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If Sex Hurts

It's hard enough for parents to find time for sex, so it's disappointing when it's painful. Some common reasons that lovemaking might be uncomfortable for moms, from Laura Berman, Ph.D., coauthor of The Passion Prescription: Ten Weeks to Your Best Sex -- Ever!

Tearing and scarring Even if you're past the six-week postdelivery, no-sex period, episiotomy scars may still not have healed completely.

What to do: Be honest with your doctor about how much pain you're having. It can take as long as a year for the tender tissues around the perineum (the area cut during an episiotomy) to heal entirely after childbirth. Scar tissue can also cause pain during sex but can be treated by topical medications, therapy, or exercises.

Dryness Estrogen levels, which help keep you lubricated during sex, often drop when you're breastfeeding and may not return to normal until six months after you stop. Oral contraceptives can have a similar effect.

What to do: Use an over-the-counter lubricant. If you're on the Pill, talk to your doctor about changing to another brand or method of birth control.

Irritation An infection can cause an itchy or sandpapery feeling during urination or sex, vaginal redness, or a cottage cheese-like discharge.

What to do: See your doctor right away: It could be a yeast infection. If so, he'll prescribe a topical cream or pill or suggest an over-the-counter treatment. Or it could be bacterial vaginosis, which is usually treated with antibiotics.

Pelvic pain Deep pelvic or lower-back pain during sex could be due to fibroids (noncancerous uterine growths), an ovarian cyst, or endometriosis (uterine tissue growing outside the uterus).

What to do: See your doctor. Once he diagnoses the problem, he'll suggest treatment. For example,the Pill can slow down endometriosis, and uterine artery embolization (a minimally invasive procedure) treats fibroids. Or he may simply advise physical therapy and/or exercises.

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