Intimate Communication after Pregnancy
It’s no secret that having a baby impacts a woman’s body tremendously! Feet stretch, libido decreases, your stomach and hips appear bigger than they used to be, breasts swell and subsequently shrink, among other things. Notably, the vagina stretches significantly to allow for baby to enter the world, and while over time, in many cases, the vagina returns mostly to its pre-pregnant state, it’s often not quite the same.
While women often have their own reactions to all these changes, the bodily changes often influence intimacy with their partner. Both partners’ reactions to the changes are often at work when it comes to physical intimacy. Women often notice all these changes to their body and react with feelings of insecurity, feeling they’re not as beautiful or attractive as they once were. In addition, hormones following pregnancy can decrease libido and natural vaginal lubrication, not to mention the vaginal stretching. This point ties women’s and men’s views together. Women may notice the libido and vaginal changes, which can compound feelings of insecurity. Men are likely to notice these changes, as well, but handle them differently. In hopes of protecting their wives’ feelings, they often hide their observations and experiences. For some men, the decreased friction from the vaginal loosening (or vaginal relaxation) may significantly decrease pleasure during sex, but they don’t express their concerns, fearing they will hurt their significant other in broaching the topic. While it is understandable that both partners may be hesitant to discuss these issues, which, yes, can be very sensitive, choosing not to address these problems is often ineffective. Unfortunately, lack of communication about these issues tends to only create a greater divide.
So, if communication is supposedly the key, how does a couple go about it? Sensitivity to each other’s experience is key. While keeping your partner’s experience in mind, expression of your concerns in a non-judgmental, factual and caring manner is most effective. Men in particular often have greater difficulty opening up, and women often desperately want them to open up so that they can fix the problem. Expressing this point is vital. In this case, husbands are likely to want to keep their experience to themselves to avoid hurting their wives. If the woman expresses that she notices changes, fully recognizing that these changes may be impacting her husband’s experience too, this communication can create feelings of openness and acceptance. Then, men may be less concerned about expressing their experiences. Only then can you both have an honest, supportive conversation of how to deal with the problem most effectively.
In some cases, when vaginal relaxation is significantly hurting a couple’s sex life, consultation with a vaginal cosmetic surgeon may be beneficial to assess the woman’s anatomy. Husbands should come to the consultation to understand the medical impact of the pregnancy as well as options, ranging from hormones to surgery (e.g., laser vaginal rejuvenation, perineoplasty, labiaplasty, etc.) to remedy the issue. With both parties present, the couple can come together to make a decision that works best for them.