When your baby arrives, sex may be the last thing on your mind or you may yearn tremendously for your pre-baby sex life. Psychosexual and cognitive behavioural therapist Catriona Boffard explores the dynamics of reintroducing sex into your relationship after childbirth.
The experience of sex may – as with many women – seem like a distant memory when you become a mother and are nursing a new baby. But, this very important aspect of your relationship shouldn’t just take a backseat because you have different priorities compared to life before your baby. The way in which you approach sex might change and it’s true – sex after giving birth is different! But being a mother doesn’t mean the end of your sexual or intimate relationship with your partner. Let me bust some myths and offer some tips to help you and your partner feel more comfortable with sex when you start the “family” chapter in your life.
1. Myth: We have to have sex after six weeks
Waiting four to six weeks to have sex after giving birth is the general rule, but that’s only if your doctor has given you the all clear, your C-section scar is healing nicely, and if it was an uncomplicated delivery and post-delivery bleeding has stopped. The first time you do have sex after giving birth, be gentle! Remember intimacy is more important than expectation. Sex will probably feel different for some time, and that’s okay and totally normal! Your body (and mind) has been through some major changes, and emotionally you’re trying to catch up and process this new addition to your family.
When you decide it’s the right time to have sex, make sure you have a good lubricant on hand, such as a water- or silicone-based lubricant, as this is really so important and will help sex feel more comfortable! You also might not get as naturally lubricated soon after birth as your hormones will take some time
2. You’re feeling unattractive, flat or body-conscious
It’s really important to be kind to yourself and your body after having a baby. You’ve gone through some major changes during pregnancy, birth, and post-partum. It’s important to remember that it took almost a year to get to here and so it’s likely going to take you another year to feel ‘normal’ again. For about two months post-partum, your uterus will still not be back to its pre-pregnancy position, so you might still look pregnant for a little while after having a baby. Then of course you might be breastfeeding, leaking milk, and may also have developed stretchmarks; it doesn’t quite paint a picture of sexiness, does it? If you’re feeling very body-conscious, but want to be intimate and sexual with your partner, why not buy some beautiful lingerie, such as a satin slip? Something that covers your upper body and feels good on your skin can really help you feel more confident and sexier.
3. Your partner might be ready for sex but you’re not (or the other way around)
After giving birth, your hormones will be all over the place, so it’s quite normal if you don’t want to have sex. Similarly, your partner might be scared of hurting you or might also be going through a lot of emotional adjustment. Be patient with each other and make sure communicating is at the forefront of your relationship throughout pregnancy and post-partum. If your differences in libido aren’t back to your normal a year after having your baby, speak to an accredited sexologist or psychologist. You also don’t have to have sexual intercourse to be sexual, so rather spend time focusing on things that turned you on when you first starting being intimate, such as kissing, touching, and flirting. Even small acts like this can make a big difference to your bond with your partner.
4. Sex doesn’t quite feel like it used to
Post-pregnancy, your hormones will be exerting a little mayhem on your system and your body isn’t quite the same either: your pelvic floor muscles have had a little baby lying on them for nine months and things might have stretched a bit. This could lead to vaginal dryness, meaning painful sex or sex just not feeling like it used to due to stretched muscles. If you’re experiencing painful sex, it could also be because of your C-section, episiotomy stitch or an infection, so take it very, very slowly. If the discomfort persists, speak to your doctor immediately.
If sex doesn’t feel like it used to, that’s ok; it’s a temporary side effect of having a baby! You can get those muscles tightened again by doing your Kegel exercises – squeezing your pelvic floor muscles, holding for three to five seconds, and releasing. Just don’t do this exercise on the loo, though, as you could cause a bladder infection.
Pleasure and priority
Ultimately you and your partner need to be patient with each other and your time and body. Talk about what’s happening and what you’re both feeling as much as possible and remember that your sex life isn’t over just because you have brought a beautiful baby into the world. Focus on intimacy and pleasure rather than sex that is just about penetration and orgasms! You may feel like your primary role is 100% mommy, but remember what brought that little one into the world – being sexual with your partner. Don’t forget that being a lover is tied first place with mother as your primary role, and should be as much of a priority as time with your baby is.