>From The Delivery Room To The Bed Room- Intimacy After Childbirth
impact of natural birth on sex life

From The Delivery Room To The Bed Room- Intimacy After Childbirth

Childbirth can wreak havoc on a couple’s intimate relations. Everything that happens during this euphoric yet agonizing event in the delivery room can have lasting effects in the bedroom. To the degree that a woman has any control over the situation, should anticipation of postpartum sexual functioning play a role in her selecting a mode of delivery?

Cesarean sections now make up 30 per cent of deliveries in the US, and that number is increasing. A recently published study of postpartum sexuality concerns among first-time parents, says most people who ask for C-sections ask because of scheduling issues or for more control over the situation. But a lot of people don’t want to discuss matters of sexuality with their health-care providers. Further, they might not even stop to think that various styles of delivery might have different sexual side effects. In two surveys of obstetricians, a third of doctors say they would choose cesarean sections for themselves.

Sex After Delivery- Do They Know Something We Don’t?

A number of studies in recent years have looked at C-sections and sexual health. One Canadian study published in 2005 showed that three months after childbirth, first-time mothers who had a vaginal birth noted greater sexual dissatisfaction than those who’d had a C-section—70 per cent compared with 55 per cent.

A 2006 study found similar results in women two full years after birth. Another study published in 2005 found long-term differences in the strength of new mothers’ pelvic floors—the pelvic muscles and connective tissue supporting the bladder, intestines, and reproductive organs that contract involuntarily during orgasm and can intensify orgasm when contracted voluntarily. More than two years after giving birth, women who’d delivered vaginally had significantly lower pelvic floor muscle strength than those who’d delivered by cesarean section.

There are no studies showing that increasing pelvic floor strength directly improves sex because “sexual function is such a complex thing,” But we know that pelvic floor exercises such as Kegel’s decrease incontinence, and we know that women with less incontinence, particularly coital incontinence (leaking of urine during intercourse), have better sex lives. “Feeling comfortable with yourself is key to feeling comfortable within a sexual relationship,” Brubaker says, “and fear of incontinence can be a devastating thing for a woman.”

Further, Brubaker recently finished a study showing that women completing a pelvic fitness course reported improved sexual function, including better orgasm. She says we can’t be sure the mediating factor isn’t improved social support (“the girls night out effect”) instead of stronger muscles or better muscle control, but benefits persisted a year after the end of classes.


One factor that complicates many of the studies comparing vaginal birth with cesarean section is that some women have episiotomies—incisions through the perineum to expand the vaginal opening. This

procedure prevents rips, which are hard to repair, and limits stretching of the pelvic floor. In the US, about 30 per cent of vaginal births occur with episiotomy. A survey of studies found little evidence that women who’d had episiotomies had better pelvic floor function in the months after childbirth. And they took longer to resume intercourse and suffered more pain during sex.

How Is The Vagina Made For The Childbirth?

Though it’s pretty complicated to imagine the situation when an embryo is able to make its way out through the vaginal birth canal and out the opening. Your body is in fact made to perform this. In fact, it’s been preparing for this moment since the beginning of your pregnancy by releasing these pregnancy hormones:

  • Estrogen– It enhances and enables the flow of blood to the vagina folds so that the elastic tissue is better able to expand and stretch during childbirth as you push.
  • Relaxin– It enables and enhances the body to get relaxed and loosen the ligaments and joints in your pelvis so it’s able to expand and create space for your baby to make his entrance.

Vaginal Stretching During Birth

The basis and variables on which the majority of the vaginal stretching you experience depends on, including:

  • The size of your baby
  • Your genetics
  • Whether or not you did pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy to tone those muscles in advance of childbirth.
  • The circumstances of the birth (how long you pushed and whether forceps or vacuum extraction were used, to name a few of the most common factors that could affect things)
  • The number of deliveries you had prior in life which refers to how much toned or previously stretched your vaginal opening already is in each and every progressive birth and it will likely stretch or exert the force on your vagina a little bit more.

If You Have A Vaginal Delivery And The Perineum Does Not Tear:

You may feel sore and could expect an uncomfortable situation immediately after delivery. Even if your perineum got left intact during baby’s arrival, the area has still been stretched and bruised.

Most women in this situation tend to feel some mild to not-so-mild vaginal discomfort for a time span of about three to five weeks (though it can vary widely depending on the person). This pain could even be worse in the case when you cough or sneeze and you may even find that it hurting in the case when you sit down for a few days but the pain should tend to disappear with each passing day.

If The Perineum Tears During The Delivery Or You Have An Episiotomy:

You will feel sore or may experience some burning due to the tear or laceration (which usually requires stitches). The wound will take about the time span of 7 to 10 days to recover and heal. It may be tender for several weeks to try to take it easy if you can. If the stitches recover or heal easily, you should expect the pain to be gone within a time span of six weeks (but again, it could be fewer or more depending).

If You Have a C-section:

If you do not push beforehand, you should not expect any kind of stretching of the vagina after birth. However, you push before the C-section, the baby exerts a lot of force or pressure on your perineum, cervix and in the entire vaginal portion or the pubic area and in that case your doctor has to stretch and massage the perineum to help open the pathway and make the vaginal canal free. Your vagina may also get well strained as exert force or you push especially if you have been successful in getting the baby close to crowning. You may experience some vaginal force of pressure or stretching and discomfort after the delivery. But if the baby’s head never makes its way through the vaginal opening, stretching should be pretty less.

It does not matter the way how your birth may have went down, your doctor will simply suggest you keep a pause on sex until for about six weeks after the childbirth. Though you may get the green light sooner or the allowance later than that. You will also have to avoid insertion of tampons or any other foreign or external object until you have had your six-week course. Until you have had an appointment with your doctor and he or she has determined that you have completely healed or recovered. Doing so before the vaginal area has healed or recovered may even lead to an infection.

How Permanent Are The Effects?

  • In 2008, scientists reported a study of women’s sex lives 12 to 18 months after delivering a first child: Episiotomy-assisted childbirth didn’t affect arousal, orgasm, or satisfaction, but did increase the incidence of painful intercourse and dryness.
  • Countering some of the warnings about vaginal birth, the previously mentioned 2005 Canadian study found that women who’d given birth vaginally with an intact perineum actually had less pain during sex than the C-section group after three months. The general consensus is that a safety snip usually causes more harm than it’s worth.

Assisted Delivery

Another factor is the use of obstetric instruments such as forceps and vacuum. (Again, this is not always up to the mother.) A survey of studies published between 1990 and 2003 concluded that assisted delivery led to painful intercourse, perineal pain, and delays in the resumption of sex.

Men’s Concerns

Because sexual dysfunction affects both people in a relationship, men should at least be part of these discussions. There are stories of the “husband’s knot”—an extra stitch after an episiotomy to create a tighter fit, which benefited the man at the expense of the woman—but this is not currently common practice. However, men may share women’s concerns about sex after vaginal birth, as they can feel a tension in their partners’ pelvic floor muscles during vaginal intercourse.

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