SEX SEX SEX! Ok, now that we have the giggles out of our system, I would like to engage candidly about the five lies I believed about postpartum sex. Before I got pregnant and throughout my pregnancy, I had a healthy relationship with sex and intimacy, both personally and in my relationship with my partner.
Because of the solid foundation we had in and outside of the bedroom, I believed we would be immune to the struggles we had heard some couples have after bringing a baby home from the hospital.
Let me explain the five lies I believed about postpartum sex.
I might be too eager to wait 6 weeks
There was never a time in my marriage that six weeks would have passed before engaging in intimacy. During my discharge education from the hospital after delivering my baby, the nurse instructed my husband and I that penetration would be off limits until my six-week appointment when I met with my OB-GYN to get the "all clear". I already knew about the six-weeks rule and had a hard time understanding how I would be able to go six weeks without sex. Sex is part of a healthy relationship and it was something I enjoyed—we probably wouldn't wait the six weeks, I thought to myself. Boy, was I wrong! The only thing I was desperately eager for postpartum was sleep, and the only thing I wanted near my mouth were unlimited calories and water to satiate my breastfeeding hunger.
My body would be healed and ready at 6 weeks.
Ah, the magic six week mark—the milestone where my vagina is healed, my organs have returned to their natural resting place, and I am myself again, right? Wrong! This might be one of the greatest wive's tales of all time. The best piece of advice I was given postpartum was "don't take a mirror down there." Well, I did. I still had stitches that hadn't dissolved completely at six weeks. It still stung when I urinated at six weeks. I still had my Tuck's pads on the back of the toilet at six weeks.
To put the cherry on top, during my six-week appointment, my OB-GYN told me that my body wouldn't start to look and feel back to normal for about 6-12 months. "And you're cleared for sex!" she ended the visit with a smile on her face like I'd be relieved. My body was not healed and ready at 6 weeks. In fact, I went on to deal with three infections in the weeks that followed before we ever had sex. Suddenly, I realized why I read that women lie to their husbands after their six week appointment that they didn't get the "all clear".
It would be as good as it was before I was pregnant (but maybe not as good as it was when I was pregnant)
Before I got pregnant or delivered the baby, I can confidently say that I had an enjoyable sex life. I was reaching that prime time in my life as a woman in her 30s who had finally figured out that sex was meant to be good for women and started to speak up to get that. I thought after I had the baby that my sex life would return to its pre-baby normalcy. If I'm being frank, I knew it might never be as good as it was during pregnancy, because that's just in its own class. After I finally got over all of the postpartum infections, not only was sex unenjoyable, it was actually pretty painful. This persisted for several months and I had started coming to terms with the fact it may be like this forever.
I would feel the same desire I felt before I got pregnant and delivered a baby.
What is sexier than the man you love more than anything becoming a father and watching him love and care for your new baby? I believed that the desire I had for my partner was unwavering. As it turns out, as a new mom, plenty of things were sexier than my husband: eating, sleeping, showering, the prospect of getting off the couch without my crotch lighting on fire. Even if I had all of those things, the resentment I felt for him had swallowed me whole in those early months of late night wake ups and feedings. Good communication and honesty saw us through those days but it was a real hindrance that suffocated that desire.
Breastfeeding would not have any impact on my sex life.
Oh, the things they don't teach you in the breastfeeding course you take before delivery! I can't say that if I knew then what I know now that I wouldn't have breastfed, but I certainly would have felt more prepared. I had no idea how breastfeeding would impact so many different parts of my body. The only thing I was told about breastfeeding and postpartum sex was that I would spray milk during an orgasm. Who was having orgasms postpartum? In those early months, breastfeeding would make me really tired after I would latch the baby. The hormones did a good job at moderating my emotions in the beginning, but that changed again as the baby stopped eating as frequently, leading to mood swings. After doing my own research, I realized the root of the painful intercourse I continued experiencing was likely due to low estrogen levels because of breastfeeding. It wasn't until my baby was about 10 months old that I had intercourse that wasn't at least uncomfortable.
A lot of the things that shaped my experience with postpartum sex were out of my control; but if I have learned anything in the year following the birth of my son it is that patience, time and honest communication make difficult things a little easier to bear. Reach out and seek care from your OB-GYN, a pelvic floor physical therapist, or a counselor for the things that need professional attention. Reach out and seek care from your partner and those trusted people in your circle who can help you care for you. Don't wait. If you find yourself doubting it will ever get better, know that's also a lie—it will.