Kate Harmsy knew she was in for a life change when she gave birth to her first child in 2012, but she never expected such a change in her sex life.
"This might sound awful, but it feels like I'm being stabbed down there whenever I have sex with my husband," she said.
Harmsy talked to her doctor, but he wasn't much help.
"He told me that getting drunk beforehand helps," she added with a laugh.
All jokes aside, that's not exactly an option for a breast-feeding mother with a growing child. Sex is a healthy part of every committed relationship, but what if the "shifts" that happen post-baby make it dreadful -- or worse, downright painful?
"This is a common complaint," Dr. Debra Wickman, MD, a gynecologist with SHE Sexual Health Experts in Gilbert, Ariz., tells Yahoo! Shine. "Many women discover a 'knife-like' pain in their vagina the first time they have vaginal penetration after giving birth. This is because of hormonal changes that occur after delivery, especially if the woman is breast-feeding."
The reason? Estrogen levels fall rapidly post-delivery, according to Dr. Wickman. "The vagina is very sensitive to this change, and can become 'atrophic,' much like the condition that occurs after menopause," she said. "The situation is temporary, and variable between women -- some are affected more than others."
It Takes Patience
The post-baby sex pain might seem like it'll last forever, but Dr. Wickman says there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"It takes 6 to 8 weeks for the uterus to shrink back down to pre-pregnancy size, and this can change the position of the cervix at the apex of the vagina, making it prone to uncomfortable contact during thrusting," she said.
Lubricants can help alleviate the friction as your body heals, but Dr. Wickman also recommends hot and cold therapy.
"It helps to alternate application of heat -- to improve circulation, or cold for soothing relief," she said. "Warm water over the area several times daily is also very helpful, and the area should be cleaned with water after each trip to the bathroom."
Work It Out With Kegels
Exercise (other than sexercise) is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but certain workout routines can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles - and strengthen the area around your vagina.
"Post-baby sex is going to be improved long term by rehabilitation of the pelvic floor muscles -- those that surround and support the vagina, bladder and rectum -- through engaging in regular sessions of kegel exercises," Dr. Wickman says. The exercises are most effective when used along with a devices that make it easier to contract the pelvic muscles.
The Non-Physical Pains of Post-Baby Sex
Post-baby sex isn't only affected by physical pain. Almost 85 percent of new moms experience mild depression commonly known as the "baby blues," according to Dr. Shannon Chavez, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Sexologist with SHE Sexual Health Experts.
"It is all about balance and asserting your needs with a partner," she says. "Keep intimacy alive and remember a partnership/parenthood is a commitment between you and your partner.
Dr. Chavez also recommends new parents work with a sex therapist to help restart their sex lives post-baby.
"A sex therapist that can provide postpartum coaching, including sex after baby, dealing with postpartum blues or depression, and intimacy rejuvenation and scheduling," she said.
How did you rekindle your sex life after having a baby?
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