Intimacy and sex after childbirth can be a source of concern or relationship tension for new parents. While this topic may seem taboo to some, it’s helpful to keep some factors in mind.
Your midwife or doctor will likely recommend refraining from sex until at least six weeks postpartum whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean. You can expect to bleed for about 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth. Bloody discharge after birth, called lochia, is totally normal. Some describe it like a very heavy period. The site where the placenta was attached to the wall of your uterus is healing. It takes time to fully recover.
But what happens after that six-week appointment when you get the green light to resume relations with your partner? Some couples are eager and ready for sexual activities to go back to normal, but not everyone.
For many women sexual intercourse is painful and unpleasant in the beginning. The hormones related to breastfeeding can also lower your sex-drive. Vaginal dryness may be experienced and experts suggest using lubrication if needed.
You may experience sore or leaky breasts or even notice a letdown during intercourse. This is also normal. The hormone, oxytocin, experienced during orgasm also stimulates milk ejection. If this is awkward to you consider wearing your nursing bra or a tank top and avoid breast stimulation during intercourse.
We haven’t yet mentioned that you’re just plain tired and you are absorbed with feeding, changing, holding and caring for a sweet but demanding newborn around the clock. Not only is it hard to find time for intimacy with your partner but also everyday events like showering, shaving, and spending a few minutes to make yourself feel and look good, now seem like far away luxuries.
It is important to know that the physical challenges are normal and common. Many women struggle with enjoying intimacy after childbirth.
Take your time and be forgiving and easy on yourself. Talk with your partner and let him or her know how you are feeling and that what you are experiencing is normal. Ask him or her for lots of patience and understanding. Find other ways to be close and show your affection.
Reassure yourself and your partner. With time and patience your body will adjust and you WILL enjoy sex again. Even if it is painful the first time (or second or third time) don’t lose hope. We promise you it does eventually get easier and even pleasurable again.
If something persistently feels wrong and doesn’t get better speak to your care provider. You know your body better than anyone. Listen to your intuition.
If you experienced physical trauma or scarring in the vaginal area you may also consider seeing a physical therapist for assistance and treatment. Some women have found this to be very helpful.
Not only will the physical struggles ease off with time, you will learn to adjust to life with a newborn and find a new “normal” that includes sneaking in some time to be intimate and loving again.
Just remember patience is the key.
You might have to find an unusual time in your schedule and place in your home to make that love connection happen especially if you are co-sleeping with your baby. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Maybe the bathroom or the sofa becomes your new rendezvous spot while your newborn takes an afternoon nap. Think of it as a stunt harkening back to when you were a fun-loving young adult in the backseat of your sweetheart’s car. And that sounds like more fun that “just another chore.”