We just don’t talk about how relatively common sexual pain is.
Today on the podcast Rebecca’s sharing about her really difficult postpartum experience (she had a bad tear, plus she has a bizarre hormonal rash), and we’re delving into how common sexual pain actually is.
We don’t talk about this enough, and then women feel like they’re broken when it happens to them.
But first, here’s the podcast:
Main Segment: Postpartum Problems
Society has been talking a lot about postpartum depression, which is wonderful. We need to talk about this so that women will ask for help when they need it, and so that people will understand that a new mom isn’t being mean, heartless, or selfish. She’s honestly having issues.
What we don’t talk about, though, is difficult postpartum recoveries.
I gave birth three times, and only one time did I have a difficult recovery. With Christopher I walked home from the hospital (though that likely wasn’t a great idea in retrospect). With Katie I was up and walking at the zoo a week later. But with Rebecca I had a bad tear that kept me in my apartment for 6 weeks, and I just couldn’t walk well that entire time.
That’s what Rebecca has now–plus she erupted in a postpartum rash called “pupps” that 1/300 women get. Seriously, it’s the worst rash I’ve ever seen. It’s like a really, really bad case of poison oak or poison ivy all over your stomach, legs and arms that doesn’t go away for several weeks, making it impossible to sleep (she has to get up every hour and a half to change the ice packs).
And then there are women who have C-section recoveries to manage (especially difficult once you have toddlers), and other problems.
So we just wanted to do this podcast to emphasize that we always talk about labour being difficult, but sometimes the postpartum time is worse. And often these moms need two things:
- Help from friends/family and especially husbands, and permission to be off their feet
- Understanding from husbands that it’s legitimate to wait the 6 weeks (or whatever it takes) for sex.
We’d love to hear your postpartum stories, too, in the comments!
Reader Question: Sex is still too painful for my wife that we haven’t consummated our marriage (vaginismus)
A husband writes in with this question, which is quite a common one:
My wife and I waited until marriage to try to have sex, and when we got to our honeymoon, we found we couldn’t. She was too tight, there was physical blockage, and even attempting it was immensely painful. We went to her OB and found that she had an obstructive, extra thick hymen, and so she went through surgery to correct it, thinking that would solve everything and we could connect and be together. Unfortunately, (and depressingly) once she was healed and we started trying again, we had the same issues, and the OB said she thought it was vaginismus. My wife is incredibly shy, and hates going to the OB in general. We have started to try what the OB recommended, massaging her opening with a numbing gel to try to relax the muscle, but it’s very painful for my wife.
I suggested maybe a pelvic floor specialist or something, but she is still not sure she would be comfortable with anyone else doing anything down there. I just am struggling to know what to do, how to help us progress and get to become one flesh in our marriage. We pray about it a lot and just are feeling discouraged and hopeless.
There are no magic answers for this couple except for seek treatment. I think if we talked about how common sexual pain is (it’s about 4% of the population, but it’s much higher in conservative religious circles), then women wouldn’t feel so alone. I shared my own story of vaginismus in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, so she isn’t alone.
So what would I suggest?
Read my posts on vaginismus. Understand that you’re not alone. And then seek out a pelvic floor physiotherapist. I had such a person guest post a while ago, and she wrote these very helpful posts:
- Can a pelvic floor physiotherapist help you?
- What to expect from an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist
I know it’s awkward, and that she doesn’t want other people feeling around “down there”, but honestly, it’s better to get it dealt with. It really is. And there are things that they can do, so please seek help!
And if you have suffered from vaginismus, tell engaged women that you know. Say something like, “You know, most women have no problem at all getting used to sex, and I’m sure that will be the case for you. But I actually had some pain at first and needed help with it, and if you ever find yourself in that situation, I just want you to know that you can call me.” That way you don’t scare her, but if something bad does happen, she knows that she’s not alone and that she has a resource.
We just need to talk about this stuff more!
Finally, don’t forget to take our survey!
We’re currently conducting the largest survey of Christian women’s marital and sexual satisfaction that’s been done to date, and you’ll want to be part of it! Take the survey right here.
Thanks so much! And let me know: Did you ever suffer from pelvic pain? Was your postpartum recovery awful? Let’s talk in the comments!