Childbirth, especially if it is your first child, introduces its own changes into the way of life of all the family. Sexual life is not an exception. There are common myths about sex after pregnancy, often mutually exclusive. Some people say that only after birth do they discover new unprecedented sensations, others say that their sex life has simply stopped after childbirth.
Sexologists from the Netherlands conducted research among young mothers of first-born babies. Their conclusion was that the quality of sex worsens only during the first year after birth, but then it becomes the same as before the delivery. 23% of the young mothers estimated their sexual life of full value after only three months since birth, 32% needed half a year, and 45% – a full year after birth.
Besides, the relation between the term of pregnancy when women stopped having sex and the term when they resumed their sex life after a baby was born was found out. Those women, who abstained from sex before the 12th week of pregnancy, 11 times more often didn’t start it even after a year after the baby was born.
When can you Resume Sex Life after Pregnancy?
From the point of view of gynecologists, the term of 6-8 weeks after childbirth is considered optimal to resume sexual life. However, it’s a highly individual matter. Some women, if they feel perfectly fine after childbirth, resume sexual intercourse sooner than the prescribed six weeks’ time. To make sure that the resumption of sexual activities won’t do any harm, a woman should visit a gynecologist before doing it.
The planned examination after birth is usually scheduled precisely a month after the delivery. If during the examination the doctor will see that all the internal organs are back to normal and postpartum changes have stopped, they can give the go-ahead to sexual life immediately after the checkup or (in the opposite case) recommend further abstention from sex and another examination in 2-4 weeks.
Why Not Earlier?
Sex after pregnancy is forbidden for at least 6 weeks for two main reasons.
Firstly, the tissues damaged during the delivery (for example, the place where the placenta was fastened) are literally an open wound after childbirth. During sexual intercourse, the bleeding from damaged delivery vessels can start.
Secondly, a woman’s genitals after childbirth are especially prone to all sorts of infections, which can be brought into them during sexual intercourse. The infection of the uterus can cause inflammation – endometritis – one of the most difficult postpartum complications.
If the natural birth was taking its normal course and there were neither any complications nor medical intervention, the uterus returns to its original state by the end of the 6th week after childbirth. During this time the uterus shrinks, and the integrity of tissue is restored.
After any surgery (C-section, scraping of the uterine cavity after delivery) this period may drag on for 8 weeks, and sometimes even more (2-3 months). In this case, the length of the abstention period should be increased for as long as is required for the full healing of the maternity passages of a woman. The term abstention period, in this case, will be determined by a gynecologist. Especially often such stalling is connected with stitching of wounds after ruptures of birth passages tissue or episiotomy.
Possible Problems and Ways of Solving Them
So, the long-awaited permission is granted, and it seems that all the difficulties have been left behind. However, many couples face unusual problems in the first months after childbirth. And sex after pregnancy is one of the hot topics for any family.
The 1st Problem: “I Don’t Want”
After all the difficulties and worries of pregnancy, a new mother feels exactly the opposite way. All her thoughts are about taking care of the baby. It is in the nature of things. Until a child can do without a mother’s care, the instinct of procreation that has an influence on women’s sexuality is reduced as not wanted. Besides, total exhaustion and lack of sleep awaken self-preservation that dictates having an additional hour of sleep instead of sensual pleasures.
It often seems to a woman that her constant concern about her baby can’t (won’t) be shared by her family and, first of all, her husband. Then the man’s request for sex may lead to offense. The woman feels lonely, and isolated; she may eventually slip into depression (by the way, an absence of interest in sexual life can sometimes be a sign of postpartum depression). A number of psychologists on the grounds of long-term observations have come to a conclusion that the sooner a couple will return back to their habitual sex after pregnancy the more chances of a strong relationship in the future they’ll have.
That’s why it’s in fact necessary to try to resume your sex life sooner, even if your actions during the first months after delivery don’t include traditional sexual intercourse. Endeavor to maintain physical attraction to each other; don’t exclude each other from your sphere of interest. You simply need to say a few tender words to each other, and do a bit of cuddling.
Sex shouldn’t always be a nighttime activity when a couple is completely exhausted. You can have sex in the morning or during your baby’s afternoon sleep when your husband suddenly manages to come home from work for lunch. You’d better not spoil your relationship with such statements as “I’m doing everything for the baby alone, I don’t need sex right now”. You shouldn’t refuse to have sex because of unresolved family conflicts or because your husband “didn’t take your baby for a walk”.
Remind yourself of the best episodes of your sexual life. As soon as a possibility comes, ask one of your relatives or friends to babysit for a while and arrange a secret date with your husband. Pleasant stress due to the secrecy will provoke new, or, more likely, old, but long-forgotten sensations. And, of course, remember that sex isn’t a favor you’re doing for your partner, you also need it. Try to make a good thing of it and derive only positive emotions.
The 2nd Problem: “I’m Not Attractive”
Dissatisfaction with herself, her shape, and breast size (which can become a bit larger while breastfeeding) can lead a woman to the conclusion that she is no more attractive to her husband. And well-groomed childfree friends bring even more distress into young mothers’ souls.
Let your partner decide how much you’re sexually attracted to him; and if he wants you, you’re wrong to think that you represent only a “breast milk bank”. Remember that you have admirers. Sacrifice one walk for a few hours of taking care of your appearance. Put on fine new underwear, hardly suitable for breastfeeding, but concealing imperfections of your figure. You can put tissues into your bra to prevent breast milk from spilling. Then look into the mirror: a young mother, Madonna, has always been an embodiment of female beauty.
You can arrange a romantic dinner, take a bath with your darling, and watch a romantic movie together – it will help you both to relax and feel desire again.
Of course, you also shouldn’t go to the other extreme and console yourself with the fact that your husband “wanted this child, then he should love me and want me as I am now”. Remember that your present figure is a side-effect of pregnancy and childbirth; it’s inevitable but definitely temporary. Try to find enough time for exercise, don’t eat too much candy – and eventually, your tempting forms will show again.
The 3rd Problem: “Like the First Time”
Most women are afraid of pain during sexual intercourse after childbirth. Indeed, the first few times after childbirth for many women can be painful, and it’s hard to tell how long it will be this way. Discomfort can be caused by various reasons. For example, if numerous nerve endings in the perineum are injured as a result of tearing or episiotomy. Even after the injuries have fully healed, the skin and mucous membrane of the vagina is very sensitive to pressure, especially in places where the sutures were. Besides, the scarring on the perineum tissue isn’t assisting its ability to stretch during sexual intercourse, and a woman’s subconscious resistance adds some unpleasant sensations, even in positions that were completely painless and pleasant for a woman before.
Most often the soreness is over by itself after the adaptation of nerve endings to the new conditions. Don’t be ashamed of telling your partner what you feel, including your fears. In no circumstances do your husband any favors if you feel pain when you have sex.
You should have a slow start with sex after childbirth. At first, try petting without penetration. Before contact, a woman needs to relax as much as possible and try the positions which are most comfortable for her. After the injuries in the perineum area, the preferred positions are “woman on top” or both partners on the side because in these positions there is a possibility for a woman to be in control over the situation and regulate the pressure.
Actually, penetrative sex can be replaced with oral sex and active petting. During the process, the woman can give her consent to the penetration, but her partner should be ready to stop at any moment and return to petting or even just stop the act. It’s likely that you’ll have to do it more than once, so discuss this possibility in advance. If this has already happened, try not to take it too seriously and make another attempt after some time. Don’t forget about contraception, because even during petting some spermatozoa can get into the vagina.
Only in really rare cases, unpleasant sensations during sexual intercourse are caused by serious complications in the anatomy of the vagina that took place after a surgical operation during the delivery. In such cases, reconstructive surgery may help.
The 4th Problem: “We’re So Different”
After childbirth anatomic correlation between the genitals of a man and a woman has also changed. It’s happened because the vagina stretched forcefully during childbirth to let the baby come through the birth canal, and that’s why it remains stretched for the first few months after delivery.
This may affect the extent of your sensations when you have sex. But you should understand that this condition is temporary and it shouldn’t cause any worries. To increase the pleasant sensations you can try different positions until you find a preferable one.
And do Kegel exercise to regain the elasticity of muscles of the perineum and all urogenital apparatus. Doctor Kegel invented this exercise to prevent enuresis in women who gave birth and elderly women. Women can easily find out which muscles they should develop if they try to stop urination in the middle of the process (you’ll immediately feel the contractions of these muscles). When it’s clear how to contract the muscles, you should repeat the contractions in a comfortable position, gradually increasing the number of them to 50 times per session. Repeat the sessions 2-3 times a day any time in different positions.
By the way, if you do the exercise during pregnancy you can considerably lower the risk of perineum trauma and cut down the time of restoration of muscle tone many times.
The 5th Problem: “Dry”
Almost every woman, no matter how the delivery was going on, has discomforts caused by the lack of the main female hormone – estrogen – during the postpartum period. One of the displays of lack of estrogen is a dry mucous membrane of the vagina that also causes palpable discomfort during sexual intercourse.
To eliminate this temporary deficiency you can use artificial substitutes of natural lubrication, so-called lubricants – special moisture substances. They are available in cream and gel forms. You can buy lubricants in drug stores, supermarkets, beauty aids stores, and sex shops. Pay attention to the constitution of the lubricant: choose one without dyes, aromatizers, hormones, and other agents. Besides moistening, lubricants help to soften the scarring in areas where the sutures were. To soften the scars you can also use ointments, specifically made for the treatment of keloid scars. But they should be applied as opposed to lubricants by a doctor’s prescription only!
The 6th Problem: “Afraid of Another Pregnancy”
Don’t wait for any surprises and take care of it immediately after the first sexual intercourse. Doctors say that the minimal interval between childbirths is, at least, two years, optimum – two and a half or three and a half years. The too-short period between childbirths can lead to a complicated pregnancy and delivery of a premature infant. The new pregnancy will prevent the mother from breastfeeding her baby.
When you choose contraceptive remedies, please, consider that contraception shouldn’t affect the quantity and quality of breast milk. It is really nice that every breastfeeding mother has a choice on this issue.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.