regaining desire after a difficult birth

Low or no sex drive?
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Raquelita
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regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by Raquelita »

I gave birth to our first, a daughter, in May 2021. We knew that the traditional all-clear time to go back to sex was 6 weeks, but that it could be more or less than that depending on how I felt.

Here we are at 8 months later, and we still are struggling to have sex in a normal or enjoyable way. I feel totally in love with my husband, but have very little to no sexual desire. That’s the short version, but I’d like to give some background of how we got to this point.

I had a 17-hour labor and gave birth with no pain medication at home. I pushed for 3+ hours, and it was more excruciating pain than I ever could have imagined. What was worse was that in order to bring my asynclitic baby girl down, I had to purposefully push along with my body, which brought the pain from 10 to 20, and so I had to intentionally inflict the pain on myself. I felt as if I had been handed a knife and had to drive it into myself, and that if I stabbed myself enough times the pain would eventually stop.

To summarize my recovery: I have to be blunt because it’s the only way to describe this. My vagina was inside out and swollen outward to about the size of a grapefruit. The skin had come away from the flesh and had to be tacked down. I was mangled. This swelling went down over the course of about 5 days, and after that I started to turn right-side-in. The stitches inside healed and felt better after 4 weeks or so.

In addition to that, my tailbone was injured. I couldn’t sit, even on a soft seat, for 3 weeks, and even then I had to take some of my weight on my feet. Up until 5-6 weeks, I could sit for short periods of time leaning to one side, but would be in pain when I stood up.

As I write this, I find myself crying. At the time I thought that this is just what recovery from birth was for everyone. As we go on 8 months where I can hardly take PIV, I’ve found myself realizing that I still feel this pain and fear associated with that part of my body, and that this can’t be right or normal.

As you can imagine, we did not have sex at 6 weeks. Weeks turned into months and we tried a handful of times to have sex, but it was painful. I stopped keeping track of time, but my husband was quietly suffering. As he craved getting our sex life back, I only thought about it enough to dread it. Then I would feel horribly guilty and throw myself into working on daughter’s sleep schedule (so we’d have more evening time together) or introducing solids (decrease drive-killing breastfeeding hormones) or exercise and diet (feel better about my body) but none of it took away my total dread of sex.

That made me realize that the lingering problem was in my own body and mind and couldn’t be solved with merely practical measures. I also saw how it was affecting my husband emotionally. I would say that was the lowest point.

What we’ve done that has seemed to bring improvement since then:
  • We talk about it a lot and strive to think of the other’s perspective
    I push myself to communicate what does & doesn’t work. For me it’s been like getting married all over again. It’s hard to get past the nerves to tell him what things I used to enjoy that I now don’t, and vice versa, express things that are new that I find myself enjoying / helping me relax.
    HJ when I can’t handle full blown sex. When we were in the toughest season this was even hard for me to bring myself to do, which i felt / feel terrible about. I felt so averse to anything sexual that I dreaded even giving him a HJ. Lately it has been easier as I try to treat it as an expression of love for him.
    When I miss him during the day, I try to think about his body and how good he looks. I try to make sure to hug him when he gets home and hold his hand or snuggle when we’re seated side by side. I try to just build up that affection and physical touch.
What is still a struggle:
  • experiencing any desire or urge for sex or for an O
    not having Os very often (i’ve been able to a handful of times since the birth, through clothes.)
    When we’re in the middle of making out or some foreplay, I can very suddenly lose focus and completely lose all the excitement I was feeling. Sometimes if I concentrate really hard I can get the feeling back. Other times I just want to curl into a ball and disappear. Before having my daughter it was the opposite, if things were building toward sex it was hard to stop. Now, it’s hard to keep going until we get there.
    full insertion is not totally comfortable. if we can do it, it’s difficult to move too much afterward.
I realize this has been a novel, so thank you if you’re still reading. It’s hard to know what to ask without giving a complete picture. But I guess my main questions are:

Ladies, after giving birth, how did/do you get back to feeling sexual again?
What else can I do to bring my drive back?
How do I get past my memories of the painful birth and recovery?
LuckyInLove
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Re: regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by LuckyInLove »

I am so sorry. Pushing for 3 hours sounds horrific, as does all that you went through. Are you certain you’re completely healed? Have you seen an MD? I feel as though making sure you’re physically back to normal is the most important part of trying to get your sex life back on track.
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SeekingChange
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Re: regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by SeekingChange »

I don't know a lot about PTSD, but it sure sounds like you went through some major trauma and could likely be dealing with it, along with still having your hormones not back to normal.

I don't necessarily have any thoughts on how to get your sexual desire back, but start taking baby steps in being sexual with your husband again. Start with non-sexual touches, like massages, kisses, and hugs. And then find little touches that are more sexual, work together to find things that are pleasurable to you that does not include penetration of any sort, and I would guess you will know when you are ready to go further.
God can change what people do, behavioral patterns that have been in play for decades. He can change what we do to cope, to find comfort, to survive conflict, to count. Rahab had done a same old thing for years... and then she did something new.
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Re: regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by DoveGrey »

I will echo what SeekingChange said. You mentioned fear in your post. And with good reason! What you've described is pretty high on the trauma scale. If you're crying about the memories 8 months later, it would be worth it to ask a doctor and preferably a psychiatrist about the possibility of PTSD. That fear alone could be causing muscle tension that leads to more painful sex.

Asking for help in this manner isn't admitting weakness, by the way. What you experienced shows incredible resiliency and strength, both mentally and physically. It would be surprising if you didn't have some kind of post traumatic stress issues from it. There are people whom God has put on earth who have both the innate ability and the professional training to help you process what happened, and help you move on.

I know it's tough, but please don't feel guilty about telling your husband that you're no longer up for certain things anymore. This is a shared experience among the two of you. You're in this position because you birthed a child whom you are both equally responsible for. This isn't an usted problem; its an ustedes problem. And he will likely be understanding of that.

In terms of physical healing, what has your midwife told you? I think of how long it took my damaged tissue from my MCL sprain to stop hurting when something pressed against it. It was a good year, and the trauma to my body was much less than yours. I also can't imagine the agony of something repeatedly rubbing against it for several minutes or more. I get tense just thinking about that. I imagine it would also slow down the healing process, but I'm not a doctor and can't really speak to that.

On top of that, those postpartum hormones mean business. My OB told me that he considers a woman to be postpartum for 18 months after she stops breastfeeding because of the effect of the hormones, and I believe him. After my children were born, I had zero desire for sex for about a year after I stopped breastfeeding. It was like I had forgotten sex was even a thing, like I'd become asexual overnight from being quite high desire. It scared me. Most women I've discussed this with have agreed. That desire will return. In my experience, there isn't much you can do about it. Your hormones will straighten themselves out.

Take care, mama. You'll get through this.
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Raquelita
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Re: regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by Raquelita »

Thank you for your thoughtful responses.
Physical Healing: I saw my PCP at about 2.5/3 months for my normal physical. She checked things out and didn't seem concerned. Now I'm thinking that she did probably see scar tissue, just wasn't worried because it hadn't been that long. My midwife recommended massaging inside with coconut oil to heal the scarring, but I was pretty inconsistent about doing that. Mostly because I just didn't want anything to touch me down there! I'm definitely feeling more motivated now to address it.

Dovegray, yes it has definitely felt like I became an asexual being! For a while I didn't even stop to notice how drastically changed I was. Then as my husband started to voice his struggles more, I wanted to hide from him and all things sexual. Now I think I'm ready to get that part of myself back.

I would be open to talking to someone about birth trauma. Writing the post took me a few days and just the act of doing that was kind of eye opening.

Thank you all for helping me to sort through this.
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Re: regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by MrEden »

Hi Raquelita. Nice name or alias BTW.

What you went thru is worse than surgery. You aren't going to get over it in 8 months, so please be patient with yourself.

Another suggestion. Go see a pelvic floor specialist/physical therapist. I have heard great things about them from several people.

You are going to be tender or painful when you start back, no matter if you are fully healed. Getting used to a new thing, like a newlywed. I agree with taking intercourse off the table for now. The most important thing is for you to not be in fear and not be in pain. Have you tried receiving oral sex? That would be a good start for you, and give your husband the emotional connection he needs. Plus it is just plain a lot of fun for the husband too!
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Re: regaining desire after a difficult birth

Post by Link+Zelda »

I am sorry to hear about your difficult childbirth and postpartum time.

I think to fully recover from this, you're going to need to address each facet that is contributing to the problem, which I see as physical, psychological, and hormonal. Each of these will require a different approach to reach your goal.


Physical
Seeing a medical practitioner in this area would be beneficial if you haven't already (beyond your PCP). If possible, someone familiar with the situation (was your midwife there during birth?) would be best. Others here have mentioned physical therapy (pelvic floor), which certainly wouldn't hurt. However, TIME is a major component that can't be skipped, and honestly your hormones will probably need to be "right" for you to feel completely normal down there.

Also, I don't want to worry you, but my wife suffered with tailbone pain for several years after the birth of our first. I still don't know if she'd say it's completely recovered, and that was over 10 yr ago. We learned to navigate through keen surface selection and choosing certain positions for sex.


Psychological
This was already covered by @SeekingChange and @DoveGrey. Basically, you need to get past the PTSD/fear, but that is naturally far more difficult than typing or saying it. You may consider seeing a counselor with experience in this area. I personally think that a slow introduction to penetration can help with the PIV aspect when you're ready. This might be considered physical, but the psychological component is just as big. You might try dilators, often recommended to newlywed women struggling to achieve pain-free PIV, for this. Take a look at these: https://marrieddance.com/shop/miscellan ... =tmb-forum I don't think the sizes are listed on Married Dance, but they are, in inches (length×diameter):
  • 3.0×0.5
  • 3.5×0.75
  • 4.25×0.75
  • 5.0×1.0
  • 5.5×1.25
So you'd basically be able to start with something similar to an adult finger and migrate up to a dilator roughly the equivalent of an average erect penis (right length but the dilator is a bit low on girth), working on both the physical and psychological simultaneously. Note that your or your husband's fingers are also very useful tools for this.


Hormonal
As @DoveGrey already mentioned, full hormone "normality" can come a long time after terminating breastfeeding. She said 18 months, but I've read as long as 24 months in other sources. Right now, your body is in full mom mode, and to get technical, you're getting huge oxytocin (bonding hormone) hits from your baby. You're likely not going to feel strong sexual desire for your husband until this period goes away, plain and simple. On the bright side, you still feel love for your husband--extreme cases can have a mom actually feel repulsion towards their husband, and I've even heard of ladies intentionally giving up breastfeeding early in order to stop feeling that. The sad fact of the matter is that the only real cure here is time, and it sounds like you're already doing a lot of the peripheral things like exercise, working on solid foods, etc that can help. One thing to note is that "hormonal" goes beyond "mommy hormones", and things like stress/fear/lack of sleep are all big shutdowns to sexy hormones. Sure sounds like you have a lot of those going on right now!


Overall, just realize this can be a very tough time on both wives and husbands. Do your best to communicate with your husband, and if possible work with MS (manual sex) and OS (oral sex) on him to help minimize his discomfort/feelings of rejection. MS/OS will work well on you too, as already mentioned, if you're willing. Worst case scenario, encourage him to masturbate in or out of your presence if you two are willing to do that sort of thing. Once you can get to the point of PIV, use lots and lots of lube, as your natural lube may not be working well yet.
-Link+Zelda
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