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The vagina is a truly magnificent part of the body. Not only can it bring life into this world and then bounce back to its original shape, but it also is a self-cleaning organ. The vagina is lined with a thin layer of moisture that keeps the vaginal pH steady, preventing irritation/infection, and allowing sperm to become fertilized during procreative sex. This moisture is caused by estrogen, one of the female sex hormones. When estrogen levels decrease, the moisture in the vagina decreases as well, causing vaginal dryness.

What is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness isn’t necessarily an unsafe condition, but it can be uncomfortable. Vaginal dryness can cause burning or itching, discomfort, as well as pain during or after intercourse. It can also cause bleeding after intercourse. Although vaginal dryness is a normal, natural part of life, pain during or after sex does not need to be. There are many ways to treat vaginal dryness and ensure you have a fun, pleasurable sex life. Vaginal dryness can also cause urinary tract infections.

How do hormones affect our vagina?

Estrogen levels lower naturally as we age, especially during menopause. One in three women experiences vaginal dryness as part of their menopause symptoms. Dropping estrogen levels can also be caused by childbirth, breastfeeding, excessive stress, rigorous exercise, some medication, as well as some cancer treatments. If you have a vagina, you will experience vaginal dryness at some point. It’s pretty common. If you do experience vaginal dryness and it is causing you UTIs, discomfort, or pain during sex, even a loss of interest in sex, talk to your doctor and find a treatment.

What type of lubricant should I use?

Over-the-counter lubricant can be an easy way to treat vaginal dryness during penis-in-vagina sex, or when inserting toys or fingers into the vagina. Water-based lubricant works best, as it is safe to use with condoms and all types of sex toys. Be sure to get a fragrance-free lubricant so you don’t cause any irritation to the vagina. Lube can be found at any grocery store or drug store, is fairly inexpensive, and can be used in the moment to treat vaginal dryness and make intercourse more pleasurable.

Other treatments for vaginal dryness

If you are wanting a long-term treatment for vaginal dryness, or are having issues outside of discomfort during sex, you can take estrogen to increase the moisture your vagina is naturally producing. You can take an estrogen pill that will also help treat any other menopausal symptoms, insert a cream into the vagina, or use an estrogen ring, also inserted into the vagina. Your doctor inserts the ring into the vagina, and it releases estrogen into the body. Similar to the ring birth control, it needs to be replaced every three weeks. The cream is also inserted once or twice a week, then can be decreased over time and used as needed. 

Although vaginal dryness is a normal, natural part of aging or experiencing life, being in pain is not. Use lubricant or talk to your doctor to find a treatment that makes you and your body feel good.

Our bodies are truly amazing! They help us breathe, walk, protect us, and literally bring new life into this world! They also help us experience pleasure, which is an added bonus! A lot of people don’t often think about the transition from giving birth back into having intercourse or penetrative sex, and let me tell you, it’s important to be informed! I recently was listening to a podcast where the author of the book Like a Mother, Angela Garbes, was talking about her first time having sex after giving birth.

In a hilarious and alarming turn of events, she squirted breast milk out of her nipples as she orgasmed! Apparently, the same hormones are released during breastfeeding and orgasm, and her body got confused. Is this normal? Will this happen to me? What even is “normal”?!

First thing’s first: when it comes to sex and sexuality, there is no “normal.” Every person’s body and level of desire are different. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

How long to wait to have sex after giving birth

Although there’s no set time you must wait to have penetrative sex after giving birth, it’s recommended to wait between four to six weeks, regardless of delivery method. If you had a vaginal delivery, your body needs to recover! Your vaginal tissue is thinner than before, your vagina is tired, and you may even need to recover from some tearing. If you had a C-section, that is major surgery! You were cut open, your organs were moved aside, and a human was lifted out of you! Your body also needs time to heal and recover. Although this is the recommended time to wait, pay attention to your body. If you need more time to heal, take more time. Make sure to communicate with your partner about how you and your body are feeling so they can be kept in the loop as well.

What is my body doing after birth?

Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and childbirth, so it’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling. After giving birth, estrogen levels drop severely. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for natural lubrication in your vagina, so once these levels drop, your vagina will be dryer than usual until the hormones balance back out. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, that can also increase vaginal dryness. When you are ready to have intercourse again, use lube baby!!! Also, take it slow and enjoy some foreplay with your partner to allow your body to relax and get its natural lubrication going as well. Technically your chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding are extremely low, but this isn’t a foolproof method of birth control. Use another method like condoms or an IUD. You can even use the progestin-only pill, but avoid any birth control with estrogen in it. This can lead to blood clots if used immediately after pregnancy.

Additionally, after giving birth, your vaginal tissue is thinner. This is also due to your hormone levels drastically dropping. This can lead to pain during sex. The tissue won’t stay this way forever, but just know that sex initially might feel different or more uncomfortable because of this. You might experience dryness as I mentioned above, you might have more pain or even bleeding, fatigue, or low libido. Your pelvic floor muscles also need to be strengthened after you give birth, and tired pelvic floor muscles can cause less intense orgasms. Those are easily strengthened with Kegel exercises though.  

Just be patient!

The biggest thing to remember when getting back in the sex-game post-baby is to be patient with yourself! Your body has just undergone a HUGE change and experienced something a little traumatic- either major surgery or pushing a human out of your vagina. The dynamic between you and your partner has also likely shifted a bit because you are now parents. You are tired. You have a baby to think about and care for 24/7. You also might feel like everyone needs your body and you have no energy to share your body with your partner at the end of the day. That’s okay. Communicate how you’re feeling! Talking about these feelings will also help build intimacy between you and your partner, which will lead to great sex when you’re ready.

You can also do other fun sexy things besides penetrative sex if you are not ready for that just yet. Passionate kissing, kissing anywhere buy the mouth, oral sex, finger and hand stuff, sensual massages, use toys on each other, take a bubble bath together, mutual masturbation. The list goes on and on!

Be patient, communicate your needs, and pay attention to how your body is feeling. You got this, mama.

Raise your hand if you regularly use lube during sexy time activities! Raise your hand if you only sometimes use lube during penis in vagina sex. Raise your hand if you’re used lube during masturbation. My dream is for everyone to raise their hand for using lube all the time! Lube is your friend and will make all sorts of sexual activity more pleasurable and fun. 

You Should Be Using Lube

Lubricant or lube can be water based, oil based, or silicone based, and can be put on your genitals, fingers, or sex toys during sexual activity to increase wetness and make penetration more comfortable and enjoyable. Sex should never hurt. Lube can help it feel even better! There are different types of lube with pros and cons for different types of activity.

Water based lube is what is most commonly sold at the store, and probably the kind of lube you’ve used if you’re ever used some. Water based lube is safe to use with latex and non latex condoms, and is most commonly sold in the condom aisle. It’s also safe to use on all materials of sex toys, and safe for masturbation. Water based lube is gentle on sensitive skin, fairly mess free, and won’t leave sticky or stain-filled residue behind. Since it isn’t sticky, you could use it for a sexy massage as well. One downside to water based lube is that they don’t last super long during sexy activities, so you might have to reapply a few times if you’re enjoying a particularly long session.

Oil based lube can be purchased from the store, or you can probably find an oil based lube in your kitchen. Coconut oil is a great oil based lube that you might already have at home. Oil based lubes are great for hand play activities, masturbation, or even a sexy massage. Oil based lubes will break down latex condoms, so do NOT used oil based lube with condoms. Even if the condom doesn’t full on break, it could have been compromised. Keep the oil for making all of your touching activities a little sexier, or for using on a monogamous, STD free partner.

Silicone based lubes are extra slick and long lasting. If you’ve ever been to the gynecologist for a pelvic exam, the lube they use there is silicone based. Silicone based lube is safe to use with latex and non latex condoms. Yay! I once heard silicone lube described as the “silk sheets” of lube. Amazing! Silicone lube is also great for shower sex because it stays in place a little easier and doesn’t wash away like water based lube would. A downside, however, is that silicone based lube cannot be used on silicone sex toys. Silicone lube on a silicone toy will break down the toy and ruin it. 

Experimenting Using Lube

Even if you are someone who can easily naturally lubricate during sex, you should still have lube handy at all times. Maybe you apply a little lube halfway through to get things extra slippery and fun! Even if you are naturally lubricated, experiment using some lube as well to see if that creates any ease or new sensations. Use lube with your sex toys! Use lube to give your partner a massage! Using lube doesn’t mean your vagina isn’t good enough or you’re not turned on. Think of it like another toy or element to make your sex life even better. Everyone should be using lube!