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Postpartum sex is painful the first few times. We accept this as fact and push through until hopefully, we come out the other side. BUT is it accurate?

Pain is our body’s way of saying, “stop I don’t like it”. Sex is a pleasurable activity meaning painful sex isn’t servicing our pleasurable needs.

What pain is acceptable?

Short answer…zero, and yes it’s possible.

Painful sex has some fancy names associated with it. Firstly, let’s simplify and understand the difference:


Dyspareunia describes genital pain that is associated with sexual intercourse causing marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. This is the fancy name for painful intercourse.


Vaginismus describes the persistent involuntary contraction of the perineal muscles surrounding the outer third of the vagina when vaginal penetration is attempted interfering with sexual intercourse and causing marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. This is a fancy name for the body subconsciously blocking access to the vagina.


Despite pain being a very physical occurrence when it comes to painful sex the reasons are more psychological than physical.


What causes painful sex?

Painful sex is often based on anxiety and fear. 3 common reasons women experience postpartum painful sex (dyspareunia or vaginismus) are:

  • Birth or pregnancy trauma – this can be both psychological or physical trauma
  • Fear of another pregnancy
  • Body image or self-image anxiety


Response Anxiety

All 3 reasons can cause response anxiety. Response anxiety is a strong stress reaction. Response anxiety is when you become anxious and tense because you don’t know what will happen next. For example, you have body image concerns about your mummy tummy and don’t want it touched. Your partner comes and starts shoulders. You fear that their next spot to touch is your stomach, so you tense your body and anxious thoughts flood your mind. Response anxiety decreases sexual desire and arousal, reducing lubrication and can also cause vaginismus.

Change your expectations and understanding of pain and discomfort. Early postpartum sex MAY have some short-term discomfort but NOT pain.


How do you reduce discomfort?

Saying bye to painful sex is about arousal and timing.

Here are 5 steps to lift your arousal to an appropriate level and time penetrative intercourse perfectly for pleasure.


Technique #1 – Feed your mind

Your brain is your biggest sex organ. Mothers miss romance and being pursued. Women need slow and steady sexual stimuli for their sexual desire to respond to. The more you desire sex the more your body will arouse and lubricate ready for sex. What intimate acts or words do you want to see or hear throughout the day to build your sexual desire? These can be things you do or things you ask your partner to do.


Technique #2 – Know yourself

Women are known for faking pleasure and orgasms. Why we allow it to continue is another question. Explore your body and accept your sexual self to take control of your pleasure. Mothers don’t have time for activities that aren’t enjoyable and sex is housed in the reward centre of your brain. What you accepted pre-pregnancy may no longer be acceptable postpartum. Your body and genital sensitivity can change postpartum so it’s not unusual to redefine what brings you enjoyment. Self-pleasure is about discovery, fun and confidence.


Technique #3 – Pre-game pep talk

Communicate your needs to your partner before sex. Tell them that you need time before you attempt penetration. This includes things you need throughout the day, and things you need once you start your sexual activity. Don’t forget to express your feelings during sex. Women respond internally. Your partner has no idea whether something is working unless you tell them!

If you experience response anxiety, ask your partner to describe what actions they want to do next and wait for your ‘yay or nay’ response before they do it. This will help you relax and be in control during sex.


Technique #4 – Different acts

We learn from a young age that penile-vaginal intercourse is the pinnacle of sex. There’s so much more fun to have if you are willing! Redefine sex in your relationship and exhaust other sexual activities before you attempt penetrative intercourse. Think about a play it has several acts before the climax. Remember you DON’T NEED to include intercourse every time and it will not make that occasion any less enjoyable.


Technique #5 – Breathe through it

When it’s time for penetration relaxation breathing techniques are extremely useful. Tense your pelvic floor muscles when you inhale for 3 seconds, and then relax all your muscles as you exhale for 4 seconds. You can also hold the penis or object inside your vagina without moving whilst you breathe, relax and your body accepts the new sensation.


Be a sexual explorer and say no to postpartum painful sex. Pain is not an acceptable expectation of a pleasurable activity.