Before I had children, my sex life was wonderful. I’ve been married for nine years, and at the start, my husband and I both had high sex drives and our intimate life was thriving. After the birth of my first daughter, who was on the bigger side (over eight pounds) and delivered vaginally, I noticed that sex was a little different, which I assumed was normal. I didn’t have as much sensitivity any more, but sex was still enjoyable.
Flash forward to two kids later, and I literally couldn't feel anything when my husband and I would have sex. My next daughter and son were also big (my son was nearly 10 pounds) and I delivered them vaginally, too. I’m on the petite side, and had to have an episiotomy with each pregnancy. (That means the docs make an incision on the posterior wall of your vagina to quickly make room for the baby to pass through, which they later stich up. Sometimes that tear happens on its own, too.)
I knew something wasn’t right. While my husband wasn’t bothered when it came to our sex life, he could tell something was off with me. Because the sensation of sex was totally missing, I wasn’t able to feel pleasure at all. My sex drive was still there—I was able to get turned on mentally—but once we started to have sex, it didn’t feel anything like it had before. It was incredibly frustrating. We’d start and I’d be thinking, "Wow, really?! This is horrible!" Our intimate life was suffering because of it.
I wanted to do something about this issue, and one of the options I’d heard about was vaginal reconstruction. Right after the birth of my second child, my ob-gyn, Mark Scheinberg, M.D., who I’d been seeing for 20 years, told me he was going to move into the field of gynecologic reconstruction surgeries. At the time, I wasn’t having quite as much trouble in my sex life, but it had put the idea of reconstructive surgery in my mind.
After my third kid, I knew this was something I wanted, and started doing some research. I was hesitant when I couldn’t find any women to talk to about what the surgery was actually like and whether they got the results they wanted. I feel like women just don’t talk about these things, and that made it hard for me to understand if this surgery would be the best option for my issue. I was nervous about having a procedure like that in such a sensitive, important area, and I was afraid it might not even work or could make sex or my libido worse.
Eventually, I got to a point where I had to take a chance, or accept that sex would never be enjoyable for me again. I talked over the procedure with Dr. Scheinberg, and felt confident with him as my doctor. He explained that the reason I had lost feeling was because my vagina was wider and had less friction than it had before I had children, which is very common, because delivering a baby can stretch the vaginal tissue. For many women, the vaginal tissue tightens back up over time, but it may never go back to the preferable size. This kind of stretching can also happen to vaginas because of a large partner and just with age, too. Luckily, it can be fixed!
Most post-child-birth repair surgeries are anterior-posterior repairs, which involves making one incision, pulling everything together tighter, and closing the incision. But according to Dr. Scheinberg, every woman experiences post-labor tears differently, and in my case, he assessed I needed a procedure called site-specific repair. This means he would repair each tear in my vagina individually. He explained that this approach is more customized, and would promote more uniform results, less pain in recovery, and better muscle use.
The day of surgery, I went into Dr. Scheinberg’s office, was given anesthesia, and had each small tear stitched up over about three hours. I was pretty out of it once I got out of surgery and had to rest for the remainder of the day. The next two days, I stayed in bed, but the recovery wasn’t as bad as after I’d had a child and an episiotomy, when it was painful to even sit. I’m a stay-at-home-mUm, so it was really important to me that the recovery for this be easy—I needed to be able to take care of my kids and not be down for the count for long! I had been really nervous about the recovery, but I was up and running after my kids on the third day post-surgery.
Per doctor’s orders, you can’t have sex for six weeks after the procedure, and that was honestly the hardest part of recovery. I was so eager to see what the results were like (I may have cheated a bit and tried to have sex earlier than I was supposed to). The first couple of times, we couldn’t quite do full penetration, and it was a bit uncomfortable, but Dr. Scheinberg said that was normal.
Once we got over that hump, sex felt like it did before I had children! It was amazing. And even though my husband hadn’t felt like I needed to have surgery for his pleasure, he supported me in it and is very pleased with the results. Everything feels like it’s where it’s supposed to be, and my vulva and perineum look more lifted and younger too. The best part though, is that I have full feeling in my vagina again, and sex feels great. I feel like I’m 18 again!
For me, the surgery cost about $8,500 and it was totally worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat—it was three years ago that I had it, and the results are still going strong. My sex life has never been better, and it’s been awesome for both my husband and me. I would totally recommend this to women who are struggling with these issues—it’s not just something you have to live with! For me, it was a total game changer in the bedroom.
As told to Kristin Canning. This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.