Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Buckle your seatbelts because we're talking about sex. More specifically, sex after baby, and all of the intimate details that nobody's telling you (except us of course)!
As Birth and Postpartum Doulas, we get to be a part of some of the most vulnerable moments, and conversations between new parents. A common worry for women specifically, is the first experience with sex after giving birth. But...men often have a handful of concerns of their own around this post-baby experience.
Many new moms want to know:
Will it hurt?
What if I have stitches?
Does anything change if I have a c-section?
What if the baby wakes up?
Will he notice that it feels different?
I just don't feel "sexy"
The men may wonder:
Will it feel different?
When will it finally happen?
Will we ever get to be spontaneous in the bedroom like we once were?
What if the baby wakes up?
When will we get our bedroom back?
Let's back up though. Before getting into postpartum and sex after baby, it's important to understand what the heck just happened to your body during pregnancy. Pregnancy can be an amazing thing! It can also come along with body changes and undesired symptoms.
Ligament and joint pain
Weak bladder control
A shift in the placement of major organs...and so much more!
All of these things change in just a matter of just 40 weeks (give or take). And then...you give birth.
Vaginal Birth Recovery:
Vaginal births make up for around 67% of births in the U.S. Though vaginal recoveries tend to be faster, they still take many weeks and come with their own set of recommendations. Tearing inside of the vagina, on the perineum, and labia are the most common types of lacerations from birth. More severe tears can sometimes occur during vaginal deliveries as well. Though these tears can heal very quickly with proper care and occasionally stitches, they can cause uncomfortable burning and irritation when urinating for several days/weeks after delivery.
Many women experience hemorrhoids, swelling, and bruising that can make the first several days after delivery uncomfortable when sitting, walking, or going to the bathroom. Scar tissue may build up in areas where vaginal tissue tore or needed any kind of cutting such as an episiotomy. Scar tissue is very rigid and does not stretch easily (something that is not ideal for sex).
It is not recommended to insert anything into the vagina for at least 6 weeks following vaginal or cesarean delivery.
Your placenta leaves a large open would inside of your uterus that is susceptible to infection for 6 weeks. Anything placed in the vagina can introduce bacteria, and the first 6 weeks after delivery are when you are most susceptible to infection.
Not to mention, you are very fertile for the first 6-12 weeks after having a baby. So just know there’s a likelihood of ending up with “Irish Twins“ if you get it on before getting the okay from your provider.
Cesarean Birth Recovery:
Depending on whether or not your cesarean followed labor, you may be recovering from major abdominal surgery AND some of the vaginal/labial swelling above.
Regardless...cesarean sections are still major surgeries that take just as long as a vaginal birth to recover from (and often longer).
Many of the same recommendations apply, with a few additional restrictions:
- Nothing in the vagina for 6 weeks (you will still bleed even after a c-section)
- No driving for 2 weeks (mostly because of pain medicine)
- Limited amount of walking (especially stairs)
- No heavy lifting
- Increased risk of fluid retention, blood clots, and infection
- May have temporary or permanent nerve damage and loss of feeling around the incision site.
Alright, let's talk. This is something that changes for everyone. There’s no guarantee that your libido will remain the same. But maybe that’s a good thing for you. Regardless, 6 weeks is usually the minimum time one should take before resuming intercourse. The body does some wild things during pregnancy, and perhaps some even wilder things during postpartum. The good news is, many people have been in your shoes, and there are some amazing ways to feel good in the bedroom and find your new self. If your libido is low after baby (most are because of hormones), ask your doctor or midwife to draw some labs on you. If you are breastfeeding, there's a pretty good chance that your hormones will lower your libido. You may want to explore some herbal options to rebalance any hormones that are out of wack. But most of all...be patient with yourself. Your body just did a HUGE thing! Things won't go back to exactly how they were, but there's beauty that can come with discovering confidence in your body that just brought life forth.
Let's Do The Dang Thing!
So it's time! You know! Sexy time. You've had your 6-week postpartum checkup and have been given the green light to resume closed-door activities. And after much anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and nerves, you and your partner decide to give it a go. Depending on what you and your partner's sex life was before baby, you may so ready to get it on after 6 weeks. But if you're like the majority of women, you will be more anxious than not and may decide to wait even longer. After all, you'll likely be sleep-deprived, ready for a meal that's not cold, and still experiencing a hormone rollercoaster. So it's quite possible that you (and your partner) would rather catch some zzzs together at the same time in the rare event you can!
But regardless of when you have sex for the first time after giving birth, there are some things you can count on to help!
1) GO. SLOW. This is not the time for a quickie. If you know the baby is going to wake up very soon (although can you ever really know?), maybe wait until later that day.
2) USE. LUBE. If you are using protection in the form of condoms, make sure the lubricant you use is compatible with that. If you are breastfeeding, it's not uncommon to feel dry down below. Lube will be your best friend (especially if you have any scar tissue).
3) DATE. Take time to get in the mood. Eat a special dinner together. Talk about your relationship, things that make you laugh, your hopes, what you love about your partner, but NOT the baby. Have a glass of wine, unwind and relax!
4) Positions Matter. The positions you used to enjoy may be uncomfortable depending on scar tissue, and your own preferences. Get creative!
5) Invest in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy! So many new moms wonder “will I be loose down there?” The answer is IT DEPENDS! The great thing about your vagina is that is has muscle memory. Sometimes it just takes time to tighten back up. Be patient.
Other times, moms will say they got tighter. Sometimes it’s too tight. Do yourself a favor and just go to PT regardless. Your pelvic floor takes a hit during pregnancy, so it can only make things BETTER!
6) Give yourself grace. If it hurts, stop. If you are not enjoying yourself, stop. You can always try again. Your partner loves you. Love yourself. And be patient. You got this! Now go get some love!