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Sex After Birth: How Does it Affect Orgasms?

| 04/07/2022

sex after birth Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

When someone decides to have a child, their doctor may inform them of different changes their body might undergo, such as weight gain or possibly urinary incontinence after childbirth. But doctors don’t always cover the incredible, sometimes challenging, sometimes fun changes that can happen with sex after birth. In particular, childbirth can have some surprising and fascinating effects on your orgasms.

The good news? “Most women who have been able to orgasm successfully before birth can still achieve orgasm after birth,” says pelvic floor physical therapist Debra Goodman, MSPT. However, it is possible for childbirth to alter your orgasms in many different ways — and although most of what we hear about postpartum sex surrounds the challenges, many people actually see improvement in their sex lives after giving birth.

Increased variety in the kinds of pleasure one can experience may also stem from a newfound need to experiment.

“The changes that a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth actually set them up for a better sex life in the future,” says OB/GYN Caroline Colin, MD. “As the baby grows inside of the uterus, the position and location of the most sensitive orgasm triggers move, and finding these can become fun and exciting.” After birth, many report more or better orgasms, and while some may experience issues like painful orgasms or sex, they can often regain their sexual abilities with the help of healthcare providers such as pelvic floor physical therapists.

If you’re unhappy with any changes happening in your sex life after childbirth, you should see a pelvic floor physical therapist as soon as you can, says sex therapist Rosara Torrisi, PhD, founding director of The Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy and owner of That Drawer erotic boutique. “Most OBGYNs have zero training in pelvic floor health, and so just asking your doc might not be the right avenue.”

Here are a few possible changes in your orgasms that might occur after childbirth — and the steps you can take to recover if you are bothered by them. 

You might orgasm in new ways

“I squirt! Like so much,” says Meredith, a 38-year-old customer success specialist in Virginia. “‘Put down a towel and hope the sheets dry fast’ kind of squirting. This never happened until I was pregnant, and then it stuck around.”

Believe it or not, experiencing new kinds of pleasure after childbirth is common. “After childbirth, things tend to move around, regardless of whether vaginal or C-section delivery, and that movement can bring more of the sensitive areas of the body in to a better alignment for the types of sex someone might have,” says Torrisi. This may lead someone to orgasm through penetration when they haven’t previously. Or, different positions than before might work best for them. Regaining the sex life you had before — or better — may require getting to know your body again and discovering the new location of your pleasure centers, says Colin.

Increased variety in the kinds of pleasure one can experience may also stem from a newfound need to experiment. Kordula, a 36-year-old founder in Germany, incurred a clitoral injury during chidlbirth that has now healed but, at the time, forced her to learn how to orgasm through penetration. Now, she can orgasm in both ways. “The variance of stimulation [that leads to orgasm] is much greater,” she says.

Psychological or relationship changes may affect your sex life

Parenthood can bring many different psychological and relationship changes that can affect people’s sex lives in a variety of ways. “Sometimes, after childbirth, people feel more connected with their partners,” says Torrisi. “Sometimes, they also recognize the intensity of the power that they hold in their bodies and jive off of that for a good long while. Sometimes, just the time away from a stressful job is relaxation enough, not that parenting a newborn is a breeze.”

There are also negative effects that childbirth can have on your sexual mindset or relationship if the birth was traumatic, you’re experience postpartum depression or other mental health issues, you’re too worn out for sex, or parenthood is causing conflict with your partner. 

“Because I was breastfeeding, I felt like my body was more for nourishment than for my own sexual desires,” remembers Kathy, a 44-year-old teacher in Los Angeles. “I found myself so distracted, especially in the first months, that I couldn’t get there most of the time.” If someone is experiencing issues like these, addressing it may benefit from the help of a psychotherapist or sex therapist.

Breastfeeding may induce sexual pleasure and even orgasm

Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract — which in turn can cause an orgasm. In addition, if nipple stimulation is pleasurable for you, this may lead you to derive pleasure from breastfeeding, and the oxytocin itself adds pleasure, says Torrisi. This is common and normal and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong for you or your child.

You may leak breast milk during orgasm

Since oxytocin is a signal triggering milk letdown, the oxytocin released during orgasm may lead to the leaking of breast milk, says Torrisi — which some people enjoy because it adds a visual component to their orgasms, almost like squirting. “Realizing this is a normal phenomenon can make it more pleasurable,” says Colin. “If you have an intense orgasm and leak a bit from the nipples and have an intense contraction of your uterus, I encourage you to enjoy it — that was a great orgasm!” 

If you want to make sure this milk gets put to good use, you can wear a device called the Haakaa, which attaches to your breasts via suction and catches leaking milk.

Leakage of other bodily fluids is also possible

“As folks orgasm, they may notice the extra tension and release during orgasm causes urinary or fecal leakage,” says Torrisi. “Some people vomit during sex as their abdomen tenses.” It’s important to have a sense of humor in these situations and see a pelvic floor physical therapist to correct any muscular issues that have led to this, she says. 

Your orgasms could become less intense

“I really struggle to orgasm now during penetrative sex,” says Emma McCullough, a 36-year-old sports physiotherapist in Worcester, England. “If I do now, I don’t think they were as intense as they were pre-childbirth either.”

The demands of pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic muscles, and since orgasms result from a buildup and release of tension, less strength in the muscles can mean weaker or more difficult orgasms, says Torrisi. This strength can be regained, however, by doing exercises prescribed by a physical therapist, so it’s important to see a provider as soon as possible. “Even if there was pelvic floor damage, visiting with a great pelvic pain specialist and pelvic physical therapist can really truly help,” says Torrisi. “The sooner you reach out for help, the better.” 

Orgasms (and sex) may become painful

The cervix softens during pregnancy, which can create pain when it contracts during orgasm, says Torrisi. In addition, if someone has had vaginal tearing or an episiotomy (cutting of the tissue between the vaginal opening and the anus, called the perineum), sex can become painful for them. “I actually found sex so painful that I needed to get physical therapy for it,” says Kathy.

Sex can become painful “for a variety of reasons including scar tissue, pelvic floor spasm, dryness from lacatation, fear of leakage, decreased libido often from nursing, and increased anxiety,” says Goodman. Once you treat the underlying issues, however, you can return to enjoying a sex life free from pain. 

It’s difficult to predict how childbirth will affect your sex life, but you can prepare in advance to maximize your chances of a better outcome. To prevent your pelvic floor muscles from weakening, you can do kegel exercises during pregnancy. It’s also important to find healthcare providers you trust and create a birth plan you feel comfortable with so that you feel empowered and respected throughout the process. 

 

 

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