Sex after C-section: The Advice that Women Do (and Don’t) Need

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Sex after C-section: The Advice that Women Do (and Don’t) Need

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So have you heard the news that women who have had c-sections are “lucky bitches” because their vaginas are tighter than their vaginal-birthing sisters?

And have you read The Feminist Breeder’s (TFB) respectful, insightful, and altogether awesome response to this news (touted by Kristen Chase in her recently published book, The Mominatrix’s Guide to Sex: A No-Surrender Advice Book for Naughty Moms)?

And have you read the honest and, at times, heartbreaking comments from TFB’s readers?  The ones who share their stories about painful adhesions that make sex unbearable or the numbness that has all but taken away what was once a site of sexual pleasure or the emotional scars that inhibit their sex lives or even the traumatic vaginal births that hamper sex in a way that has very little to do with vaginal “tightness”?

Read it.

Now I’ll admit, I haven’t read Chase’s book, so I can’t comment all that intelligently on the book in its entirety.  Nonetheless, I’m also not sure that putting the following Mominatrix quotations in context would help me to feel less offended by them.  For Chase writes that:

Quite frankly, women who have not had a vaginal birth will probably not experience as much of a change as those who have shot a baby or two out of their vag.  Consider yourselves lucky, you c-section bitches.

And then she goes on to claim that:

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you’ve birthed a few seven or eight pounders your vagina will not return to its trim and virginal state without some effort. And even then, it still might be somewhat of a lost cause.

(Can I just leave my many problems with the focus on “trim and virginal” vaginas for another day, another post?  ‘Cause otherwise, this post threatens to balloon to a book-length treatise.)

In any case, after TFB wrote her post and received (and continues to receive) over one-hundred comments (including, graciously, one from Chase herself), Chase devoted her weekly radio show to the topic of “Sex after C-section.”  And I thought that was mighty bold and magnanimous of her.  I still do. I mean, she writes about sex, her book containing the offending claims is about sex advice for moms, so why not respond to TFB’s critique by devoting her show to responding with respect and care to those mothers who want and even need some good “sex after c-section” advice?!

Except the advice wasn’t…well, what many c-section mamas are looking for.

At least not the ones commenting on TFB’s blog.

Notably, Chase invited a radio-show guest who had experienced both a vaginal birth and a cesarean section, so this guest did have some perspective on comparing sex after both types of birth experiences.

But she also didn’t share many of the same physical and emotional problems that leave many c-section mamas wanting some good sex-after-cesarean advice.  And her lack of perspective left her advice itself a bit lacking and even infuriating at times.  (In addition to focusing primarily on ameliorating the appearance of one’s cesarean scar and feeling more confident about one’s post-cesarean body with make-up and lingerie–okaaaaaaay–she also belittled the feelings of those women who were traumatized by their cesarean experiences.)

Now don’t get me wrong–I’m thrilled that Chase’s guest did not and does have to suffer through these problems.  I’m thrilled that she and her baby were healthy after her necessary and emergent c-section for a cord prolapse.  I’m thrilled she could say that she “felt great” the day she came home from the hospital, didn’t feel “that much pain,” and didn’t think her birth experience was “that big of a deal.”  It’s really, truly fantastic.

And I only wish that all women who have undergone major surgery to birth their babies could say the same.

But they can’t.

And  in response to those women who can’t say the same–in response to those women who feel emotionally devastated by their cesarean experience–Chase’s guest also commented that she has never let her c-section experience “get in the way of who she is.”

To which Chase replied that “if [women] feel guilty about what happened, it’s not going to help [them] move forward at all.”

And then she encouraged listeners to get on with their lives and “have a giggle about it.”

And then followed that up by joking that the cesarean-birthers out there should “CELEBRATE THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A TIGHTER VAGINA THAN ME!”

As well-intentioned as the humor in these comments might be, the comments themselves are not helpful to moms seeking sex-after-cesarean advice.

They are not helpful to women who have experienced birth trauma, either as a result of a cesarean or a vaginal birth.

And for a woman who is experiencing sexual dysfunction (let alone other physical problems) as a result of adhesions or post-traumatic stress disorder or postpartum depression or incision-site infection or emotional scars or secondary infertility, the celebration of a “tight vag” is of little comfort.

Which is why I’m going to devote some of my posts over the next few weeks to SEX AFTER C-SECTIONS.

Yes.  Me.  Writing posts about sex.

Because even though I’m far from a sex-columnist (ha!), I also think women deserve better than what Chase was offering her listeners this morning.

They deserve more respect, more sensitivity, more insight, and more knowledge about the many sexual complications that can occur after cesarean sections.

And I even have some ideas for a few upcoming posts:

Sex after C-section is Sex after Major Abdominal Surgery

Who Has Time for Sexual Healing when You Need Emotional Healing?

The Sexual Body (Beyond the Vagina)

Vaginal Dryness: It Doesn’t Just Happen to Vaginal Birthers

Numb on the Inside/Numb on the Outside

New Moms Need “Time to Themselves” (If Ya Know What I Mean)

C-sections and Secondary Infertility: You are Not Alone


And now I ask you, dear readers:

WHAT SORT OF “SEX AFTER C-SECTION” ADVICE TOPICS WOULD YOU ADD TO THIS LIST?

Updated to add: Danielle from Momotics has archived last night’s radio show, “Cesarean Mothers Speak Out,” featuring Desirree Andrews from Preparing for Birth (and the current President of ICAN) and Gina from The Feminist Breeder.   The show was a response to the earlier Mominatrix radio show, and it’s a must listen.



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30 Comments

  1. Danielle
    Danielle01-15-2010

    Sex after a c-section for me was nothing short of painful, and it has become few and far between which really stresses my husband out (understandably) because we went from a 4-7 times a week couple to 1-2 times a month couple, IF that.
    I certainly can say, before my cesarean sex was not painful, not like it is today, and even during pregnancy I had no issue.
    I know my cesarean, and the adhesion’s that came along with it cause this sexual dysfunction. But hey, at least my vagina is tight right?
    Ick!
    .-= Danielle´s last blog ..If You Build It….. They Will Come =-.

  2. FamilyNature
    FamilyNature01-15-2010

    It’s great this people are talking about this.

    I listened to part of Mominatrix’s radio show but I eventually had to stop. It was somewhere after the woman with the world’s greatest c-section said something about buying a new outfit and some make-up being a way to help women feel better about having had a c-section.

    Funny enough, by the title of the show, one might think that the show was about sex after c-section; after all, it was called “Sex After C-Section”. Turns out it was really about insulting people and dismissing their feelings.
    .-= FamilyNature´s last blog ..All Day Kindergarten is All the Talk =-.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas01-15-2010

      @FamilyNature, that is EXACTLY where I became totally and utterly exasperated with the show. It was as if all c-section mamas were looking for was a way to hide the “blemish” of their scar.

      @Danielle I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear about the toll that your c-section is taking on your sex life and your sexual enjoyment. I’ve heard you talk about it on your blog before, and I think that you are brave to speak up about your experience. It just boggles my mind that so many people are under the delusion that the only way that birth can affect sex is by making a woman’s vagina more “flabby” after her babies “shoot out of her vag.” (Don’t get me started on that one…) Adhesions, emotional scars, numbness, incorrectly repaired tears and episiotomies (sadly, I could go on and on): these are important yet often ignored contributors to sexual dysfunction after pregnancy and birth!

  3. JohnCC
    JohnCC01-15-2010

    Chase’s c-section comments not only alienate many women, but also the husbands/partners of those women. Most of us witnessed the bloody trauma and then had to support our wives through this overwhelming challenge. She clearly lacks the ability to see outside her own little world.

    I’m confident your proposed posts will actually offer real help.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas01-15-2010

      @JohnCC – Thanks for the kind words. I was actually thinking last night that a post on the partner’s perspective would be a good one to include on the list–one that addresses not only the myth of the “tighter c-section vagina” (good fucking lord) but also the emotional toll that a c-section can take on a woman’s partner.

  4. Reiza
    Reiza01-15-2010

    I wish more people would focus on the fact that sex after a c-section can be painful. It makes sense that a vaginal birth would create some changes, but, after my primary c-section, sex was painful for months. I didn’t expect that at all. No one ever told me that was even a possibility. Until Gina’s post at TFB, I had no idea other moms had the same experience.

    I really wish there were more posts on sex after a cesarean as far as physical changes.

    And I ABSOLUTELY agree that the emotional toll on both mother and partner should be examined. That was mentioned more than once on the podcast and I think people don’t realize that effect exists and how that can sabotage one’s sex life.
    .-= Reiza´s last blog ..I’m going green. =-.

  5. Tweets that mention Birthing Beautiful Ideas | Sex after C-section: The Advice that Woman Do (and Don’t) Need -- Topsy.com
    Tweets that mention Birthing Beautiful Ideas | Sex after C-section: The Advice that Woman Do (and Don’t) Need -- Topsy.com01-15-2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TheFeministBreeder, soozenw and Desirre Andrews, Kristen O. Kristen O said: Sex after C-section: The Advice that Women Do (and Don't) Need http://ow.ly/WNWY (I'm looking for your input, cesarean moms!) [...]

  6. TheFeministBreeder
    TheFeministBreeder01-15-2010

    I wanted to say that I was also disappointed to see her reduce this (on twitter) to a “well, this book isn’t for everybody.” Really? Because her response on my original post said basically the exact opposite sentiment. She claimed in her response that her statements meant to include mothers of ALL different birth experiences (okay, how?)

    So to go from “well, I said those things to include everyone” to “well, if this book isn’t meant for all mothers” – that’s a pretty large, contradictory leap. I’m guessing she’s already sold so many copies that she’s not too worried about the 1/3 of women in America who’ve had cesareans – or any birth advocate/professional who’d find those statements unhelpful to women. I’m glad her book sales are doing so well she doesn’t feel the need to sell the book to mothers anymore.
    .-= TheFeministBreeder´s last blog ..Cesarean Moms Mobilize in Support of One Another =-.

  7. Traci Perg
    Traci Perg01-16-2010

    I would like to see articles on how to deal with the fear surrounding sex. Fear in the beginning that the pain means something is wrong, and that you’re being injured when you have sex. Fear later on that you might become pregnant and have to go through another surgery. Fear that you might not be able to get pregnant again, and if you are, that you might have a miscarriage. Fear isn’t sexy, and it’s a whole hell of a lot more debilitating to a healthy sexual life than worrying about how your vagina looks.
    .-= Traci Perg´s last blog ..We Did It! =-.

  8. Best of the Birth Blogs – Week Ending January 17, 2010 | ICAN Blog
    Best of the Birth Blogs – Week Ending January 17, 2010 | ICAN Blog01-17-2010

    [...] Beautiful Ideas – Sex After C-Section: The Advice that Women Do (and Don’t) Need: After much controversy in the blogosphere this week, Birthing Beautiful Ideas promises a helpful [...]

  9. c-section recovery
    c-section recovery07-11-2010

    Sex after having a c-section isn’t something to jump into. C-sections require healing both physically, and for some women, emotionally as well. Jumping into any activity too soon can prolong healing.

    The best advice is to follow the guidelines your doctor sets for you and then listen to your body.

  10. Catherine
    Catherine04-01-2012

    Well I have had three by Caesarean section and had no problems, had enjoyable intercourse about 2 weeks after the operation. No dryness and vagina is just like new which can’t be bad. have no wish for a natural birth.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas04-02-2012

      That is wonderful, Catherine! Sadly, not all women who have a cesarean section have the same experience, and many are perplexed as to why they have any problems whatsoever when they didn’t have a vaginal birth. This post is for women with this (fairly common) experience.

  11. Catherine
    Catherine04-06-2012

    Well I still think the majority of women who have an elective Caesarean Section will have very few problems sexually, my first was the up and down cut and the other two were bikini cuts and all healed fine and I never had internal pain and so little bleeding aftert the birth that I had no need for pads just used one or two tampons the first day but the old fashioned way took longer to recover from. I’ve never had the incontinance problems my friends who gave birth naturally seem to be plagued with. Caesarean Section are just a fantastic way to give birth in my opinion.

  12. Samantha
    Samantha07-31-2012

    The discussion on this site is great! I’ve had two c-sections and quickly resumed a high degree of sexual activity after. I take great comfort knowing that my vagina did not get stretched out of shape in the process of getting my two cute kids out. My husband says it feels amazing and is completely unchanged size-wise. I have a few friends who went the natural route (god bless them) one even did it with no drugs, but they all report feeling a bit stretched out after. One friend did start doing pilates and was able to really tighten up her core well after. Hope this helps.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas07-31-2012

      With a vaginal delivery, I think it can also matter how a woman pushed. Was she coached/did she do a lot of purple pushing/were there forceps or vacuum used? Studies show that all of these can lead to some pelvic dysfunction and, presumably, some sexual discomfort.

      I remember feeling a little “looser” after my vaginal births, but like your friends, some core and kegel workouts really helped. I don’t feel any different now! (And I’m very grateful that I was able to push according to my body’s own urges.) After my cesarean, I felt like my insides were going to spill out of my for a couple weeks–but some GENTLE core workouts in the ensuing weeks (and more vigorous ones in later months) really helped.

  13. birth obsessive
    birth obsessive10-07-2012

    I feel really upset that I lost my tight vagina after giving birth. I have had two natural births. I had no complications, no tearing, just simple vaginal births and Iv kept this false hope that my vagina will ping back to normal. I wanted a C-section but the UK didn’t allow elective C-section until a year after my first child was born which is just typical!

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas10-08-2012

      I’m so sorry to hear that. Have you tried looking into a physical therapist who specializes in female pelvic floor dysfunction? There are some in the United States who are absolutely brilliant at what they do!

  14. Concetta
    Concetta11-22-2012

    I am curious to find out what blog system you happen to be using?
    I’m experiencing some minor security problems with my latest blog and I’d like to find something more secure.

    Do you have any suggestions?
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  15. Annette
    Annette11-27-2012

    I have had 2 c sections. After the first one I never recovered sexually to what I had been before the operation. I used to experience a very intense orgasm and achieve it quickly and easily during intercourse. It was a full body experience with intense uterine contractions. After surgery, this never happened again. I can still have an orgasm, however a lot if stimulation is needed and the contractions stop in my vagina. I have zero sensation in my uterus and only a localized experience of pleasure. Full body orgasm no longer occurs. When I brought this up to my doctor I was told that they don’t cut in the area of the sex organs so I should have no issues, see a therapist. I know my problem is not mental, it is physical. Nerves must have been cut or they did not heal properly. I have not had any issues with pain. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas11-27-2012

      Would you mind if I posted your comment to my blog Facebook page (www.facebook.com/birthingbeautifulideas) to see if anyone there has had similar experiences? Another good place for peer-to-peer support is ICAN (www.ican-online.org). My guess is that you will find other women there who might share your experiences.

      I just want to add too that I’m sorry that your care providers are being so dismissive with your concerns.

      • Annette
        Annette11-28-2012

        Sure as long as my indenifying information is not posted and it remains anonymous, you can repost my comment. What is your Facebook user name?

  16. Kathy
    Kathy12-31-2012

    Thank you Annette . I have had the exact experience. I was a very sexual person. I also experienced intense full body orgasm.Since the c section, not much sensation at all. I miss the sexual woman that I was and needless to say, so does my husband. He had an affair recently which added much more to the emotional pain I, we, were already experiencing. I had my c section in Nov. of 2003. It has been an emotional 9 years. I lost a huge part of who I am, was. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t let sex define me. Ha!

    • Annette
      Annette04-19-2013

      Kathy

      Sorry I did not see this post to respond earlier. I totally understand your pain and disappointment. It was a major loss for me and a great disappointment in my life. In my personal experience, I did lose the ability to have an orgasm during intercourse after I had a C-section. To compensate, I experimented and found I still could have a clitoral orgasm. This is not as an intense orgasm as I had experienced before and it is more localized. But, it is still very pleasurable, but different from the one I used to experience during intercourse. I’m guessing that the orgasm during intercourse was from G or A spot stimulation as well. In my experience, I have had 2 types of orgasms, clitoral and during intercourse. So following the C-section, intercourse alone would not give enough stimulation for that type of orgasm. But, I can have a an intense clitoral orgasm from oral sex and manual stimulation of the clitoris. Kathy, I would recommend you to try to achieve this type of orgasm by experimenting with oral and manual stimulation during intercourse. In addition, using a vibrator on the clitoris alone can bring you to this type of orgasm fairly quickly. I can recommend a website: lelo.com, they deal in high quality massagers for this purpose. They are a bit pricey but well worth it. I hope this helps you. Don’t focus on what was lost, but what you can achieve starting today.

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  20. Amanda
    Amanda03-25-2014

    I’m curious if anyone has had a relatively normal sexual experience after a c-section but has experienced a tight pain in their uterus right at the point of orgasm? This same spot gets pretty tender during AF so I’m pretty sure it’s just the contraction…and maybe my incision responding to it. I’m 3 months PP.

    • Mary
      Mary07-28-2014

      Hi Amanda,
      So sorry to hear you went through this. I hope you are feeling better now. If not, I hope my response might help.

      I had the same experience after my C-Section. Sex felt pretty normal, everything leading up to the big “O” working, and then just at the point of orgasm I would get a sharp pain with the first contraction. The first time it happened (8 weeks post-op), the pain was so unexpected and intense I actually felt sick to my stomach.
      Went to my OB-GYN to discuss the problem. His looked confused, befuddled and told me he’d never heard of this problem before!! He also suggested that perhaps it was stress. (I hate when docs jump to that conclusion!!)

      I talked to a few close relatives and friends who had C-section deliveries. It seems that a good number of them had the same thing happen. Most of their doctors attributed the pain to the incision & stitches in their uterus.

      I found that, over time, this pain did seem to lessen some as I continued to get back into a more regular sex routine. The pain, at the time of orgasm, never completely went away though.

      After several years & repeated conversations with my OB, he finally agreed to do exploratory surgery to check things out. He found adhesions connecting my uterus to my bladder and to my left hip joint. Most likely my orgasm pain was happening because my uterus was virtually “tied down” by bands of adhesions during the orgasm contractions. Frequent sex probably helped by stretching the adhesions out. After the surgery, the pain was gone!

      Please know you are NOT alone. These are just two reasons you might be experiencing your pain. I’m sure there are other explanations too. Stay in good contact with your OB-GYN. If he/she doesn’t take you seriously, look for a new doctor who will.

      • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
        BirthingBeautifulIdeas07-28-2014

        Thank you so, so much for weighing in on this, Mary! I’m so sorry that you’ve had this experience, but I’m also grateful that you can share your story with others and let them know that they are not alone.

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