The time has come. Perhaps hubby is giving you the look or a cheesy line. Maybe you felt that tingle reminiscent of your first months or years together. Sex after baby often incites a mix of fear, excitement, and a whole host of feelings around body image and intimacy with your partner, specially when you've recently given birth.
Here’s the nitty gritty before you take your relationship back to the next level.
Not so fast…Speak with your medical professional to ensure your physical body is just as ready as you may feel you are. Likewise, even if your doctor gives you the green light, that does not mean you are emotionally and psychologically ready to jump in. Take your time, do something to relax you if you’d like, leave your expectations behind, and explore the many ways sexuality comes alive.
You are not who you once were. It’s not a bad thing! Some women even say sex after childbirth and later in life is better than earlier in life for a variety of reasons. But be gentle with the expectations you put on yourself. There is a whole change in the relational dynamics with your partner, not to mention baby’s endless needs, getting any “me” time, a feeling that your body isn’t yours, endless nights, less than enthused feelings about body image, and more. Give yourself some time to adjust as all these things affect your sexuality. At the same time, work through all these thoughts and feelings because they can otherwise hold you back.
Hormonal over-and-under load! Some hormones that were high at the end of your pregnancy plummet while, if nursing, others rise with the side-effect of lowering your libido. Other bodily functions, like sleep, can affect your physiology and sex drive as well.
Embrace the word discomfort. Some of our anxiety may come from the fear of pain, and some people’s horror stories of pain don’t help. There are legitimate reasons for pain, but don’t let them scare you. Even if you did not have obvious tearing or an episiotomy, your body just gave birth, which can cause scar tissue without your realizing it. Hormones (or lack of) can cause dryness which, without water-based lube, can be quite painful. Your pelvic floor may have weakened. Emotionally, if you are not ready or relaxed, your vagina may not be either. All of these things have potential solutions, sometimes as simple as giving yourself a little time, adding a little more foreplay, and using lubricant. You can also share your concerns with your doctor so he or she can assess your particular situation to get you comfortable again.
Your partner may be anxious too. Just as you have fears or inhibitions your partner may too. Encourage conversation with the doctor, if helpful. Talk about how you feel—you’re exhausted, afraid of pain, just not in the mood—these all have remedies if you’re interested in adding back the sexual elements of your relationship. All relationships and women are different. You may be a person who is willing to satisfy your partner, even when you aren’t interested in sex. Perhaps you really need a lot of foreplay before you can feel comfortable jumping into anything more sexual. Or you may be ready to go well before your doctor gives the okay! There are all sorts of normal. Let your partner know so you can work together to have the best experience possible.
You will have to get to know yourself again. In a time when you feel like you’re giving everyone else everything you have, your sexuality is an opportunity to spend time on YOU. Your sexuality is your journey and responsibility. The subject is somewhat difficult to address because we are all so different and it encompasses more than the physical interaction. Some might appreciate the suggestion to give into sexual interaction even if you don’t quite “feel like it” because that can be the catalyst to feeling more sexual again; Others cannot “fake it ‘til they make it” because that cuts into their autonomy and sense of safety. Know you and communicate that to your partner.
Go for a test drive. Consider testing out the territory before including your partner. In spite of all your feelings that your child or children are taking everything you have, find time to slip away to a bath or a facemask and pedicure (at home or at the salon!) to “feel” more like yourself. Take stock of the changes of your body and embrace your new curves and marks (or strategically cover them until you find joy in all your details. Share limitations with your partner if it helps bring down anxiety, like you may want to wear a bra or not have anyone touching your midsection for a while.
Protect yourself. Unless you want to have two babies in two years, you need a birth control method, even if you’re nursing full time. Once more for the ladies in the back: You can still get pregnant while nursing full time. Whatever you decide to do, implement it before your first go-round. Ideally speak to your health professional at a visit prior to childbirth. Breastfeeding is not adequate birth control.
It will be a journey. Sex may happen on that first try and be glorious. You may need several encounters before you engage in sex. Make it an adventure, not a destination that must be immediately arrived at. Even if the first (or second or third…) time back in the game is uncomfortable don’t give up. Address what is going on with yourself, partner, and doctor if needed. These are the resources you can delve into to bring back an important piece of YOU back to life.
Lynette is a mom of three children from one year to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.