You know how it goes…you used to love sex, you used to feel sexy, but now? You sleep in a bra stuffed with nursing pads, and slap your partner’s hand away when he or she leans in for a hug.
You are in awe of what your body has gone through to birth this delicious baby you now seem to be entirely responsible for, and yet you don’t recognize yourself when you look in the mirror.
Your breast identity is also in upheaval. Are breasts for feeding? For pleasure? For both? For neither?
Your body is a whirling, swirling elixir of postpartum hormones and exhaustion, coupled with the never-ending needs of a tiny infant. You are simultaneously experiencing the most intense identity change you will ever have. And your friends think they are multitasking?
You wonder if something is wrong with you because your sexual libido seems to be hibernating. Or is it actually gone for good? You worry about the consequences on your relationship. And anyhow, when are you supposed to have sex? The baby doesn’t sleep…plus, you are oh-so-tired.
Take a deep breath, it gets better. I promise. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about sex.
First, let’s get the seemingly non-sexual stuff that actually seriously affects your sex life out of the way.
- Girl, you are fine. As in “hot” and “beautiful” and also, “you are going to be okay.” Just know that all new moms think something is wrong with them at some point or another. You and your worries are completely normal.
- Ask your partner for reassurance and support. And then find ways to mutually do this for one another. Your bond will deepen and grow. This helps during times when intimacy challenges seem insurmountable.
- Remember, this intensity is temporary. You know what they say about parenting: the years are short but the days are long. This is especially true when you are raising a baby (which happens to be one of the toughest times on couples). So, hang in there.
- Because eventually you will get to spend time with your partner again and you will get your libido back. It just takes time. Every sexual relationship has ebbs and flows and the time after having a baby is a pretty universally low-sex to no-sex time.
- Give yourself a break. Really. Don’t take care of everything and everyone but yourself. Ask for help often. Do things that are just for you, that make you feel good. Alternately, don’t do things that you aren’t up for, including sex.
Now, for the sex stuff that also affects your sex life.
- Forget the six week mark. That’s a barometer of when it is physically safe for your body to resume intercourse. In reality, you are really off the hook for as long as it takes. No new mom should be having sex she isn’t ready for. Truly.
- Talk with your partner. Be clear about what feels good and what doesn’t. Share your insecurities and fears and yes—even your lack of desire. When you share why you don’t want to have sex it is easier for your partner to understand that it is circumstantial (exhaustion, baby, etc…) and not because you don’t love or desire your partner.
- Take your time, do what is pleasurable, and take it slowly. Start with yourself and your own pleasure. (Because, that’s right, who birthed that baby? You did!)
- Invest in a vibrator you can use for stimulation before you try vaginal penetration. Also, find a lubricant you love and use it generously since new mama hormonal changes can cause vaginal dryness. (For some great options, check out these fantastic Portland stores: She Bop and Adam & Eve.)
- Masturbate as a way to reacquaint yourself with your postpartum genitalia before you engage in sexual play with your partner.
- Finally, remember there is no wrong way to getting back to intimacy after having a baby so long as you are easy on yourself, patient, and creative. Parenting requires us to be on our toes, so think outside the box about intimacy too. And have fun.
Sarah J. Swofford, MPH, is a sex educator and mom of two who lives in Oregon. Her journey to reclaim her sex life (and her own identity) after babies included writing a sex book, From Ouch! To Ahhh…The New Mom’s Guide to Sex After Baby and playing roller derby with her team, the Flat Track Furies. She teaches workshops, is a sex coach for moms, and writes about sex and relationships at sarahjswofford.com.