Our bodies and minds go through quite a bit during pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period.
Yes, pregnancy and birth are natural and beautiful, but we need time to heal.
We also need time to reconnect with ourselves—our postpartum bodies and our new identities as mothers—before we are able to connect sexually with our partner again.
So don't worry if you're not all there yet. Dr. Amy Gilliland (aka Dr. Amy), an AASECT-certified sexuality educator and doula, says that it's completely normal to “need time alone first before you're going to be interested in any sexual activity." And we get it.
Maybe you've gotten the all-clear from your doctor or midwife at the six-week checkup. Your birth control situation is on lockdown. You've been feeling frisky. You've got your partner alone in a room, and you're ready to go.
Or perhaps you're still not quite ready. Perhaps your vagina still needs more time to heal. Maybe you're feeling self-conscious about your postpartum body, or over-touched by baby, or exhausted, or unsure, or any complex tumble of emotions that you are totally entitled to feel.
Our birth experience and our sexual identity afterward are most definitely connected, Dr. Amy explains in an interview. So this first time back in the (ahem) saddle can be complicated for some women.
Here are 3 important takeaways about having sex after giving birth that we learned from Dr. Amy:
1. Your birth experience affects your sex life.
Dr. Amy explains that data suggests that if you have a pretty straightforward birth, you are likely to get back to sexual activities sooner than if you had any complications. When a delivery includes a vacuum, forceps or an unplanned cesarean, it often takes couples a bit longer to get back to sexual activities.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests waiting at least four to six weeks postpartum before you start having sexual intercourse. But for some it may be longer, and that is perfectly fine.
Dr. Amy says, “Data shows that men are often happy with the cuddling and emotional intimacy at this stage, and people put a lot of pressure on themselves [to get back into sex] due to preconceived notions." So don't force it just because your OB-GYN gave you the physical all-clear.
And remember when it's your first time attempting intercourse after baby: Take it slow, use lubrication, try new positions if needed and communicate more than usual with your partner. If you feel pain, talk to your doctor.
And if you feel pleasure, thank your partner.
Long story short: Go with the timing that works for you. There is no rush, and it's OK if you need more time to heal mentally or emotionally.
2. Talk it out with your partner.
Are you feeling ready? Is he? First and foremost, communication is key. Talk to each other.
Ask each other: Are you ready for sex? Yes/no/maybe?
No is a no. Yes is a yes.
With a maybe, if both participants would like to explore that maybe, then great! Try some kissing, touching, gentle massage or full-blown make-out.
Has the maybe turned into a yes? Then go for it. Putting in that 10 to 15 minutes of time to focus on one another can create desire, which is what partners are often hungry for, Dr. Amy says.
If that maybe turns into a no after those 10 to 15 minutes, then that's okay too—always respect your partner's needs and boundaries.
3. Stop putting pressure on yourselves + enjoy the process.
We're talking about sex here! It's fun. If it's still too much or too scary, take your time and talk with your partner. Trust the process and stop putting pressure on yourself.
“Enjoy where you are. Try smaller things. Focus on what gives you both pleasure," Dr. Amy says. “We're so intercourse-focused, yet most people really need the emotional closeness first: going out for a nice meal, holding hands, etc."
So take the time to reconnect with each other outside the bedroom. It can be tough as new parents, we know. But try your best to fit in small things every day, like a long good-morning kiss, coffee in bed or simply asking your partner how they are doing—and really listening.