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Postpartum sex is complex—often surprisingly so. As you start to think about sex after baby, a lot may come up for you. You may have physical and emotional concerns and, if you're partnered, thoughts about the way your relationship has evolved. And oh yeah—there's now a baby in the bassinet next to you.

One of the best ways to navigate this uncharted territory is to talk about it (preferably ahead of time). Here are 12 phrases to use when talking to your partner about postpartum sex.

(Remember: Sex should be enjoyable for everyone involved. It is not your duty or something you need to do to make someone else happy.)

1. "I am not ready."

Plain and simple: If you are not ready to have sex, it is entirely within your right to say so.

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2. "I am ready to try."

Postpartum sex may feel like an absolute no right now. Perhaps it is an "oh, heck, yes." But I would venture to say that for most women, it falls into the vast gray area in between: They're interested and like the idea of it, but they are also nervous and have some concerns.

Remember that starting to have sex does not mean that you have to complete the deed. It is perfectly fine to try it out slowly, and stop if you get to a point that feels uncomfortable (physically or emotionally). This leads us to the next phrase...

3. "I am in charge."

Declaring at the getgo that you are in charge means that you are the one who advances things, not the other way around. That way you can determine, step-by-step, what feels okay and where you need to draw the line. You won't need to worry that your partner will move too quickly, and your partner can relax knowing that they won't accidentally hurt you or make you uncomfortable.

4. "My midwife/doctor suggested that…"

If you are unsure about resuming sex, talk to your provider. They can give you the best advice for your specific scenario. They can also help you figure out the answer to the next question.

I also highly recommend seeking the guidance of a pelvic floor physical therapist, who can help you rehab the muscles and tissue in and around your pelvis. In many countries, they are a part of routine postpartum care. If you have any concerns about the health of your pelvis, ask your provider for a referral. The impact can be profound.

Things to look out for include:

  • Pain when sitting, with sex, or in general. This pain can be in the vagina or the surrounding area including your bottom, hips, or thighs
  • Incontinence, or loss of urine or stool when you don't mean to
  • Foul-smelling pus or drainage at the site of stitches

5. "What type of birth control are we going to use?"

If you are having vaginal sex with a man, there is a chance that you can become pregnant even if you haven't had your first period yet. Women ovulate before they have their period, so you may be fertile before you realize it.

The general recommendation is to wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again, to allow your body time to heal and be able to support another pregnancy. Certainly, you can talk with your provider about these recommendations and what makes the most sense for you.

Before having sex again, it's a good idea to have a contraceptive plan in place. You can check out our guide here: Birth control after baby: What's best for you?

6. "Tell me what your favorite part of intimacy with me is."

Communication is a huge part of the sexual experience. When you talk about intimacy with your partner, you may be surprised to learn what they feel about it. Perhaps their favorite thing isn't anything that you would have predicted.

7. "What are other ways besides sex we can capture that feeling?"

Once you have your answers from number six, consider other ways that the sentiment can be achieved that do not involve sex.

Maybe sex helps your partner feel connected to you. Would a romantic dinner (with no phones) do the trick for now?

Perhaps your partner adores your naked body. Taking a bath or shower together might be a great way to address that adoration, without needing to have sex.

And you know what? Maybe your partner is just really excited to have an orgasm, and for you to have one too. There are many other ways besides sex for that to happen.

8. "I am worried about ____."

Is there a specific concern on your mind? Consider sharing it with your partner so they can be attentive to your needs.

Are you worried about it hurting? Telling your partner this can be a reminder to go extra slow and to let you be in charge.

Are you adjusting to your new postpartum body and feeling unsure about sharing it with someone? Your partner may be able to share some pretty body-positive things they are thinking about you right now.

Are you weirded out by having sex with your baby in the bassinet next to you? Nothing says you can't do it in the living room, with a baby monitor by your side.

9. "Here is what I need to feel comfortable."

The mind-body connection is incredibly powerful and super important for sex. See if you can spend some time thinking about what will make your emotional self comfortable enough to enjoy sex. Once you have it, tell your partner.

Here are some ideas:

  • Time alone to do some serious self-care
  • Date night (in or out) where you can foster a deeper level of connection with each other
  • Compliments galore about your new postpartum body
  • A verbal agreement that your partner will let you set the pace and won't ask for certain things or touch certain areas of your body that you're not ready for

10. "I am not ready for ___, but I am ready for ___."

Sex is a broad word, with lots of (ahem, fun) options within it. You may be feeling kind of frisky, but not ready to have penetrative sex yet. That's okay! Think about what might feel good, and do that.

11. "Get the lube."

Understatement of the year alert: A lot has changed in your body. One of the pertinent changes related to your sex life is that you may experience some significant vaginal dryness—this is especially true if you are breastfeeding since the hormonal changes can decrease vaginal moisture.

This means that finding ways to increase your vaginal moisture is important for the reduction of pain, and the increase of pleasure! Finding a good quality lubrication is essential, as is foreplay.

12. "Get. Over. Here."

A lot of the previous phrases are great when you're feeling apprehensive. But what if you are READY?

Get it, girl.

As long as your provider has ensured that your body has healed enough for sex, if you are ready and excited, go for it, mama. You may find that parenthood is pretty darn sexy.

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In real life, postpartum mothers are just as likely to be wearing diapers as their babies are, and bumps need months to deflate.

That's why we're so grateful for the way celebrities are ditching damaging narratives about postpartum perfection and embracing the messy authenticity of new motherhood. Thanks to these modern mamas, the rest of us are seeing our own experiences reflected in pop culture, and that lets us know we're not alone.

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