- Publish Date
- Thursday, 10 May 2018, 2:01PM
WARNING: Contains content that may offend.
Whether you give birth vaginally or your baby enters the world via C-section, it will come as no surprise that your sex life is going to change.
But a recent study has revealed just how much childbirth affects women when it comes to lovemaking.
After bringing home a bundle of joy, many women report sex becomes painful and unsatisfactory.
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin surveyed nearly 1,500 women, and discovered that the number of women affected by painful intercourse almost doubled three months after giving birth.
But not only that, the researchers also found that whether in pain or not, sex wasn't as satisfactory for women post-pregnancy as it was pre-birth.
While half of the women surveyed said they were very happy with their sex lives before they had a baby, just 25 percent said the same thing after they brought the baby home.
Also, 54 percent of the women surveyed reported they had sex one to two times a week pre-pregnancy, but only 41 percent said they still got it on that often after they gave birth.
"Regardless of whether a woman delivers vaginally or by C-section, they can expect their sex lives to go through a period of transition as the woman's body readjusts hormonally," explains Madeleine Castellanos, M.D., a sex expert.
"After giving birth, a woman experiences a large shift in hormones, which results in dryness, irritation, and discomfort with sex. This takes several weeks — or even months in some women — to resolve."
But the good news is that sex post-baby doesn't have to be bad. Castellanos recommends simply waiting long enough for your body to get back into sex shape.
"When estrogen levels drop significantly after delivery, a woman's body must readjust to a normal non-pregnant level of estrogen, which takes at least six weeks," she explains. "Until her body has readjusted, the tissues of the vagina will respond as if they are estrogen-deprived, resulting in a burning pain during penetration. And that's uncomfortable enough that many women would not want to have any penetration during this time."
"Setting aside some protected time for a couple to be alone with each other will give them an opportunity to fall back into a natural sexual rhythm without trying to force it," Castellanos says.
In an effort to give new mums some "you're totally normal" reassurance, these women have shared how sex changed after they gave birth:
- "Three weeks after giving birth to twins via an emergency C-section in October 2013, the ol' man and I were back at it again. That is, until I resumed afterbirth bleeding for a ridiculous eight additional weeks. That put a damper on things. But when we eventually started again, I realised I could segment my sex life into three stages: Before pregnancy, sex was constant; during, it was orgasmic; now it's loving. After the twins, my partner fell more in love with me. Even my orgasms are my bigger and longer lasting. But sex after kids has also been quite torturous. Being quiet has never been fun for me, and it makes it harder to achieve orgasm." —Shana C., 36
- "Before giving birth, our sex life was fine. Then in May 2013, I was induced and had a vaginal birth with an epidural. We started having sex again when the doctor approved it: after six weeks. But for maybe the first eight months after childbirth, the idea of sex was incredibly disgusting to me. Of course I would indulge my husband, but I was so turned off by the idea of it. It must have been a hormonal thing, because I've heard the same from other women, and my level of disgust was extreme. Things are fine now, but having a child changes your sleep patterns significantly. Instead of having sex at night, we usually do it one day a weekend while our son naps." —Kathryn K., 35
- "I gave birth in January 2014 via vaginal delivery. I was strictly breastfeeding my daughter, and the nursing made me very dry with zero interest in or energy for sex. I was cleared for sex around eight weeks after I delivered, but we didn't even attempt it until around six months after our daughter was born. It was so painful, I cried. We tried one or two other times during our daughter's first year with no success. When our daughter was around 18 months old, I was nursing her only twice a day, I had stopped pumping completely, and my interest in sex returned! Now that she is fully weaned, I can really enjoy sex again." —Marissa R., 35
- "I gave birth vaginally in June 2015. We used to have sex once or twice a week. Sometimes it was steamy, but it was usually not too exciting after eight years together. After giving birth, it still hurts a little physically. But emotionally, it helps me love my partner and stop being angry with him for not helping more with the baby. Still, it's rare now to have the time." —Julie S., 32
- "I've had three children, all vaginal births. The first was May 2011, the second was December 2012, and the third was November 2014. In all three cases, my husband and I started having intercourse about two weeks after I gave birth. Before giving birth, sex was exciting because my husband and I first enjoyed having sex on our wedding night. We had three months of discovering each other before I became pregnant. Now sex is fulfilling, and my orgasms have the ability to completely take over all my senses. They feel fuller after giving birth." —Leah L., 23
- "I had to be induced at the end of my pregnancy, then had to have a C-section. At my six-week ob-gyn appointment, the doctor gave me the green light to get back to all of my normal activities, including sex. I was so shocked by that. It created the expectation that I should be up for sex by six weeks, but I was in no way ready. We started having sex again after about three months. Vaginal sex was painful for a long time after giving birth. I thought since I'd had a C-section, I wouldn't have that problem. After I started to get a period again, things got back to normal in terms of my sex drive. We probably don't have sex as often as we did pre-kid, but when we do it is just as enjoyable." —Lauren S., 35
- "I gave birth via C-section in October 2013 and May 2015. I started having sex again about a month after each time. The first thing that comes to mind is that sex while nursing is weird! Milk often leaks at unexpected and unwelcome moments. But the sex itself isn't really any different, just harder to get around to these days." —Amanda S., 35