Relationships

How To Prepare For The First Time Having Sex After Giving Birth

By Gwen Farrell
·  8 min read
shutterstock 1646507746 (1)

Postpartum sex seems like a contradiction in terms. The two just don’t sound like they go together.

*This article is intended for readers 18 and older.*

After all, you’ve just pushed an entire person out of your body, or in some cases had a major abdominal surgery. Recovery in both instances can be rough, filled with unexpected twists and turns, and aside from worrying about your own recovery, you now have to take care of a tiny human who depends on you for absolutely everything. Who wants to be thinking about sex?

The time will eventually come when sex is back on the table, though. For some, it’s a matter of weeks; for others, it might be months. There is no right or wrong way to view sex after birth, but like so many other aspects of physical, mental, and emotional postpartum recovery, it can be difficult to approach – especially if you’ve never done it before as a first-time mom. Here’s how to prepare (and what to expect) for the first time having sex after giving birth.

It Might Be Uncomfortable

Every pregnancy and every woman is different, but the general consensus among the majority of women is that first time postpartum sex is, at the very least, uncomfortable. Why would it not be? Your body has undergone an extreme physical change. After preparing for birth for almost a year, you’re now left to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from a major change. Sex might be uncomfortable, awkward, less enjoyable, or even painful. 

But that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. In many cases, practice makes perfect. Every time you have sex, your body will feel more and more acclimated to it again and chances are you’ll feel more like yourself. We’ve all heard about the benefits of an orgasm, so who knows? You might even sleep better and feel more relaxed.

Don’t Rush Things

No one expects you to get back to your old bedroom routine right away. In fact, most postpartum sources recommend waiting four to six weeks for a vaginal birth and possibly longer for a Cesarean delivery. Your vagina, cervix, and uterus all need time to heal, and you probably won’t adjust to your newborn’s sleeping schedule right away. Remember, you have a gaping wound that needs time to contract back to its normal size. Recovery can take even longer if you have a perineal tear or other complications from labor, so relax. Sex will be there when you’re ready.

You Might Be More Ready Than He Is (or Vice Versa)

Depending on the couple, you might be at odds with one another when it comes time to do the deed. Your libido might have bounced back already, or you might want to wait another few weeks. Conversely, your husband might be hesitant to jump back in out of concern for you, or he might be more eager than you are. All scenarios are normal, but the important thing is that you’re both on the same page. If you’re not ready, make sure he understands why, and if you’re ready and he’s not, discuss each other’s feelings and the pros and cons. 

You can still flirt with him, touch him meaningfully, cuddle, and express love in other ways.

It can be tempting to make sex a strictly clinical discussion after having a baby, but remember that you’re both on the same team and that you support one another regardless of when exactly sex reenters your relationship. If you’re taking a longer hiatus from sex than expected, remind yourself to get back to dating your husband. Even when you can’t be physical, you can still flirt with him, touch him meaningfully, cuddle, and express love in other ways.

Stock Up on Lube

Discomfort during postpartum sex is usually due to vaginal dryness, which is caused by the sudden fluctuation in a new mom’s hormones post-delivery. Your progesterone and estrogen levels, which were at an all-time high during pregnancy, plummet within just 24 hours of giving birth. This means that you’ll be feeling all kinds of things – both emotionally and physically – up to a few months after giving birth. 

My own midwife illustrated it this way for me: You wouldn’t go down a water slide that’s completely dry, would you? (Ouch.) Your natural arousal fluid will return eventually as your hormones shift back into place, but until it does, don’t hesitate to give things a little help.

Invest in Your Pelvic Floor

Your pelvis, which has borne the brunt of your pregnancy and helped in delivery, is composed of muscles, and like any muscles in the body, should be exercised, trained, and taken care of. Your pelvic floor is especially weak after delivery (and made even weaker by carrying things like car seats and diaper bags), which contributes to things like incontinence and discomfort during sex. Pelvic floor therapy, administered by trained specialists, can help strengthen your muscles, address incontinence and bladder control, and even decrease pelvic pain and help with sexual satisfaction and achieving orgasm.

Dedicate Time, Even if You Have To Schedule It

People are always quick to suggest that scheduling sex is unromantic and clinical, but when you have a newborn to work around, you learn to be creative. Before your baby, your go-to time for intimacy might have been before bed, but when sleep is hard to come by and you’re tied to a routine of feeding and sleeping, you’ll have to account for those new commitments. Whether it’s in the morning, in the afternoon, in the garage or in the living room, plan for a quick break from your baby and make time for you and your husband. Some might think that setting a designated time and place for sex might take all the fun out of it, but they never seem to mention the inevitable buildup and anticipation, which can take your mind off dirty diapers and get you in the mood. 

Adjusting sex to your comfort level can alleviate both your mental anxiety and any physical discomfort. 

Be Vocal

You might have been a go-with-the-flow kind of girl before pregnancy, but if something’s just not working, speak up. Adjusting sex to your comfort level can help alleviate both your mental anxiety and any physical discomfort. Work around your discomfort, adjust positions or angles if you have to (a pillow under the hips can help), and increase foreplay to help loosen things up. No one will have a good time if you’re hoping the tension will just disappear eventually or get better with time, and besides, you share a child with this person. You, he, and your sex life all deserve the benefit of the truth, however awkward it might be.

Discuss Family Planning

You might be using breastfeeding as contraception, which does admittedly work for many couples if you’re not menstruating. But just because your period hasn’t returned doesn’t mean you’re not ovulating, and that can be hard to pinpoint with different things happening in your body. Some women might be surprised at how fertile they are post-pregnancy (again, fluctuation of hormones), so if you’re planning to space out your babies – 18 months between them is usually recommended so your body can fully recover, but every woman is different – make sure you and your husband have an agreed-upon plan ahead of time. 

Don’t Stress

Prepare to acknowledge that postpartum sex will not necessarily be better or worse than pre-baby sex, just different. Even if we long for the days of our take-your-time passionate newlywed encounters, those days have come to an end. But that doesn’t mean the magic is gone. If anything, you and your spouse now have the physical reminder of your love for one another, which is pretty special. 

Don’t worry if you’re not feeling up to it right away, or if you’re scared or frightened of the unexpected. First-time postpartum sex is like any other aspect of pregnancy in many ways. It can be unpredictable and uncertain, but still wonderful. You might not immediately feel like yourself in your new mom body, or be anxious or worried that taking time for yourself and your husband will disconnect you in some way from your baby. All of these are normal feelings, and like many things during postpartum recovery, they too shall pass.

Closing Thoughts

You aren’t the first mom to be anxious about having sex postpartum, and you likely won’t be the last. It can be awkward, painful, uncomfortable, and forever change the way you view your sex life, but think about all that you’re gaining. You’re not just having sex with the person you’re committed to, but the person who’s now the father of your child. With time, patience, and clear, frequent communication, your sex life as a mom will be just as if not more amazing and enjoyable than before.

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