Parents

Sex After Giving Birth Can Be Painful (And Painfully Awkward)

Our new episode of "Life After Birth" gets real about postpartum lovin'.
HuffPost Canada Parents Editor Natalie Stechyson and her husband being not at all awkward in the new postpartum sex episode of
HuffPost Canada Parents Editor Natalie Stechyson and her husband being not at all awkward in the new postpartum sex episode of

What do you think was more painful: my first attempt at having sex after my baby was born, or reliving the experience on camera for a national audience?

The latter involved two of my managers having to approve a rather personal story involving lube suppositories, the video producer informing me I was flashing underboob in one of the final shots, and me having to warn my parents they probably shouldn't watch this episode of "Life After Birth."

But ... the sex was still more cringe-worthy.

WATCH: Natalie relives the lube exodus incident in the newest episode of "Life After Birth." Story continues below.

Our new parenting video series, "Life After Birth," seeks to bring conversations about the harder parts of mom life out into the open. And the response to ourfirst episode on postpartum hair loss was overwhelming.

Now, with our second episode on postpartum sex, I take you through a topic that made me laugh, cry and feel, at times, incredibly alone. Of course I'm nervous to talk about something so personal. But in a culture that praises women for "bouncing back" after childbirth, I think it's important to have honest stories about what that can really look like.

HuffPost Canada parents editor Natalie Stechyson eyes the dilators that were supposed to increase her vaginal pain tolerance after giving birth. She did not use them. Because look at them.
HuffPost Canada parents editor Natalie Stechyson eyes the dilators that were supposed to increase her vaginal pain tolerance after giving birth. She did not use them. Because look at them.

Moms need time to recover physically from giving birth, whether they do it vaginally, via C-section, drugged, drug-free, in a birthing centre, in a birthing tub, or in a car on the way to the hospital. But some moms take a little longer to heal than others.

I remember thinking that I was an absolute rock star at labour in the serene hours before my epidural wore off. "My friends will hate me when I tell them how easy this was," I thought while holding my newborn just a few hours after being induced.

In that moment, I was blissfully unaware that I had a third-degree tear zig-zagging down my perineum from my son shooting out of me like cannonball, internal vaginal tears from the doctor going elbow-deep to flip my son over, and so many hemorrhoids from pushing that to this day, two and a half years later, I still shudder when I see a thong.

After hobbling into my six-week postpartum checkup, which is when many women get the green light from their doctors to resume sexual activity, my OB-GYN sadly informed me my bod wasn't quite ready for intercourse. Then I laughed and laughed and laughed because my body wasn't even ready for pants, bumpy car rides, or hard chairs.

There's a lot that can stand in the way of new parents and the dumpster fire formerly known as their sex lives.
There's a lot that can stand in the way of new parents and the dumpster fire formerly known as their sex lives.

A year later, it seemed like all the moms in my Facebook parenting group for 2016 babies were announcing their second pregnancies, while I was celebrating my own milestone: finally being able to wear a junior tampon again.

Even if I hadn't just spent a year feeling like a bomb had gone off in my vagina, there was also the fact that I was was so exhausted I regularly fantasized about falling asleep in ditches. And the issues weren't just physical: I had zero desire, and did not feel desirable. I felt like I'd never have sex again, I wasn't even sure I minded, but I was sure I was the only young mom out there still not even trying.

You're not alone if you're not having sex

But I wasn't alone. After doing some research and finally talking to some other moms, I realized some new parents stop having sex for years, for a myriad of reasons. And plenty of new parents who are having sex aren't exactly experiencing fireworks.

A recent Canadian study found that 90 per cent of couples with babies between the ages of three months and 12 months reported at least 10 sexual concerns that they found moderately distressing. Another study found 33 per cent of women still reported painful sexual intercourse at one year to 18 months postpartum.

Natalie Stechyson and her husband go on a date to attempt to rip off that bandaid.
Natalie Stechyson and her husband go on a date to attempt to rip off that bandaid.

And yes, when I finally had sex again a year after giving birth, it was painful in every sense of the word. And I'm not just talking about the act itself, but the prep work, the buildup, and, as you'll see in the video, the humiliating lube suppository learning experience.

I can laugh about it all now, especially since my body, my relationship, and my sex life have all finally had a chance to recover from giving birth. But if I can give any other new moms some advice, it's this: YOU HAD A BABY! Don't put pressure on yourself. Give yourself the time you need to heal — on every level.

And don't use lube suppositories in public.