For many, getting the “all clear” for sex after birth isn’t enough to begin having postpartum sex. Resuming intercourse is a lot more complicated than a doctor’s approval, and here’s why.
While some might be ready to jump back into the sack, it’s very common to not feel ready for postpartum sex. You’re not alone if you feel this way.
One study states, “There is a significant worsening in all sexual domains postpartum, such as dyspareunia, lack of vaginal lubrication, difficulty to reach orgasm, vaginal bleeding or irritation after sex, and loss of sexual desire.”
Keep reading for three reasons why postpartum sex can feel hard and learn how you can begin to create intimacy again in the bedroom (but only when you’re ready).
Read next: 5 Ways Intimacy Changes After Baby
3 reasons why postpartum sex can feel hard
1. Your body feels foreign
Before your pregnancy, your body was yours and yours alone. Then suddenly, you shared it; you shared it most intimately. Life bloomed, and a tiny, vulnerable fetus nestled in your womb and made itself at home.
During the following months, you not only grew a baby but also delivered them; perhaps, your body carried on feeding that baby for the following weeks, months, or years. The touched-out feeling from breastfeeding is real.
Therefore, it is no wonder your body feels foreign during your postpartum period – your body is foreign, as it has never played this role before. It’s critical to find acceptance in your postpartum body.
2. You’re completely burned out
For many of us, those postpartum days can feel like a time vortex in which hours, days, and weeks seemingly merge into one. We may often sport vomit-stained clothes and an unintentionally-messy mum bun, while lopsided leaky boobs are a stark reality.
There is pressure to get the ‘OK’ to engage in sexual activities again at the six-week postpartum check-up, whether you’re ready or not.
Most of us are—quite understandably—physically and emotionally exhausted; this does not necessarily paint the most sexually pleasing picture. Yet, there is this pressure to get the ‘OK’ to engage in sexual activities again at the six-week postpartum check-up, whether you’re ready or not.
The answer varies wildly from mom to mom: maybe you feel ready, or perhaps you cannot imagine anything worse than being intimate. But guess what? Both these reactions, and everything in between, are 100% okay.
Make sure that what you’re feeling is what you want, not something your partner or society is telling you that you should be feeling.
3. Your hormones play a large role
Throughout our pregnancy, our estrogen and progesterone levels increase steadily; in fact, a pregnant woman has more estrogen in her body during pregnancy than she will ever have while not pregnant.
After birth, the levels of both these hormones decrease drastically. Estrogen plays a significant role in blood flow to the genitals and vaginal lubrication, and some postpartum moms may experience vaginal dryness due to the sharp decrease in this hormone.
If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, make sure to use a lot of water-based lubrication to help ease into postpartum sex.
Depending on the nature of your delivery, you could also experience pain related to labia or perineal tearing. Issues with your pelvic floor could even cause pain with sex.
Each body is different, and healing is not always linear; it is, therefore, essential that if you are experiencing physical or emotional discomfort at six weeks and you are not ready for intercourse, I urge you to put yourself first and to do what is suitable for you and your body.
How to ease back into postpartum sex
Reconnect with yourself
As a professional therapist, several moms have shared their concerns about postpartum intimacy, and it reminded me of an article I read a few years ago.
The article emphasized that when intimacy is challenging, one should consider the “in-to-me-I-see” approach which starts with acknowledging the raw and vulnerable season you may find yourself in right now.
Then, focus your attention on “in-to-me-I-see” to get to know yourself as a new mom, both physically and emotionally. Spend time with yourself, doing the things you love and connecting with yourself first.
As a new mum, this can be a challenging task, but a few minutes when you can manage it goes a long way.
Find comfort in your postpartum body
Feeling uncomfortable or unfamiliar with your new and foreign postpartum body is not an uncommon experience. Many women struggle to adjust to their new and unique shape.
Connecting with yourself sexually before rekindling your sexual relationship with your partner may be helpful.
Also, feeling comfortable and accepting of your body is, as we all know, a big part of enjoying sex. This is why connecting with yourself sexually before rekindling your sexual relationship with your partner may be helpful.
Through self-pleasure, you can begin to figure out what feels right and what does not in your postpartum body. What feels pleasurable to you has probably changed since before you gave birth, and that’s important to explore.
Try other forms of intimacy
It is also important to remember that intimacy does not necessarily have to be intercourse. Finding out what feels comfortable for you is an excellent place to start.
For example, you could make time to hold hands with your partner, kiss them, or hug them – all these actions are beautifully intimate.
Keeping the dialogue open between you and your partner can make it easier for both of you when you are ready to get intimate again. In open and honest discussion, you can try and voice your concerns, fears, and enjoyments.
Final thoughts on postpartum sex
To conclude, remember that there are lovely health professionals who can assist in both the physical and emotional aspects of postpartum intimacy; whether that’s a therapist, your gynecologist, or a pelvic physiotherapist, professional support is available.