Postpartum Vaginal Dryness- One Reason for Painful Sex
Postpartum Vaginal Dryness – One Reason for Painful Sex
Vaginal dryness can affect up to nearly 45% of postpartum women and more than half experience painful sex for several months after delivery. Vaginal dryness is caused by the drop in estrogen levels after giving birth. Estrogen, one of the key hormones in pregnancy, helps to support the growth and lining of the uterus, stimulates breast growth, and increases flow blood throughout the body. It steadily increases throughout pregnancy and peaks right before delivery.
Your estrogen levels drop after delivery, causing decreased blood flow to the vagina, decreased lubrication, and thinning of the vaginal muscosa, which can lead to vaginal dryness, itchiness, irritation, and burning. Other hormones will continue to suppress estrogen levels during breastfeeding and pumping and depending on how long you breastfeed, can have this effect your body up to a year postpartum.
There are many reasons for dyspareunia, or pain with penetration, but the lack of lubrication and vulvar atrophy are certainly very common causes of painful sex postpartum. Luckily for breastfeeding moms, there are many options for vaginal lubricants and moisturizers that you get online or at your local drugstore.
What can help?
For nonprescription options, you can use a vaginal lubricant and/ or moisturizer. For mild dryness, you can use a moisturizer such as Replens and Luvena. You would start out by applying the moisturizer daily in the vagina and vulva for a few weeks, then use it a few times a week if the dryness starts to improve. If intercourse is still painful, you can also use a paraben-free silicone or water based lubricant such as Uberlube, Astroglide, and BioNude prior to sexual activity. For more moderate to severe dryness, a topical estrogen cream can be prescribed, such as Estrace or Premarin, from your physician. Your doctor will give you more information about its safety and use while breastfeeding.
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