From delivery room to bedroom II •How mode of childbirth affects a couple’s sex life

In 2008, Swedish scientists reported a study of women’s sex lives 12 to 18 months after delivering a first child: Episiotomy-assisted childbirth did not affect arousal, orgasm, or satisfaction, but increased the incidence of painful intercourse and dryness. As against some of the warnings about vaginal birth, the previously mentioned 2005 Canadian study found that women who had given birth vaginally with an intact perineum actually had less pain during sex than the Cesarean-section group after three months.

Assisted delivery: Another factor is the use of obstetric instruments such as forceps and vacuum. Again, this is not always up to the mother. A survey of studies published between 1990 and 2003 concluded that assisted delivery led to painful intercourse, perineal pain, and delays in the resumption of sex.

Men’s concerns: Because sexual dysfunction affects both people in a relationship, men should at least be part of these discussions. There are stories of the “husband’s knot”; an extra stitch after an episiotomy to create a tighter fit, which benefited the man at the expense of the woman, but this is not currently common practice. However, men may share women’s concerns about sex after vaginal birth, as they can feel tension in  their partners’ pelvic floor muscles during vaginal intercourse.

Researchers in Turkey recently set out to explore whether men should be concerned about a slack pelvic floor in their partner after delivery. A study reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine this year had new fathers fill out a sexual satisfaction questionnaire about areas of sexual functioning, including frequency of intercourse, communication, and erectile function. It even asked the question, “Do you ever happen to think your spouse’s vagina is so loose that it affects your sexual pleasure?” Their wives had either had an elective caesarean or a vaginal birth with an episiotomy (in Turkey the episiotomy rate is 100 per cent.) The bottom line: The guys’ complaints had no correlation with mode of delivery. But they can still feel their wife’s pain empathetically.

Childbirth experience: What about the effect of witnessing childbirth on a man’s attraction to his partner? For some men, a very intimate body part can become completely desexualised. Or they see someone they cherish dramatically sliced open. In either case, they can then associate their partners with a disturbing and gruesome scene. Occasionally therapists hear cases of lost lust and flashbacks to these experiences

Four Tips for Improving Postpartum Playtime

  • Before birth: Rub it in. A recent review of studies involving 2,434 women found that perineal massage once or twice a week for the last month of pregnancy reduces the likelihood of perineal trauma (a rip or the need for a cut) among first-time mothers.
  • During birth: Push when you feel like it. Directed pushing refers to pushing and breathing when told to do so. In spontaneous pushing, the woman bears down when she feels the urge. Although spontaneous pushing takes longer, research shows it’s more likely to preserve an intact perineum.
  • After birth: Do your exercises. Postpartum Kegels are beneficial, whether after a cesarean section or a vaginal delivery. You’ll be more comfortable in bed without the fear of leaking gas or urine, and better control over those pelvic muscles just might intensify orgasm.

During sex: Don’t rush into it. Trust your instincts with your own healing. Everyone is different. “The biggest message to give women,” she adds, “is to feel free to use vaginal lube and don’t feel guilt over it


Courtesy: Women’s Health