As an Ob/Gyn and a mom of kids ages 4, 7, and 9, I know the impact that childbirth and children can have on our sex lives. There are both physical and mental changes after having a child, and these changes inevitably alter the way you and your partner feel about sex. In many relationships, intimacy becomes a lower priority or a non-existent one, and that can have a long-lasting impact.
I’ve compiled information and tips because I know that awareness is key — if you understand the why behind what you or your partner is feeling, you can address it more directly.
What Childbirth Does To Your Body
Whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or c-section, you will go through a substantial number of physical and emotional changes. You may experience pain that requires medication and time to heal. A stretched pelvic floor that makes it difficult to stand. Damaged nerves that make you pee all the time. Engorged breasts that shoot milk whenever they feel like it.
Mental strain, stress, and lack of sleep can feel overwhelming as well — intensifying the emotional rollercoaster you find yourself on, caring for a brand-new baby that relies on you for everything.
Now add all of that up and multiply it with the expectations of your partner, who was so excited to get the “all-clear” at your six-week checkup. But are you really ready?
What “All-Clear” Really Means
If your doctor has given the “all-clear” sign at six weeks, it usually means that your incisions or tears have healed, and your uterus is returning to normal size. Physically, your body is okay for sex. But what if you need more than just okay?
The most common concerns that I hear from women at this stage include body image challenges from weight gain, persistent pain in the pelvis, vaginal dryness from nursing, and fatigue. If our partners had these same issues and were given the “all-clear” for sex, they’d be asking me for an extension, too.
In fact, it is important to point out that it is not uncommon for our partners to have some mild form of sexual dysfunction after the addition of a new baby, too. For male partners, this can include erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. These challenges are a reflection of the stress they are feeling as well, and sometimes compound the issues around sex after birth.
Still healing from birth, not sleeping, and trying to navigate our new lives as parents, it makes sense that sex would the last thing on the list. But as you become more ready, it’s crucial to bring sex and intimacy back. This helps to keep a connection with your partner, which is so important during this new phase of life
Tips To Get Back to Business
Lube, lube, and more lube. After birth, the vulva and vagina are not quite the same — muscles may be sore from inflammation and healing, and the tissue can be dry because of breastfeeding. But lube can help! It will make sex more comfortable faster and lead to more pleasure for you and your partner.
Talk to your partner. The ability to have open and honest communication is the number one key to success when it comes to maintaining a healthy sexual relationship. Your partner cannot read your mind, so it’s essential to communicate honestly about what you are feeling. Practicing these conversations now will pave a successful road for the future when you are ready to spice things up, when you encounter other life or health difficulties, and when menopause comes calling.
Put sex on the calendar. It can feel silly to schedule sex, but you plan everything else in your life, so why not? Putting sex on the calendar makes it a priority for you and your partner and reduces the stress and anxiety about your next sexual encounter. Start slowly. Maybe once per month? Once per week? There’s no right number, but as you allow yourself to experience more pleasure, you’ll be reminded why you liked it in the first place.
Have sex before dishes. Becoming parents doesn’t mean you have to lose the fun and excitement in your relationship. Don’t let household tasks bog you down and make you forget to prioritize intimacy with your partner. In the long run, chores won’t matter, but your relationship will.
Try something new. When you have been with someone for a while, sex can become routine or a task to check off of the to-do list. The antidote to this boredom and disinterest is curiosity and excitement in the bedroom. Adding something new or exploring a fantasy is an opportunity to strengthen your bond with your partner, increase communication, and may lead to increased pleasure. Try reading erotica with your partner, surprising them with lingerie, or adding a vibrator.
Seek help from your healthcare provider. If you have returned to sex and are having pain or experiencing persistent anxiety or depression, let your doctor or midwife know. Your provider can support you further with prescription medication, pelvic floor physical therapy, or counseling.
Be kind to yourself. Having a baby is no small feat. What we and our partners need more than anything during stressful times is kindness, space to make mistakes, and a willingness to work together to create the lives and relationships that we’ve always dreamed of.
Having a baby is an incredible, life-changing moment in your life. It is also extremely stressful and exhausting — but prioritizing your intimacy will pay off in the long run and will lead to a happier, healthier life.
Dr. Lyndsey Harper is an Ob/Gyn and Founder and CEO of Rosy.
Before you go, check out our round-up of our 69 favorite bucket list sex positions: