them.
Go slow, be patient and communicate with your partner. Know that what you’re going through is common, and everyone has their own journey. If you are still experiencing pain, please seek medical help—either your OBGYN or a Pelvic Floor Therapist. Pain is not normal and you don’t want to “push yourself through it” because that is sending subconscious signals to your brain to ignore what your body is telling you and that can eventually lead to resentment within your relationship.
If you would like more support or have questions you can set up a free 30 minute call here.
Free 4 Step Guide to help you create a weekly routine for reconnecting with your partner and achieving intimacy after baby.
Relationship Milestones: First Year Postpartum-- a general idea of what you can expect during the first year after having a baby. (every relationship & circumstance is different, this is a general guideline and not a tool for any type of diagnoses)
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