Sex after pregnancy: Myths and facts
THAT was quite a painful journey! After 40 weeks of bodily changes, swollen ankles, nagging pelvic pain, intermittent shortness of breath, and last but not least… delivering a baby almost the size of a small pumpkin, you are physically, mentally and emotionally drained. And, combined with the sleepless nights, sore nipples, the sensitive area at the site of your episiotomy/C-section scar, sex is the furthest thing from your mind.
However, at some point, sex is inevitable. So let’s clear up some myths with regards to post-partum sex.
1. Your sex drive will return after six weeks — FALSE
The combination of exhaustion, low oestrogen levels, and your general “unsexy” feeling will result in a low libido. However, most doctors and medical professionals recommend that you can resume sex after six weeks when the body has fully healed. Some women’s libido may return before the six weeks, while some may take months or even a year to return to normal, depending on the circumstances. The solution: partners should understand and try not to make demands. Cuddling and reassurance are good alternatives.
2. The “snap back” isn’t instant — TRUE
Internet celebrities give birth, and within a month of delivery regain their shapely bodies. But as we know, most of these wealthy women have personal trainers and plastic surgeons who swing into action shortly after the baby is born. Don’t be fooled. It is possible to “snap back” in due time with the correct diet and exercise, but don’t be depressed by your post-partum body. Even though an undesirable body image might kill the mood, just concentrate on being the best you. Your partner will understand.
3. Your husband is impatient — FALSE
Both you and your partner are trying to adjust to this tiny new person in your home. He is so caught up with ensuring the physical, emotional and financial well-being of the household that the lack of sex might not be an issue, and by the time sex occurs, it will be right for both of you.
4. Sex may hurt the first time — TRUE
Low oestrogen levels can result in dryness and a lack of vaginal lubrication. Combined with an episiotomy/C-section scar which has not healed properly, this can result in painful sex. As mentioned earlier, it is crucial to be assessed by a medical professional at six weeks to ensure proper healing prior to engaging in sexual intercourse. The first few times, lubrication may be necessary.
5. Your vagina will never be the same again — TRUE
Most women do not want to hear this, but sadly, this may be a reality. The vagina is a muscle which can stretch, and usually returns to normal or close normal within months of delivery. However, after several vaginal deliveries, increasing age and decreasing oestrogen levels, the muscles of the pelvic floor become weaker, resulting in vaginal laxity. This laxity varies individually from mild to severe. Solution: if your level of sexual gratification is unchanged, you are fine. However, if you are suffering from decreased sexual gratification after delivery, then this may be a sign of vaginal laxity. This can be rectified with laser vaginal rejuvenation or the non-surgical high intensity-focused ultrasound machine.
6. Breastfeeding increases your sex drive — FALSE
Even though the breast tissue enlarges and a new mother gains extra curves, her sex drive doesn’t necessarily increase. During breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin is at a high level. This hormone inhibits and decreases the levels of oestrogen, which can result in vaginal dryness and low libido.
7. You cannot get pregnant if you breastfeed exclusively — FALSE
Remember that no contraception, apart from abstinence, is 100 per cent effective. Lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM) is a method of contraception which involves the mother exclusively breastfeeding the infant for six months. It is 98 per cent effective if done correctly. Most women, however, do not exclusively breastfeed and do spontaneously ovulate, which can result in a pregnancy. Contraception should be discussed with your OBGYN six weeks after delivery, and an adequate option agreed upon.