Kay shares her story of how painful sex affected her mental health.
My doctor: Okay, 6 weeks postpartum, you can resume intercourse again.
Me: *Blank stare that says* “Do I look like a woman who is ready to let anyone near my vagina anytime soon?”
The 6-week postpartum check by your GP or OBGYN generally means you’ve been given the all-clear to “get down to it” and exercise again (10 weeks normally for c-section births). Although personally, my stitches might have healed but emotionally I did NOT feel ready.
So a few weeks after this appointment my husband and I decided in the most unspontaneous, pre-planned, far from romantic way, to get it ON.
Wine was consumed and candles lit in a bid to get rid of the nerves. I’d made the mistake of reading Mumsnet stories online about how painful sex can be the first time after birth. They weren’t wrong. It was painful and a bit shit to be honest. I did feel relieved we’d got it out the way. I felt terrible even thinking that. Sex was something that was supposed to be so intimate and I couldn’t wait to get it over and done with.
I thought it would be easier the next time and the time after that, but it wasn’t getting any easier or any more comfortable and the pain was sometimes too much to bear.
I didn’t want to lose that intimacy with my husband but it started to really affect our relationship and my mental health. I felt like I’d failed at birth and now I was failing at everything else.
I wasn’t being a good enough partner, or a good enough mother because I was so stressed and anxious about how my body was feeling. It was all-consuming. I’d cry every single day without fail. It went further than just ‘baby blues’. I felt like my body had failed, and even being touched on my leg or stomach was enough to send me into overdrive.
I finally went back to my doctor and asked for a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist and about a month later I got an appointment.
Meeting my physio was a weight off my shoulders. I cried, lots, and had an external and internal examination, and then we put together a plan of action.
My pelvic floor was hypertonic, meaning it’s too tight, which is just as dysfunctional as a loose or weak pelvic floor. Yeah… a 9lbs 7oz baby and vaginal tearing might do that to you!
I needed to learn to relax my pelvic floor muscles, let go. Not just physically, but mentally too.
The painful and uncomfortable sex was causing me so much anxiety and depression, but my pelvic floor dysfunction was caused by the physical and emotional trauma of birth. It felt like a really tangled web of mental and physical issues. After 10 months of seeing a pelvic PT, and reconnecting with MUTU Breath, I finally felt good again. I could finally enjoy sex again!
Things that helped with my recovery:
>> A Birth Debrief. In the panic of an obstetric emergency, everything is a blur, it’s all flashing lights, sounds, wires, machines and lots of amazing people in one room, working to keep you and your baby safe. Then, you’re left wondering what the hell just happened, and a birth debrief can validate, answer questions and provide incredible closure. After mine, it was like the missing piece of the puzzle. Suddenly I made so much progress in my appointments. It proves the connection between body and mind is so important in recovery.
>> Communication. This is a really important one because there were times when I didn’t even want my husband to touch me, or even compliment me because I assumed he just wanted to get me into bed. I was distancing myself so much from him, shutting down every sweet thing he’d say, and avoiding any contact. It was a really hard time for us both, and not just because he wasn’t getting any nooky, I pushed him away really hard. But one day he started the conversation and I let him in again and explained everything. It was the conversation we needed to reconnect again.
>> MUTU Breath. I spent a few months just focusing on letting go. My physio said that I needed to learn to relax before strengthening my muscles again. So MUTU Breath was perfect, because it retrains your body and mind to reconnect, especially if your connection is gone and you feel like your muscles are so weak. I found it easier to do the pelvic floor exercises sitting over a bolster. Do whatever feels best for you.
>> Seeing a Women’s Health PT. The patience and expertise of my physio was a godsend. I think every woman should have access to a specialist women’s health physio or PT, after birth.
If you’re dealing with painful or uncomfortable sex right now, I want you to know that you shouldn’t just put up with this. You deserve to feel good and be symptom-free. MUTU System can help. Find out more.