Painful Sex after Childbirth and during Breastfeeding
Sometimes new mothers complain that sex is painful for several months after childbirth and during some of the time that they are breastfeeding. Vaginal atrophy is the medical term used to refer to this vaginal pain, rawnesss and dryness and although it is common, it doesn't affect all women to the same degree.
The problem is caused by the sudden drop in oestrogen levels following the birth of the baby which in turn causes the vaginal lining to thin a little and the mucous membranes to produce less mucous. This can cause vaginal dryness and even pain for some new mothers. In some instances the pain can be severe and upon medical examination the vagina may appear very raw, red and inflamed. Obviously this leads to a lot of discomfort for many mothers, particularly once they begin having sex again. In many instances women think the problem is due to a diffcult birth but it is the reduced levels of oestrogen that are to blame.
Although the symptoms may resemble those of thrush, vaginal atropthy is not the same as thrush. Whereas thrush is caused by a yeast infection and is characterised by pain, discharge and itching, vaginal atrophy is most often characterised by dryness, rawness and pain. There is not normally a discharge or any itching. The whole vaginal area will feel very tender and some women find it so uncomfortable that even a tissue patted on the area causes pain.
Whereas thrush can be treated successfully with an anti-fungicide such as diflucan, vaginal atrophy, on the other hand, is most often treated by using a vaginal lubricant such as KY Jelly.
It is important to apply the lubricant to the whole vaginal area, particularly before penetrative sex (you may like to use a vaginal lubricating pessary to ensure the whole vagina is lubricated). Vaginal lubricants can help to make lovemaking more comfortable although they don't help all women with symptoms of vaginal atrophy. They can treat the dryness but sometimes the pain is just too severe for sex to be enjoyable.
Sadly, some mothers suffering from vaginal atrophy decide to quit breastfeeding. Over time, as your hormones begin to balance out again, things will improve. Quitting breastfeeding is not usually necessary and the symptoms of vaginal atrophy usually improve once you are no longer exclusively breastfeeding. Once your oestrogen levels begin to rise again, the mucous membranes begin to respond and the dryness and accompanying pain will cease.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of either vaginal atrophy or thrush, it is is important that you see your doctor for a medical diagnosis so that he/she can either confirm the problem or rule out thrush which needs to be treated wiith anti-fungicidal medication such as Diflucan.
If you are experiencing vaginal problems when you are breastfeeding, don't neglect to discuss the problem with your partner. Explain that sex is just too painful for full penetration and if you are willing to attempt penetration ask him to be very gentle until things have improved.
If you really find it is too uncomfortable to have full sex, then you could perhaps try out some alternative ways of getting close to your partner just until the problem is resolved.
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