genitals female anatomy sex health flower crotch period underwear
Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • Sex post-C-section isn't smoother than post-vaginal birth, even though there's likely less tearing.
  • Pregnancy puts pressure on the pelvic floor, and birth shifts hormones that affect sexual function.
  • Once cleared to resume sex, communicate, experiment, and work with a professional if necessary.

When Sarah was cleared to have sex again about six weeks after her baby's delivery, she felt like she was in a much younger body — and not in a good way. 

"I remember it being really hard for me; it was painful; it was like my body was almost a virgin," Sarah, whose identity is known to Insider but who asked to remain anonymous to speak openly about her postpartum sex life. "Your whole body is tightened up."  

A poster on a Reddit thread for new parents said post-C-section sex was excruciating. "Well we have tried to have sex twice and it is probably the second most painful thing I have experienced," the user wrote. "My C-section recovery was nothing compared to how badly this hurts."

While some new moms assume postpartum sex won't be so bad if they've had a C-section versus a vaginal delivery, that's not necessarily the case, Dr. Staci Tanouye, a board-certified OB-GYN in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, who's had both a vaginal delivery and C-section herself

Their vaginas may have been spared trauma, but their bodies still undergo the hormonal changes that can lead to a tender and dry vagina. Plus, a major surgery can come with complications affecting sex. "Recovering from your C-section should be your number one priority after the health and well-being of your new baby," Tanouye told Insider. 

Here's what else new moms should know about intimacy after a C-section delivery. 

No matter how you deliver, pregnancy puts pressure on your pelvic floor, which affects sexual function 

"People will have pelvic floor problems after delivery a lot of the time, even if it's through the abdomen [via C-section], because they still had a baby sitting on their pelvic floor for nine months," Allison Ball, a physical therapist who works with pelvic floor patients, previously told Insider's Andrea Michelson. "So their pelvis has still worked really hard for a while."

To help relax and stabilize the muscles traumatized during pregnancy and delivery, Ball recommends yoga. Kegel exercises can also help, according to the Mayo Clinic

Some experts recommend all new moms wait at least 6 weeks before resuming sex

While there's no hard-and-fast rule regarding how long couples should wait post-birth to have sex, Tanouye said six weeks is standard.

That's "the average amount of time it takes the uterus to return to its normal size and for your cervix to close as well as for C-section incisions to heal properly," she said. If you resume sexuality activity too soon, you can risk complications like infections, Tanouye, a partner of the pad company Poise, said. 

For many new parents, putting off sex isn't a problem, Sarah said. "When you have a newborn, you're kind of in a trance," she remembers. "You're not really thinking about it." 

Communication with your provider and partner is key  

Before getting it back on, Tanouye encourages women to get the sign-off from their providers. Then, talk to your partner. 

"Women experience a whirlwind of emotions postpartum, and talking candidly with your partner about what you're feeling and experiencing can help ease any anxiety about resuming your sex life," she said.

She also recommends taking things slowly, experimenting with activities and positions that feel most comfortable, and using plenty of lube — especially if you're breastfeeding, which lowers estrogen levels and can affect natural lubrication.

"Regardless of how you deliver, carrying a pregnancy to term can still affect your pelvic floor function, which can lead to changes in bowel, bladder, and sexual function," Tanouye said. "Allowing yourself the appropriate time to heal is important to resuming your healthy sex life."

Read the original article on Insider