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It may be the last thing on your mind, but around six to eight weeks after having that baby, your doctor is going to give you the green light for sex. Be prepared: The big deed may be less than pleasant.
In fact, it may be downright painful. “The majority of women have some discomfort when they resume intercourse,” says Diana Hoppe, M.D., an OB-GYN at Pacific Coast Women’s Health in Encinitas, Calif., and the author of Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You: What Your Libido Reveals About Your Life (Health Reflections Press).
It’s those vexing hormones that are largely to blame. “Your levels are very high during pregnancy, and after delivery you have a dramatic drop in hormones,” Hoppe explains. “This causes the vaginal tissues to become thinner and more tender; it also causes decreased lubrication.” Hoppe adds that if you’re breastfeeding, the effects can be even more pronounced, as nursing causes the production of prolactin, which often acts as a libido-killer.
And don’t forget that your body just went through a lot. “Whether you delivered vaginally or by Cesarean section, your tissues need time to heal,” Hoppe says. She points out that an episiotomy incision can also make intercourse uncomfortable; and if you had a C-section, your abdominal incision may still be sore.
Here’s how you can help yourself—and your tender nether regions—through this time.
Go slowly: “Let your body have time to heal,” Hoppe advises. “Don’t rush into sex if it hurts.”
Use lubrication—lots of it: Hoppe recommends Astroglide, Replense or K-Y. All are available at drugstores or, discreetly, online.
Engage in foreplay—lots of it: Give your mind (and body) time to relax before attempting intercourse. Turn off the baby monitor if you have to—you’ll still hear the baby if she needs you, but not every whimper and snort.
Stay on top of it (so to speak): According to Hoppe, it’s usually the first or second time having sex that’s the most uncomfortable; things tend to “loosen up” after that. Plus, she says, the more sex you have, the more blood flow you’ll get to the area, which translates to less discomfort.
See your doctor if it’s really bad: “If you’re having a lot of pain, or if you bleed with intercourse, see your doctor,” Hoppe suggests.
“We’ll want to make sure there’s not something else going on, such as excessive scar tissue.” She adds that if you are particularly dry,
your doctor may prescribe a topical estrogen cream, which helps to plump up vaginal tissues.
Take control: Ready for sex but not another baby? Check out your birth-control options.