How to cope with painful sex after giving birth, as Paloma Faith speaks out

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Paloma Faith attends The Fashion Awards 2023 presented by Pandora at the Royal Albert Hall on December 04, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images)
Paloma Faith speaks candidly about her postpartum experience in her forthcoming autobiography. (Getty Images)

Paloma Faith has spoken frankly about how postpartum sex was so painful, she "decided to wince through it all" in an effort to "reconnect with [her] partner again".

The singer, 42, is preparing for the release of her autobiography, MILF: Motherhood, Identity, Love and F***ery, which is set to launch on 6 June.

In an exclusive extract shared with The Sun, Faith wrote that "nothing" was more painful than the first time she had sex after the birth of her and former husband Leyman Lehcine’s first daughter in 2016.

"I felt guilty because it was by now seven months since I had given birth so thought I should have an obligatory try," she wrote, according to the newspaper.

"I would say it took nearly two years for me not to feel any pain during sex. That’s a hell of a long time. It wasn’t erotic at all."

Faith added: "If I am honest I resigned myself to living a life of painful sex for the rest of my days." After the birth of her second daughter, Faith said she experienced painful sex postpartum again.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 23: Paloma Faith attends the British LGBT Awards 2023 at The Brewery on June 23, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Belinda Jiao/Getty Images)
Paloma Faith's experience of painful sex postpartum is something many new mums can relate to. (Getty Images)

"It was not enjoyable or fun or pretty. I felt s***," she wrote candidly. "I also felt like a woman who had been cut off from herself."

As new mums become accustomed to the way their body has changed postpartum, they may experience emotions ranging from self-consciousness and anxiety to feelings of fatigue, hormonal changes, body image concerns, and physical exhaustion, which may cause a decline in interest in sex.

Painful sex during this period is also common, with a number of reasons for why this might be happening.

Sachin Maiti, senior consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Pall Mall Medical, tells Yahoo UK: "New mums are generally advised to wait until their postpartum check-up, which usually occurs around six weeks after giving birth. During this period, the womb is expected to go back to the pre-pregnancy stage with vaginal tears and minor wounds healing well.

"Generally due to increased blood supply during pregnancy, vaginal tears heal very well.

"This 6-week wait allows time for the body to heal and for any tears or incisions to recover. However, the appropriate waiting period can vary depending on the type of delivery (vaginal or caesarean), the extent of any tearing or surgical interventions, and the individual’s overall health and recovery progress.

"It is important to get personalised advice from a doctor/ midwife."

Father and mother with their baby in the nursery room
Couples must communicate and work together postpartum. (Getty Images)

Navigating sex after giving birth can be difficult for many women. On top of taking care of a new baby and healing from the birth, this period may be fraught with complicated feelings of anxiety and guilt.

"The first-time having sex postpartum can bring a range of experiences," Maiti says. "It is not unusual to feel discomfort or even pain due to the healing process, especially if there were tears or an episiotomy (surgical cut to widen the birth canal for the baby’s journey).

"Also, hormonal changes, particularly lower oestrogen levels, can cause vaginal dryness, making intercourse uncomfortable. Physical sensations might be different from pre-pregnancy experiences due to changes in the body structure and muscle tone."

Jordan Rullo, medical expert and certified sex therapist with Flo Health, adds that pain during postpartum sex is commonly caused by vaginal dryness, as a result of a reduction in vaginal lubrication.

If you experience painful sex postpartum, there are several things you can try to make things more comfortable, including:

  • Use a water-based lubricant to alleviate dryness and reduce friction

  • Experiment with different positions to find a more comfortable one

  • Experiment with non-penetrative sexual activities, or introduce sex toys and aids

  • Strengthen pelvic floor muscles through exercises like Kegels to improve muscle tone and reduce pain

  • Take things slowly and communicate with your partner about what feels good

However, Maiti advises: "Persistent pain should be discussed with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying issues such as infections, scar tissue problems, or other complications."

Rullo adds: "So often, my clients tell me that they just grin and bear the pain, with the assumption that it will eventually go away, that perhaps sex is supposed to be a little painful or they don’t want to ruin their partner’s sexual experience.

"Grinning and bearing the pain will ultimately make the pain worse. Not only might you be damaging your vulvar tissues as a result of the painful sex, but you’re also teaching your mind that sex is painful, which will eventually lead you to avoid sex and physical touch altogether."

Man and woman lying on front next to each other, eyes closed.
Ensuring open and honest communication with each other can help new mums navigate sex postpartum. (Getty Images)

Partners of new mums play a crucial role in postpartum care. The first thing, most important thing to do is to recognise that "recovery is a gradual process and being patient with the pace of physical intimacy is key", says Maiti.

"Spending more time on foreplay can help with relaxation and arousal, reducing discomfort. And always remember that emotional support is just as important as physical comfort."

Talking about the pain is very important, Rullo says. "So often, partners don’t even know about the pain. Your partner will play an important role in being your teammate to figure out creative ways to be sexually intimate without pain.

"Partners can help you realise that pain doesn’t mean all sex must stop. Talk with your partner about creating a more diverse sexual menu and exploring ways to be physically intimate that don’t cause pain.

"As a partner, the best thing you can do is not guilt your partner with sexual pain into having sex, but instead to join with them as teammates and get creative sexually in a way that is pleasurable for both of you."

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