We talk a lot about the wonders of childbirth and becoming a mum. Indeed, childbirth is a life changing experience. But what we need to talk about more is how childbirth also brings about many physical changes for women. Changes that affect their day to day life as well as intimacy. Many women struggle with some of these changes but are too shy or embarrassed to discuss them. Mums, if that sounds like you, fret not for you are not alone. We’re here to reassure you that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about!
To discuss more on women’s health and intimacy after childbirth, we conducted a webinar, “Women’s Talk – Secrets to Health and Intimacy after Birth” with mumpreneur and certified Yoga instructor Dawn Sim, our Mum VIP panelist and content creator Doreen, and Dr. Christopher Chong, Urogynaecologist, and Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore.
The webinar touched on common health issues during the postpartum weeks such as bleeding, defaecation, piles, post-natal blues, sex after birth, and some ways mums can alleviate the discomfort caused by certain conditions. Here are some of the key takeaways:
Common Post Natal Health Issues and Solutions
Dr. Chong started off by explaining that a woman’s health after delivery is very much linked to her health before and during pregnancy and the mode of delivery. Mums, this is a reminder to take good care of yourselves and to be in the best health while trying to get pregnant! This will help to make the postpartum healing more smooth sailing!
Dr. Chong shared that the 6 to 8 weeks postpartum period is known as ‘puerperium’ and is the time taken for most organ systems to return to their normal size and function. This is the most important time of adjustment so mums, do take it easy during this period. Focus on yourself and your recovery just as much as you are focusing on your baby!
Depending on whether you had a normal or assisted delivery or C-section, these are some aspects of health after birth to look out for:
- Bleeding / Lochia (postnatal vaginal discharge containing blood, mucus & uterine tissue)
- Piles (haemorrhoids)
- Post-natal blues
Dr. Chong recommends taking vitamins and supplements such as iron, folate, calcium and DHA. Remember, supplements don’t end with your pregnancy. They are still important at this point. In addition, massages, stretching, some light exercise, and application of anti-scar cream can help. You also want to seek the assistance of your husband and family.
A sitz bath or a shallow bath to cleanse the perineum to relieve pain and itching, is a great way to help with anal fissures. You can do this by soaking the rectal area in a tub of warm water two or three times a day. Probiotic sprays can be useful too.
Common Myths about Health after Birth
Dr. Chong went on to address some common myths surrounding health after birth. These include bathing, hair washing, consumption of herbs, consumption of alcohol and smoking, confinement food as well as wound care using traditional methods such as black sauce.
While breastfeeding is strongly recommended, it can come with its challenges, especially during this period. Dr. Chong spoke about various aspects of breastfeeding including stimulation and suckling. While breastfeeding, it’s common to experience after pains as your uterus is actually contracting. It may be uncomfortable but it is helping your uterus to return to its usual size so mums, there’s your benefit!
There are also plenty of ways to help mums in this breastfeeding journey. Supplements containing herbs like Fenugreek can help to boost milk supply. Massaging and medication may be necessary as well. If you have blocked ducts or abscess, you can be rest assured that it’s safe to continue breastfeeding. If your doctor advises you to stop breastfeeding on the affected breast until it heals, you can continue feeding from the healthy breast. Most importantly, if you experience pain or discomfort, seek timely help from a doctor or lactation consultant and don’t suffer in silence!
Postnatal Urogynaecological Health
Dr. Chong shared a study on the impact of pregnancy and delivery on the risk of Postpartum Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). If you are experiencing this, please remember there is no embarrassment in it. In fact, it is 240% more likely to occur in women who deliver vaginally than those who did not¹.
92% of women who were incontinent during pregnancy and or puerperium are still experiencing the same thing 3 months after delivery and had either continuation or resumption of stress incontinence at 5 years.
You can’t prevent it entirely but you can improve the situation by doing pelvic floor exercises.
Sexual Health after Birth
The webinar went on with a poll and the answers varied. Some couples resumed sexual intimacy within a month after birth while it took more than 6 months for others. Some factors affecting postnatal sex include feeling tired, not having the right environment for it, the wound itself, hormonal changes such as atrophy and dryness, the lack of foreplay and the use of contraception.
Dr. Chong mentioned that dryness is often caused by the lack of foreplay and it can easily be resolved by using lubricant. He advises waiting for at least a month after delivery to start intercourse but in the meanwhile, intimacy can continue albeit without penetration.
Sometimes, due to childbirth, vaginal muscles become relaxed with poor tone, strength, control and support. When there is a sensation of looseness and a lack of support, it may be difficult to achieve an orgasm as sexual gratification is directly related to the amount of frictional forces generated during intercourse. Pelvic floor exercises can help in this.
Dr. Chong concluded his presentation with a question and answer session.
In conclusion, Dr. Chong’s message to all women is that health and sex changes after birth but there are solutions to ensure that it does not affect your quality of life. If it does, please get yourself checked, there’s a solution for everything. We hope that you found the answers to your pressing questions about common health and sex conditions after birth. Remember, never suffer in silence. When in doubt, consult a specialist and get the treatment you need!