Sex After A Birth Pt.2: What to Expect
In the first article in this series, Sex After A Birth Pt.1: Is It That Scary?, we covered many of the ways that healing after birth, during the postpartum period can get in the way of your sex life and that it is okay to set your own time frame even after physical recovery. In this article, we wanted to provide you some practices to reconnect with the sensuous nature of your body after giving birth once you feel ready, whether that be solo or with your partner. Exploration into stimulation also means learning new boundaries you may have acquired, so we also will tackle those real concerns.
What to do if I have pain during postpartum sex?
Pregnancy and childbirth, whether by vaginal delivery or C-section, have a profound impact on our bodies. Recovery can take longer than we think it will, and even after our doctor gives us the all-clear, we might still experience pain during sex. Being able to contract and relax the pelvic floor for instance helps make for pain-free vaginal penetration, optimizes the blood flow during sex to promote orgasm, and also helps to increase vaginal lubrication. We recommend working with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, Sexological Bodyworker, or a Holistic Pelvic Care provider. They’ll provide you with exercises and guidance to aid your recovery.
Am I worried that my partner wants to have sex?
A lot of new birthing parents and mothers feel rushed back into sex. The common 6-week time frame might not seem long enough when you have actually gone through the experience of pushing a baby through your vagina, or are recovering from the intense abdominal surgery that is a c-section. Adding to that, the pressure from partners or the okay from medical professionals can sometimes feel like they contradict our own timeline for healing.
If you aren’t ready but your partner is, reassure them that you’re not pushing them away. This is just a temporary situation while you get your head around the demands of a small human. It can take time for your body to recover from the birth. You should never feel under pressure to do anything you are not 100% ready for. It might sound like a cliché but communication and a mutual understanding of each other's needs can help keep a loving relationship alive. You might also want to remind your partner that your focus on your baby doesn’t take away from your love for them. That you’re not pushing them away. This level of vulnerability will help your partner truly understand what you are going through and what you are available for, and you for them.
There’s no right or wrong time to start having sex again after you have had a baby. Don’t rush into it. If sex hurts, it won’t be pleasurable.
Have I thought about contraception?
Very important information: you can get pregnant soon after the birth of your baby. This can happen even if you are breastfeeding and your periods haven’t reappeared. So make sure you look into your options for contraception and discuss it with your health visitor, midwife, GP or contraception clinic.
Why am I still bleeding after birth?
Postpartum bleeding, also called lochia, is a normal part of recovery, whether you delivered vaginally or had a C-section. Bleeding is how your body gets rid of the extra blood, mucus and tissue it needed during pregnancy. While heavier bleeding typically tapers off after 10 days, you may continue to experience spotting up to six weeks after delivery. You might also experience postpartum bleeding after having sex due to related symptoms such as vaginal dryness. Give it time, and bleeding should subside, but always check in with your practitioner to be safe. That's especially true if bleeding persists past six weeks, or if you have signs of an infection or another more serious condition (such as a very heavy flow, passing very large blood clots, lochia with a foul smell, or you feel dizzy, nauseous or have a fever or chills).
How to ease back into sex after having a baby
- Non-sexual touch. One of the most important ways you can connect with your partner and understand their needs is through non-sexual touch. A lot of new parents have the experience of feeling “touched out”, so connecting through loving touch that feels giving and nourishing, instead of touching from a place of serving a sexual need, will go a really long way. Examples: giving or receiving a massage, hugging or cuddling without expectation that it will go any further, and even holding hands. This type of touch should feel comforting to you both, and set your mind and body at ease - without any expectation. This gives your bodies a chance to co-regulate and feel connected, without the added pressure that “things need to go further” – which can make sex start to feel like a chore.
- Give them permission to masturbate as much as they need. We all have sexual needs, and in general, we should be responsible for meeting our own needs, and then coming to our partner with our desire – not with the expectation that they have to be ready when we are, or fulfill our needs. That said, the postpartum period is often a very sensitive time to find the space and energy to connect sexually, so giving your partner the full permission they need to masturbate and explore sexual pleasure with themselves is a gift. If they know you won’t respond negatively if they watch porn, or read erotica, or spend some extra time in the bathroom or bed to care for themselves in this way, it is likely that there will be less pressure on both of you – and therefore you get to connect with each other based solely on your desire for each other, which is always way sexier.
- Orgasmic meditation. is a unique wellness practice that combines mindfulness, touching, and pleasure. For the uninitiated, it’s a partnered experience of stroking around the clitoris for 15 minutes, with only one goal: let go and feel. OM is a meditation in connection. We’re often in the habit of giving and receiving at the same time. To be able to sit in the moment and take in pleasure without having to give can be a huge gift, and especially for new parents, a huge relief.
- Take turns giving each other pleasure. Not all intimacy has to lead to penetrative sex. In fact, it may take some time before you feel ready for penetrative sex after having a baby. The body changes. Everything can feel different. Playing with the idea of giving and receiving pleasure at different times can really nourish your intimate connection, and create more room for creativity. This can also be an invitation for both of you to ask for what you are wanting more of.
- Positions. A great Ariana Grande song, yes, but aside from the bop it is something that takes time to find which ones feel good. Your body may not feel the same now, but in this new phase there is a given opportunity for experimentation. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to perform like you used to before having a child. Being patient and trying out different positions are part of the process in learning what your body can and can't handle in the postpartum phase.
Prompt: Do you feel that waiting six weeks postpartum for sex is enough for you?