Postpartum pain with sex is something that we see commonly with many of our patients. We’re here to tell you it’s more common than you think. We want to highlight a particular story (the patient’s name has been changed for her protection) that really brings to light some of the issues that arise when we see our patients that have postpartum pain with sex.
Here is Sarah’s story…
Sarah is 8-months postpartum with her first baby. At her 6-week OB-GYN check-up, she received the green light and was told she could resume normal activity and have sex with her husband. Unfortunately, when she tried having sex, it was painful. She and her husband tried a couple more times, but the pain really didn’t get any better. So she scheduled another doctor’s appointment and was told that she had some scar tissue down there and that she should just give this area more time to heal because over time it will get better.
So, Sarah did just that. Except when she went back home, it never got better. She continued to have excruciating pain with any attempt at sex. She went out to seek other opinions from other medical providers. In total, she saw 4 other doctors before stepping through our doors. All of these providers told her roughly the same thing- that she had some scar tissue down there. However, what was most frustrating was that almost none offered her any type of treatment options for what she could do to address this issue.
One provider did suggest the treatment option of using some numbing and hormonal creams. She was given the cream and told to, “‘Go home and have lots of sex to stretch that out, okay?” Sarah didn’t think that this advice was the best way to help the problem and we agree. Luckily, Sarah had a friend who knew about Legacy Physical Therapy and said, “Hey, maybe you should try out pelvic physical therapy.”
By the time Sarah found us, she was 8 months postpartum. She had now been suffering with painful sex for 6 and a half months. At the evaluation we determined that scar tissue was the main cause of her pain. Her scar tissue wasn’t moving or stretching well and that’s why she was in pain. We very easily and quickly got Sarah on a gentle stretching program to progressively desensitize the area allowing her to introduce more and more stretch to the vaginal scar tissue. We’re happy to say that Sarah, in just a couple of visits, is doing much, much better.
We love this happy ending, but it breaks our hearts how often we see women suffer for so long before finding the help they need. She only got to us because her friend recommended that she see a pelvic physical therapist, not the 4 other medical providers she sought out first.
It also makes me sad and frustrated to hear some of the horrific things women experiencing painful sex have been told by their medical providers. My personal favorite, that is not uncommonly shared with me, is that they were instructed to “drink a full glass of wine, get drunk and it will all be fine!” I have also had patients told that, “You just had a baby. So this is going to be your new normal. You’re just going to have to suffer through and get used to this new feeling.” I respectfully disagree with this opinion.
So I’m here to tell you that you can make changes so that you no longer have pain with intercourse. Oftentimes, by simply partnering with a pelvic physical therapist, you can be pointed in the right direction to find the cause and source of your pain. When women are dealing with painful intercourse after delivering their baby, it’s almost always related to scar tissue or muscle spasm. Thankfully, there are very simple things that we can do to help that problem.
I recommend that you don’t wait, because we’ve learned that starting early can make a big difference. Try not to play the ‘wait and see’ game because before you know it 8,10, 12 months have passed before you get an answer. As you heard from Sarah’s story, we often don’t see people until they are 1 year postpartum. They received the 6 week postpartum green light from the doctor, went home, tried intercourse and it was painful, called the doctor back and were told ‘to give it time, relax, or maybe drink a glass of wine.’ The pain inevitably continues, but they don’t feel like going back to the doctors since they didn’t get helpful advice and they don’t broach the subject again until their annual appointment or much later.
If you’re sitting there thinking that you’re now doomed because it’s taken you awhile to realize that there is help out there, please don’t be discouraged. There are definitely ways to help that can be done as far out as several years postpartum, but ultimately we can get you quicker results and get you back to feeling yourself and having pain-free intercourse the sooner you come for a visit.
The bottom line message is that partnering with a pelvic physical therapist fairly soon after you notice symptoms can give you the best results for having pain free sex with your partner.
I hope it was helpful to hear the story of another patient who’s dealt with this frustration. If you find yourself identifying with their story, then by all means reach out. We are here to help.