Q: I'm afraid intercourse will hurt after delivering a baby. Am I right?
A: No. "It takes at least three to six months for your genitals to get back to normal," says Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Berman Center in Chicago and co-author of For Women Only (Henry Holt & Co.). A perineal tear or episiotomy can cause a tight feeling in the vagina, which can persist even after the site has healed (usually four to six weeks after a vaginal birth). To help combat the tightness, you or your partner can gently stretch the area using fingers that have been well lubricated with K-Y Ultragel or Astroglide (available at drugstores). Vitamin E oil can work, too, although about 20 percent of women are allergic to it, so it's important to test before using. And instead of jumping back into doing the deed, think creatively: For instance, start with oral sex, then move on to intercourse once you're comfortable.
Vaginal dryness is another common postpartum complaint, especially among breastfeeding moms. To fight the dryness, use healthy doses of lubrication. If it's still a problem, ask your doctor about prescribing a topical estrogen cream, which can plump up your vaginal tissues without affecting your milk supply.