One could easily come to the conclusion that after the big stretch of childbirth, that surely, things aren’t going to be the same anymore – heck that was such a big thing coming out of such a small place! But fortunately for women, vaginas are not like a favourite pair of undies that have been worn for years on end.
There seems to be a common misconception that women having a caesarean section will come out on top (pardon the pun!) with regards to sex after childbirth, but as Allison Hilbig (a physiotherapist, specialising in women’s health with a graduate Diploma in Childbirth Education) explains, it’s usually the other way around.
“Firstly, it’s important for women to understand that the vagina is designed like a piano accordion – its actually designed to stretch open. Memories of trying to insert a tampon for the first time or the first sexual encounter may suggest to women that giving birth to a baby will be even worse. But the body is very capable and in fact designed to do this. Another help is that the baby is slippery, covered in vernix or at least wet with amniotic fluid. This lubrication will help the baby move through the birth canal.”
Not only is the vagina designed for the big stretch of childbirth only to bounce back again, but it has other hidden treasures, which many women have discovered.
“The result of vaginal birth is an increase in blood supply to the area. This can result in women becoming more orgasmic after vaginal birth. This effect may be reduced if the pelvic floor is weak, however a women’s health physiotherapist can teach women how to correctly exercise these muscles to improve strength.
The hormones of labour after a natural birth can leave women feeling incredibly empowered and more confident in their own abilities and their sexuality. Combined with the capability to be more orgasmic, many women find their sex life is better after a vaginal birth.”
Its also important to bear in mind that you may temporarily lose your libido after baby – and not just due to tiredness. Find out why your sex drive may take a huge hit, as well as why your vagina is more likely to be dry in the article, Libido and Breastfeeding.
Pain After Caesarean Section
Something that also surprises women is pain during sexual intercourse after a caesarean section.
“The thought that sex will be better if you have a caesarean is a myth – and a pretty bad one at that! I presented some information at a conference last year, that the best way to avoid dyspareunia (pain during sex) after birth was to have a natural vaginal birth. There were lots of people in the audience who were very surprised that women could have dyspareunia after a caesarean section (even a midwife), assuming it was only after a vaginal birth.”
Allison says that following a caesarean, women may have pain during intercourse which may continue for 6 or even 12 months later. Sadly this is not uncommon – particularly if women don’t find out why and do something about it. So if you experience pain with sex after a caesarean, please speak to an ob/gyn or midwife. These issues are treatable.
What Research Has To Say On Sex After Birth
Sadly, I recently heard a story of a man pressuring his partner to have a caesarean section so her body wouldn’t change – yes, in 2014 – and this is not uncommon. While its not the majority by any means, women also make similar choices, which is not based on good science. All due to a lie that vaginal birth will destroy your sex life. Research says the opposite.
From J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2005 Apr;27(4):332-9
“A comparison of urinary and sexual outcomes in women experiencing vaginal and Caesarean births. Klein MC, Kaczorowski J, Firoz T, Hubinette M, Jorgensen S, Gauthier R.
Overall, both primiparous and multiparous women who had intact (no tear/cut) perineums after vaginal birth had less dyspareunia (pain during intercourse) than those undergoing caesarean section. Vaginal birth 26.2% compared to caesarean section 40.7%. A caesarean is not a guaranteed way to protect a woman’s sex life or avoid incontinence. Women after a caesarean have reported pain during or when attempting intercourse for many months. The best option is for women to experience a natural labour free of interventions and as much as possible free of any medications.”
Repeating: the best way to avoid problems with your pelvic floor at birth is to avoid interventions where possible – this starts with saying no to unnecessary inductions of labour, which are well known to kick off the cascade of interventions. Of course, if you need intervention, then there is not much you can do. Waterbirths are great for supporting the perineum and the mother’s weight during birth.
Real Women’s Stories
Here are a collection of our members stories, shared anonymously on what they noticed about sex after birth.
1. “One thing I have noticed more than anything is that sex is WAY better post baby. It was pretty good beforehand but something has stepped up a notch and WOW, it is SO much better. I feel more sensitive everywhere and whereas before I could only climax once, now I can 3 or 4 times in a row! It’s incredible!!! I feel like I am back to normal ‘down there’. I have asked my husband if it’s still ok and he certainly has no complaints. He’s loving it more because I’m loving it more.”
2. “My active, natural, vaginal birth has definitely enhanced my admiration of my body’s capabilities (that were pretty healthy in the first place), my sensuality, my sexuality and a big HELLO to multiple orgasms!”
3. “I had a caesarean for my first and the pain from sex was unbearable for six months. The second birth was an instrumental vaginal birth with a nasty episiotomy on my unstretched perineum (ouch!) and sex was uncomfortable for about 4 months, but with the last child it was a near water birth and the post-partum blood loss was so minimal that we had orgasmic sex four weeks after the birth!”
4. “Sex has never been better since I birthed my two babies vaginally. More comfortable/enjoyable and much better orgasms. This goes for two of my other friends (one of who had a 10 pound 1 baby vaginally).”
5. “After each of my four children (all born vaginally) I worried so much my vagina would not be as satisfying for my partner. I had lost baby weight quickly and loved my bigger, milk-filled breasts, but it was the ‘vagina-too-loose’ thing that I focussed my apprehension on. That said, I was keen for sex quite early after all births, as I felt it was one way for us to reconnect with each other. Obviously I was lucky enough that my hormones seemed to back up my desire! Although a little antsy, I think we were both relieved to have just done it again – it’s such a big thing ‘that sex after baby’ thing that I think psychologically it can be a hurdle as well as physically.
After my body had a chance to heal, I got the courage to ask if my vagina felt OK and his reaction was a convincing ‘yes’. We don’t have sex as often anymore (youngest child three) largely due to us being enervated by the time the kids are all tucked away, however, I have to say we have better sex now than we ever did sans children. Maybe we realise how precious those moments are and so really make the most of it (don’t know how intimate you wanna get but by that I mean experimenting with different positions, places to do ‘it’!). So I guess ultimately, whether my body is not as taut as it was before is irrelevant, because things are now better than ever – neither of us can complain about that now can we!”
6. “The idea of us having sex after the birth of our first child absolutely terrified me. I was more nervous than I was for my first time. It was only three weeks post partum as I had read that it was a good idea to attempt it so any issues could be discussed at the 6 weeks post natal check up.
The actual act wasn’t too bad – it didn’t hurt, but for me it was the emotional side of sex that had me worried and the fear that it would hurt. So I was very tense and my husband had to work hard to try to relax me first with a massage and just taking it slowly. It certainly didn’t feel any different either, for me it was just like before, maybe even a little better. And a lot of KY makes a huge difference too.
For my husband though, he said he didn’t notice too much of a difference, but then I think if you asked any man they are going to say it is a little different anyway, both from their own expectations of what they think it will feel like after a baby and also that they can’t quite remember what it was like before anyway. Over the years he has made many jokes at my expense about it, the latest being that after this baby (our fourth) that he will need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find his way down there (and that is one of the nicer ones), but in all seriousness, it has been just as great for us as it ever was.”
7. “I have had 3 vaginal births. All intact and all un-instrumental. After the first, it was about 6 weeks or so before feeling comfortable to have sex, and no problems whatsoever, no pain…all pleasure! I had always been able to have multiple orgasms, but when I think about it, they increased after the birth. I am unable to orgasm at all whilst pregnant! How rude!!
The second one, I was so horny afterwards that it was about 5 days post partum when we had sex, and it was awesome! LOL I also found anal sex interesting this time round as I was not using any birth control and this seemed like a safe way to avoid pregnancy. It was also mind blowing as it gave me instant orgasms!
Third baby, older me, took about 8 weeks to feel comfortable, but again once we resumed, it was good! No pain or discomfort at all!”
8. “I remember a few years ago being at a mother’s meeting coffee morning which was themed “Sex After Birth” and the revealing comments were hilarious, we all laughed so much we cried, particularly when one woman said her orgasms were much stronger since having a baby and then everyone in the group provided input in a round and all those who had birthed vaginally agreed unanimously that their orgasms were stronger, and one wonderful mum who was German (strong accent) and had had a c.section was dismayed that she had missed the opportunity to have stronger orgasms and she declared she was definitely going to try for a vaginal birth next time! To hear her exclaim this in such a strongly accented declaration left us all laughing until we couldn’t breathe.”
9. “You know, after Aaliyah was born, it was at least 6 months before Mark and I were able to have sexual intercourse (and, yes, believe it or not, apparently a man can too many head or hand jobs!) When we finally were able, Mark said that yes I did feel more ‘loose’ than I did before…
This time ‘round, he was concerned that I’d feel even looser… but, strangely, I’m ‘tighter’ again, just like I was before Aaliyah – or so he says.
I only had a tiny first degree tear with Aaliyah, and no sutures. Just a minor graze with Hugo, which was healed in days.”
10. “After 6 children hubby reports as good as ever! There is so much emotion attached and that’s another thing, when there has been a bond with woman and man through a great birth (unmedicated, strong woman supportive husband) the sexual relationship flourishes (in my experience) and hey you couldn’t have much more pressure (with other babies etc) I has 3 under 3, 4 at 4, and 6 at 6!!
So when have pregnancy care that includes hubby and a birth that is beautiful with a hubby in awe of you (rather than thinking he needs to rescue you) it works in the bedroom after baby!”
These experiences don’t surprise Allison Hilbig. “Forget that ‘honeymoon’ vagina,” she says. “Go for the real woman’s vagina following natural birth!”