As a childless sex blogger, I’m prone to getting stuck in a bit of a bubble, in which I assume that any ‘sex issues’ are most likely to be about protection from STIs, dealing with weird fetishes, and other things that have affected me throughout my life. I forget, of course, that there are a million and one sex issues outside my direct experience which are massively important to highlight.
This week’s guest blogger, Danielle Meaney, has something really important to tell you about sex after a C-section. Something that her doctor didn’t mention, that I’d never heard of, and that she’d never been told before she gave birth.
Sex after a C-section
I have had one baby and one emergency Caesarean section. The two things are not unrelated.
I had wanted to give birth to my son in an all natural home birth, so having him delivered with the intervention of a scalpel and what felt like eighteen pairs of hands was something of a disappointment. However, I consoled myself throughout the entirely necessary surgery by loudly pointing out that at least my vagina would still be intact; nothing like fear and morphine to remove those inhibitions.
Imagine my horror then, when my husband decided to take it for a spin six weeks down the line, only to find that, never mind intact, the bloody thing had all but closed up. I had done this incredibly grown up thing in bringing a human into the world, and had had The Super Virginity bestowed upon me as a reward. I wasn’t a particularly big fan of my virginity the first time around; I certainly didn’t want it back now that I was a wife and mother. Yet here I was, on the sofa with my legs in the air, and feeling a deep, shooting pain in my pelvis that suggested my husband was trying to enter me with nothing short of a battering ram. Wincing with pain, I pushed him away from me and told him that I needed more time to heal. He’s a patient man and tearfully agreed before locking himself in the bathroom for fifteen minutes.
A few weeks later, we tried again. The pain was still there but I insisted that we push through it. I assumed that the pain was a result of tension in my muscles – it had been months since we’d had sex at this point, I was nervous – and that once we got going, everything would eventually loosen up. Only it didn’t. The pain continued every time we had sex, regardless of position or wine consumption, for a couple of months before I finally gave in and went to see the doctor. She helpfully told me that she had no idea what was causing my discomfort, but that it was more than likely as a result of some infection or another. With that firmly in her mind, she had a speculum up there before you could say “feet together and drop your knees”. After taking approximately one hundred and forty two swabs, she informed me that I may have to have the tests repeated as the light in her office wasn’t much good.
Sure enough, a week later I was in with the nurse and her head torch, explaining every symptom again in painstaking detail. She looked up at me from between my legs and sighed.
“You do know this is normal, though, right?”
I wouldn’t have thought that the position I was in at that moment particular suggested that I was aware of it being normal, but I bit my tongue and kept my knees relaxed. She finished what she was doing and clicked off her head lamp, before informing me that painful sex after a Caesarean was absolutely to be expected. I was slightly flummoxed; why hadn’t the doctor mentioned this to me instead of poking my cervix with cotton buds? Did she just not know herself?
Here’s the thing about Caesareans: they’re usually the last resort to a problem that is making a vaginal birth difficult. Quite often, they’re performed unexpectedly, as in my case, and in those situations you don’t really have a lot of time to research the future effects on your sex life. In fact, I think that us women give so much thought to what happens to our vaginas once when we push a human through them, that we completely neglect to give any thought to what happens if one comes out of the sunroof. Like me, I think that most women assume that everything below the incision will remain completely as it was before, and that just isn’t the case. The lovely nurse at my surgery explained that the incision is actually very low – my scar is about an inch below my bikini line – and goes through seven layers of abdominal tissue. Not only that, but they make it as small as possible and then stretch and pull until it’s big enough to get a small head through. How on earth did I ever expect for there to be no effect on my lady parts, sitting mere inches below and connected internally?
More alarming than my own ignorance is the fact that none of this was mentioned to me by any doctor or midwife. After a cursory search online, I found that I am far from being alone. In fact, many women report far more difficulty with sex after a C section than with a vaginal birth, and yet it is a subject that isn’t being discussed by the professionals. Instead we are left to worry that we’ve somehow been left damaged or infected, suffering hideous speculum examinations and endless trips to the toilet with sample pots.
It’s now eight months since I had my baby, and sex is just about back to normal, albeit with the addition of plenty of lube. If you’ve had a Caesarean and you’re worrying – you’re not alone. You haven’t closed up, your bits aren’t broken and you probably don’t have infection, but at least now you’re armed with the facts if you do need a check up from your own doctor.
Take your time and ease back into it; I promise you, it will feel good again.
If you’re struggling to have sex after a c-section, Dani’d provided a couple of links that explain the issues, and give you some tips on how to ease back into sex. Please do check out Dani’s parenting blog too, because it’s ace.