You’re familiar with the changes that go along with sex during pregnancy, but what happens to your sex life after giving birth? I’ve written about what it’s really like for Mom after birth and the many physical and emotional changes you’ll go through. Your sex life is certainly not exempt from these huge changes! Sex after baby can be daunting- and downright terrifying- but it doesn’t need to be.
And remember that most moms think they are the only ones experiencing whatever weird after-affects are happening. You’re not in it alone! So let’s dive in! (OK, bad joke.)
You can’t have sex for 6 weeks.
You won’t want to, but just in case you have a husband who is pestering you (if that’s so, there is probably an entirely different article you should be reading…), your body is going to need time to heal. The risk of complications after delivery is highest in the first two weeks post-partum, but the body really needs more time to get back to semi-normal.
Yes, you can get pregnant again, even if you are breastfeeding.
Some women are lucky and don’t get their period for a year or more after giving birth, but it IS possible for your first period to come as early as six weeks after delivery. The problem is you don’t know which camp you’ll fall into, and by the time you see that first period, you have ALREADY ovulated.
Since the return of ovulation is super unpredictable, it’s best to begin contraception to avoid another pregnancy right away. Breastfeeding tends to suppress ovulation, but it’s not a reliable source of birth control. (Side note: Research suggests it’s best to wait 18 months between delivering a baby and conceiving another, due to possible health complications for both mom and baby, but I’ll save that for another blog post.)
Sex might be uncomfortable (but it can also be great).
Hormones can mimic menopause in the first few months after having a baby, meaning a dry vagina, low libido, and hot flashes. If you tore or had an episiotomy, scar tissue could make things painful. Vaginal scar tissue is very common, can happen even after the smallest tear, and is not a sign of a bad surgeon. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty painful to the touch. There are lots of options for treatment, if you find it unbearable.
In most cases, sex can be comfortable again with a few changes to the foreplay routine, including using plenty of lube.
My best advice for getting back into sex after your six week (or more) hiatus- take it slow. Make sure you’re ready, have a good amount of foreplay, lube at the ready, and girl on top! You want to be in control here, so you set the pace and make sure you’re comfortable.
You might be surprised at how pleasurable even that first re-entry to sex can be if done correctly!
For the same reasons, tampons may no longer be an option.
Of course, you shouldn’t use tampons within the first six weeks of having a baby, but even beyond that, they just might not work for you. You may find that tampons have become uncomfortable, that they slip out, that they are more difficult to insert, or that they leak even when they aren’t full. If any of this is the case, there is nothing wrong with you!
You might be a little looser, but not forever.
Pregnancy widens the pelvic rim, making things roomier below the belt. Pelvic floor muscles lose a bit of muscle tone, but should return to near normal after the first year. Unless you had a very large baby or traumatic incident during delivery, your vagina will pretty much return to the way it was before baby.
Keep in mind though, your vagina will change slightly with each delivery, so if you’ve had four kids, you’re definitely not going to have the same vagina you had before you had any!
Your lady parts change colors.
Your entire vulva will probably be darker after childbirth. (This includes your perineum, labia…the whole kit and caboodle!) This happens because of hormonal changes, but also due to the trauma of birth.
You might be gifted with permanent hemorrhoids.
That’s right. Hemorrhoids that popped up during pregnancy or while pushing during delivery may never go away. This seems to be a topic most moms really shy away from, but statistics show they are really common. They may shrink over time, but it’s entirely possible that they’ll be with you for life. (Of course, you can see a specialist if they really bother you.) Not everyone gets them, but if you do, it might change how comfortable you are in certain positions.
Your breasts might leak during sex.
The same hormones that are responsible for your orgasm are the same ones that allow for milk let-down. If this is going to stress you out, wear a bra with nursing pads inside, keep a wash cloth handy, or just have sex in the shower.
You’re going to hear a lot about Kegels.
Kegels are exercises you can do to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This will especially help with mild urinary incontinence (and perhaps prevent it, if you haven’t yet experienced it). The thing to realize is that you have to do three sets of 10 Kegels a day, using the correct muscles (which don’t include your abdomen, thighs, or butt), and you still might end up with issues. So I don’t blame you if you don’t add it to your list of things to worry about as a mom!
Your sex drive might have driven off into the sunset.
Breastfeeding means you’ll be high on oxytocin, but low on libido, and sleep deprivation certainly doesn’t help things. It’s completely normal to have virtually no sex drive for a while. Eventually, you will want sex again.
Don’t look at your body or your circumstances and think, this is how things will be for the rest of my life. You will feel more and more like yourself again (in all aspects) after six months, after a year, and so on. Your child will eventually sleep through the night, go off to school, and leave the nest! You will get your sex life back. In the meantime, cultivate other types of physical intimacy with your partner. This leads me to the next point.
You’ll have to get creative in the bedroom.
Lack of physical intimacy in a marriage leads couple to feel like roommates, so sex is still important after kids come along. It will just have to happen a little differently. While lube will become your new best friend and quickies in the afternoon will be the norm (if sex happens at all), you might want to add a few other items and tricks to your arsenal.
Get creative and consider using toys as an alternative to intercourse. Beyond that, just being physically affectionate, taking showers together, and snuggling on the couch can be invaluable to maintain connection during this time. Don’t let kids take the spark out of your marriage– it’s critical to keep that connection going!