When you are busy with a newborn baby, sex can drop quite low on your ‘to do’ list. If it isn’t even comfortable when you do find the moment, it is all too easy to lose the intimacy in your adult relationship. There are some simple but effective things you can do yourself, straight away, to improve your comfort and enjoyment.
Pelvic floor exercises improve sexual health too
First, commit to a couple of weeks of daily pelvic floor exercises to bring about proper change in these muscles. The pelvic floor muscles play an important role in giving you a sense of closure around your partner as well as support and friction to create your own pleasurable sensations. Taking time out to deliberately exercise the pelvic floor muscles will bring blood flow to the area, tone and tighten the muscles and improve your ability to feel the walls of the vagina during sex. Many women report they are able to reach orgasm more easily, and that their orgasms are more powerful, after focusing on pelvic floor muscle exercises
There is an excellent booklet “Pelvic Floor Exercises (for women)” published by the POGP, my professional physiotherapy network, giving clear guidance. Download a free pdf booklet here.
Pelvic Floor Muscle training TIPS for busy mums
Multi-task your morning rituals. A great time to remember to do pelvic floor exercises is when you clean your teeth. Even busy new mothers, who might not have brushed their hair or had a shower, remember to clean their teeth!
Stand still and focus on the pelvic floor muscles. These are the soft muscular tissues around the opening of the bladder, bowel and vagina. A pelvic floor squeeze is when you pull up around the back passage (like stopping wind) as well as the vaginal/bladder opening (like stopping a wee). First concentrate on 10 really good strong squeezes of the pelvic floor muscles in a row, focusing on making every squeeze a good one. Remember to RELAX the pelvic floor properly between each contraction. It is possible to overwork the muscles causing tension and tightness in the pelvic floor. Some people experience pain and discomfort during sex because they find it difficult to relax their muscles. Make sure you notice what both a contraction and a relaxation feel like.
Then try to sustain a medium hold of your pelvic floor muscles while you are cleaning your teeth Perfect mum-multitasking! You will find you can only hold the pelvic floor contraction for a few seconds to start but with practice you might manage to clean the whole top row of teeth before you fatigue!
Follow a video. Do you keep meaning to do your pelvic floor exercises but get distracted? Are you better with supervision? – join me for an exercise session straight from your computer. I will keep reminding you to focus on your pelvic floor throughout! You can follow the “Pilates for your pelvic floor” sequence through online exercise host pactster.com Use the code PhysioPostnatal to access all their videos free for a month (try HIIT workouts from the team at & Breathe Postnatal too) .
Tap into tech. If you are a gadget kind of girl, you might enjoy working with a reminder app on your phone, or a pelvic floor exerciser or tracker device. The Squeezy app is a simple reminder device with lovely visuals to help you focus when you practice. Biofeedback, stimulation and tracker devices typically include a probe that goes in the vagina then attach to a handheld device which monitors your squeezes before your eyes. Great for stopping you getting distracted from the task in hand, keeping track of your exercise sessions and boosting your confidence as you see yourself improving at the tasks you can read more about gadgets for pelvic floor here.
Pelvic floor exercises not working for you?
If you feel that you are not making progress with your pelvic floor exercises by yourself, do ask your GP to refer you for a full assessment, examination and guidance with a specialist pelvic floor physiotherapist. She will help you establish whether pelvic floor weakness or tightness is your main concern, as well as explore other factors like pelvic alignment and joint issues which could be making achieving the positions needed for sex difficult. Read more about how to find a specialist physiotherapist on our resources page.
Personal Lubricant can be essential too
Do also consider adding a personal lubricant to your bedside table drawer. The inventors deserve Nobel Prizes! The hormone changes of pregnancy and breastfeeding can leave your body surprisingly dry at the vaginal opening and deeper inside. When you are trying to grab a quick sexy moment, with maybe less time than usual to get in the mood, your body may not produce enough natural lubrication. This can make penetration painful or the movement of your partner inside you can feel like a friction burn. Using a personal lubricant during your foreplay (it works best if you put it on both of you) can make a magical transformation to your comfort and enjoyment.
Personal lubricants sometimes require a sense of humour in their application but there are now many nicer options than the medical stuff you come across at a smear test. Look for a product with natural and organic ingredients, like Sylk or Yes. It is important to ensure that they are pH balanced to the normal vaginal pH of between 3.8pH and 4.5pH. Lubricants with a higher pH are too alkaline and can lead to UTIs, Thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis. Lubricants can be water-based or oil-based (read more here) . You might try a sample of each to see which you and your partner enjoy the feel of best, though do be aware that only water-based lubricants can be used with condoms. Online shopping means you don’t need to be embarrassed to ask for them in a chemist, try Boots online or trusted online pharmacy White Pharmacy.
If you are still experiencing discomfort after boosting your pelvic floor muscles and trying a personal lubricant don’t hesitate to talk to your GP. They will be sympathetic and impressed that you have already tried these first steps. Your GP can organise referral to a specialist physiotherapist to give you personal 1:1 assessment and guidance, and they will be able to move on to other investigations of the possible causes of your pain. You can and will enjoy comfortable sex again – but you must be brave to let them know that you are suffering.