Each year, nearly 4 million women wrestle with the joys and struggles of life after having a baby. They’re thinking about sleep schedules, long nights, first smiles, and the future their baby will have. They’re also thinking about adjusting to their new lives with their partner. And one of the things that’s usually top of mind for new moms is how their sex lives will change after giving birth.
The truth is, every woman is different. While our bodies function in the same ways overall, some women experience very mild physical changes and see little impact on their sex lives, while other women face more challenges in this area.
So let’s talk about it. Sex is an important part of your relationship with your husband. Sex helps you connect, grow in closeness and emotional intimacy, and is a beautiful way to express your love for each other.
As frustrating as sex after a baby can feel, it’s critical that you work at slowly easing back to the normal, healthy routines of your relationship.
Today, we’ll explore some of the most common things women experience in their sex life after having a baby and how to return to an enjoyable sex life with your partner.
Sex Takes A Break After Birth
If you and your partner had sex several times a week before getting pregnant, your sex life will slow down after your baby is born.
After birth, there’s no universally required amount of time to wait before having sex again, however, most doctors recommend waiting 4-6 weeks after delivery. This is because the risk of infection due to sex is highest in the 2 weeks after delivery and it’s important to give your body time to heal, regardless of how you gave birth.
You Might Like Sex More
Giving birth can clue you in to a range of new sensations in your pelvic area. Particularly if you give birth vaginally, you may start to notice more pleasurable sensations across your body and genitals, and you may become more sensitive to stimulation in general. That means orgasms feel better and more intense. Some people even report feeling more comfortable with their bodies after giving birth, giving them more freedom to explore and pursue heightened pleasure during sex.
Sex Might Not Feel Good At First
Right after giving birth, estrogen levels in the body drop significantly and stay low while breastfeeding. These low levels actually mimic menopausal symptoms for a while, specifically in the first 2-3 months after giving birth, so women may experience mild but present menopausal symptoms. These may include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, pain, and night sweats. Dry vaginal tissue can lead to irritation and even bleeding during sex, increasing your risk of infection. No one wants to have sex under these conditions!
Additionally, you may experience intense pain in your pelvic area after the birth itself and this can make sex uncomfortable. Even if you have a c-section, you’re likely to be healing from the procedure and any other procedures mixed in with your c-section. Give your body time to heal—sex will feel more enjoyable again with time.
Breastfeeding May Affect Your Libido
Like we hinted in the previous point, during breastfeeding your body experiences low levels of estrogen which can lead to overall physical discomfort. However, breastfeeding also releases a hormone known as oxytocin. This hormone causes you to experience positive emotions toward your baby while also suppressing your libido. While this suppressed sex drive can prevent you from having another baby right after giving birth, you end up feeling less excited to be physically intimate with your partner.
Emotions May Run High, Be Patient
Aside from bodily changes you may notice, remember that you and your partner just experienced a major life change. The first few weeks and months after birth can be incredibly stressful, even for the most organized people, and especially if it’s your first baby. You’ll be adjusting to a new life schedule, one that includes elements you may not be used to like lack of sleep, inconsistent meal schedules, and very little time to do the things that were once typical of your daily routine. These changes can lead to heightened stress and frustration, including more tension, arguments, and little time to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
You may also experience a change in your self-esteem as your body continues to change postpartum. Body image issues and stress after a baby are common and will ease with time. However, be patient with yourself and your partner if neither of you are in the mood for sex while also navigating difficult emotions.
Your Vagina May…Change
The hormones your body is flooded with during pregnancy can lead to changes in your vaginal tissue, namely, you can experience a wider vaginal canal in the weeks after birth. While your pelvic muscles will eventually tighten back, your pelvic rim may remain loose for some time, especially if you’ve had multiple children. The same can be said for women who had a c-section—their vaginas may also remain wider for some time after birth due to hormonal fluctuations.
So, What Can You Do?
After birth, you may or may not be eager to start having sex again—regardless of how you feel, make sure your partner and your doctor know where you’re at. Letting your partner know how you feel about sex can help adjust expectations so that he can give you time and space or help you slowly begin to enjoy sex again if your libido is returning. Additionally, your doctor can help guide you on how to return to a healthy sex life based on how you gave birth, your level of injury, and your overall health. Your doctor is the best person to advise you to avoid injury postpartum.
If you doctor gives you their blessing to start having sex again, here are some ways you can safely return to the sex life you and your partner once enjoyed.
Ease Discomfort During Sex
Even if you’re cleared by your doctor to have sex, you may still be experiencing physical discomfort in your pelvic area. If you and your partner are ready for sex, try a few techniques to make it as pleasurable as possible and reduce pain:
1. If vaginal discomfort is still a problem, try alternatives to vaginal penetration such as a massage.
2. Get physically comfortable—try taking a warm bath, ibuprofen to help with the pain, and empty your bladder before sex. These practices can reduce pain beforehand.
3. Use a water-based lubricant to reduce friction during sex, especially if you’ve been experiencing vaginal dryness.
Be patient. If you try to have sex a few times and it’s too uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about exercises, medications, or practices that can help. Just don’t give up if it’s hard right away.
Find A New Sex Routine
We’ve been conditioned by movies and TV shows to believe that the most pleasurable sexual experience is spontaneous and extremely romantic. But after a baby, the priority is to ease back into your sex life. With your adjusting schedule and life of new parenting, it may be helpful to put sex on the calendar. Yes, that feels boring and a mood killer, but adding sex to a family calendar can keep you and your partner accountable to prioritizing intimacy and it can build anticipation for sexy time throughout your day.
Adjust Your Normal Expectations
Right after having a baby, avoid rushing back to your pre-baby sexual habits. Instead, while you’re adjusting to your new baby and life, be more flexible with your sex life.
While most people desire foreplay and a long, intimate sexual experience, the truth is that short, more planned sexual experiences can just as fun. If you and your partner work from home or have some time during the day, hide away for a quickie while the baby is sleeping. You may have preferred early morning or late evening sex in the past, but it’s more reasonable to find a time when you’re both energized and available, instead of at times when you’re too exhausted to do anything.
Try Pelvic Floor Exercises
If your vagina is a bit wider after birth, try pilates exercises; these are more effective than kegels to help tighten your pelvic floor and increase the sensations you feel during sex. If you don’t have time for a class 3 times a week, try Youtube videos. There’s a number of free pilates tutorials online and many tailored to women who recently gave birth. However, before you start any fitness routine, talk to your doctor about the wisest and safest workouts for you post birth.
Congratulations on your new baby and Godspeed, sis!