When you are having sex after birth, you might notice that your vagina is dry. Vaginal dryness can happen for a number of reasons. For postpartum women, it is related to hormones. While many postpartum women experience vaginal dryness, it is even more common for women who are breastfeeding. Finding a lube for postpartum sex can improve postpartum sex and intimacy for you and your partner. Finding the best lube can also help with postpartum sex pain.
When looking for a lube, there are important factors to consider:
Are you using condoms?
Using lube with a toy?
Are you trying to conceive?
Is your lube helping or damaging your microbiome?
In this post, we will look at the 3 types of lube, discuss the pros and cons of each, discuss when you would use each lubrication type, and learn about what to avoid in your lubrication for postpartum sex (and really, any time you are using it!)
Your Natural Vaginal Lubrication When You Have Sex After Birth
Your cervix and the Bartholin glands secrete fluid. Arousal will prompt secretion. Sometimes, however, this is not enough for comfort. Things that can impact your secretion include hormones, medication, menopause, thinning vaginal tissues, and some medical conditions like diabetes. Many women need extra lubrication during postpartum as the vagina heals and the hormones level back out. As a reminder, it can take up to a year for hormones to level… and longer if you are breastfeeding.
Related: Postpartum Sex Drive
Tips for Increasing Your Natural Vaginal Lubrication
To increase your comfort and pleasure during sex, increase your natural vaginal lubrication. This really comes down to prompting your body to have an aroused response. You can do this by increasing foreplay during a sexual experience. Also, increase the frequency of encounters such as intercourse, masturbation, and other play. This can also help alleviate sex after birth pain (although you should always also see a pelvic floor therapist!)
Related: Touched TF Out
The Main Types of Lubricant to use for Sex After Birth
When looking for lubricants there are three main types to choose from:
Water-based lubricant is common and can be found at grocery and drug stores. This lubricant works with latex condoms and is okay with toys, making it a versatile choice.
However, glycerine added to many water-based lubricants can be a problem. This can alter your vagina’s PH levels which can cause yeast infections. This also slows down sperm motility, so it is not recommended if you are TTC.
-Doesn’t leave stains
-Can use with latex condoms & toys
-Can slow sperm motility
-Frequent reapplication because it dries quickly
Recommended water-based lubricant: Almost Naked from Good Clean Love
This type of lube lasts longer and pairs well with latex. It is thicker and more likely to stain than water-based. Silicone lubricant is recommended for anal sex, shower sex, and other instances where the thicker consistency and longer duration are helpful. Silicone lubricant can not be used with silicone toys however as it will break them down.
-Thicker and stays on longer
-Can use with latex condoms
-Not compatible with silicone toys
Recommended silicone-based lubricant: Sliquid Organic Silk
Oil-based lubricants are on the market. Also, many people use kitchen oils for lubricant. Common examples are olive oil, vitamin E oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. Oil-based lubricant will break down condoms so it is not recommended if you are using condoms as birth control or to prevent STIs.
-Not compatible with latex condoms
Recommended oil-based lubricant: Cocolube Spray and Play
Can You Use Coconut Oil as Lube?
Many people like to use a homemade lube option of coconut oil. A benefit is you do not have to worry or wonder about any chemicals added to typical lubricants. Coconut oil as lube is popular because it is known for being a natural moisturizer. A couple of things to be aware of:
-Coconut oil may weaken a latex condom.
-Coconut oil is high pH so it can lead to vaginal infections (avoid if you are prone to yeast infections).
-It easily stains sheets.
-Some people may be allergic.
PH Levels and Osmolality in Vaginal Lubrications Used for Postpartum Sex
PH levels and Osmolality (ahz-muh-lal-a-tee)
This is getting a bit more scientific and I’m not an expert in the science of the vagina but have had the privilege of learning from experts. PH levels impact your microbiome and likelihood of infection. Disrupting the vaginal PH level can also increase vaginal dryness. Choose lubrication with PH levels around 4 for the best experience. This is because the average PH level of the vagina is between 3.5-4.5. Many water-based lubricants, especially those popular in drugstores and grocery stores, have elevated levels. Another way to check your lubrication is to look for glycerine levels below 20%.
Examples of lubricants with elevated PH levels
Osmolality is defined as “the concentration of a solution expressed as the total number of solute particles per kilogram.” When it comes to lubricant, high osmolality can actually work against your body, promoting vaginal dryness. This is because high levels can damage vaginal tissue and break down mucous membrane.
Learn about osmolality from the WHO website:
Most commercial personal lubricants have high osmolalities (2000–6000 mOsm/kg). Table 1 summarizes data on a wide range of current commercial products (16). By comparison, the normal osmolality of female vaginal secretions is 260–290 mOsm/kg and in human semen it is 250–380 mOsm/kg (17, 18). Ideally, the osmolality of a personal lubricant should not exceed 380 mOsm/Kg to minimize any risk of epithelial damage. Given that most commercial lubricants significantly exceed this value, imposing such a limit at this time could severely limit the options for sourcing personal lubricants for sector procurement. It is therefore recommended on an interim basis that procurement agencies should source lubricants with osmolalities not greater than 1200.World Health Organization
Personal Lubricants for Sex After Baby Summary
When you are returning to sex after baby, you want to prioritize your comfort and satisfaction. Sex after giving birth includes factors such as healing, pain, libido, and vaginal dryness. To help you enjoy your sexual experience again, have the right kind of lube. You want to choose a type that works for your goals. Also, find a lube with appropriate PH levels and osmolality to ensure it is working for and not against your body.
Water-based lubricant is best for those not trying to conceive, using condoms, and/or using toys. It is easy to clean, however, it can absorb quickly and may need to be replenished throughout sex.
Silicone-based lubricant lasts longer and is usually thicker. It is okay with latex, but cannot be used with silicone toys.
Oil-based lubricants are great for a smooth feel. It can be used with silicone toys, however, it is not recommended for use with condoms.
Back in the Sack eCourse
If you are a new(ish) mom who is looking to get back into sex after baby, check out the Back in the Sack eCourse. This is a self-paced eCourse including a number of experts from sex therapy, pelvic floor therapy, fertility doula, medical historian, and more. The course also includes our relationship bundle that allows you to improve understanding and communication with your partner.