Easing Back into Sex Postpartum
When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I truly believed that our lives would go on virtually unchanged after the baby arrived. That's the kind of parents we were going to be - we'd both continue to work and pursue our interests, keep the same hours, teach our kids to entertain themselves, and make plenty of time to make time. We even planned a trip to Iceland two months after my due date, but, fortunately, didn't go so far as to buy the plane tickets. Sixteen years later, I still have the Iceland guidebook sitting on my shelf. I like looking at it and remembering our travel-filled lives before having kids.
I had a good friend who was pregnant at the same time and we talked a lot about how we were going to maintain our sex lives and romantic relationships with our husbands. I remember bemoaning the fact that our doctors advised not having sex sooner than six weeks postpartum. But it ended up being many, many months after my son arrived before my husband and I had sex again, and even once we got over the initial hurdle, we never got back to it with the same frequency.
As a new article from Today's Parent* explains, a woman's body and brain are subject to many changes after childbirth, and not just those resulting from the birth itself. Postpartum considerations include:
Hormonal Changes The hormones that sustain a pregnancy can plummet after birth, resulting in physical changes and mood fluctuations. Breastfeeding, too, involves a lot of hormonal flux. A woman's hormone levels have a lot to do with her libido, not to mention levels of lubrication and other bodily responses to sex.
Fatigue Having an infant is no joke. You're up half the night, or subject to fitful, interrupted sleep, and nothing kills the libido like exhaustion.
Pain or Injury Whether you've had a C-section, episiotomy, long labor or even a relatively easy birth, your body is under duress during labor and can sustain pain or injury afterwards. Doctors typically recommend abstaining from intercourse for six weeks after childbirth, but it can be longer if you have a lot of stitches or lingering injuries to the pelvic floor.
Changes in Self-Perception Pregnancy and postpartum involve changes in weight and breast volume, most obviously, but also other subtle changes to get used to. Also, the addition of a baby as a virtual appendage can change your relationship to cuddling with your partner. At the end of the day you might be craving physical space.
Anything getting in the way or your sex life is worth bringing up with a doctor - especially anything involving pain during intercourse - but these postpartum changes are normal and most of them not permanent. My husband and I have yet to make it to Iceland, but we still plan to go one day. I suppose I should pick up a new guidebook, though.