Sex

Sex After Baby: A Guide to Comfortable Postpartum Sex

Written by Jillian Wood, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

When your provider gives you the go ahead for sex after baby (usually around six weeks and when postpartum bleeding has stopped), does that mean that you should feel ready? Nope. We want you to decide on your own watch. Your birth story, amount of healing, fatigue level, emotional readiness, or even just finding the time, all play a part. 

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Maybe you’ve been counting down the days until you can jump in the sack with your person again. But, that day is here and… I’m not ready!

Maybe your indefinite plan is to never have sex again… I just pushed out a human, thank you very much!

Getting back in the groove can take time and it is normal normal normal to have fears and reservations. 

What’s the hold up?

Here’s what other moms are saying:

“I’m scared that it will hurt.”

At first, I can’t promise you that it won’t be different. If you feel uncomfortable, listen to your body. You may have to stop before you’ve even begun and that is OK! Give yourself permission to just try again another day. Or, slow it down and spend some time with foreplay. Remember the lubrication. Hormonal changes in your body can lead to vaginal dryness, especially when breastfeeding. Take a minute to breathe and consciously relax your body from head-to-toe feeling that last bit of tension release. It may take patience and encouragement to convince your muscles and tissue to stretch. 

“I’m not feeling sexy.”

You’ve started viewing yourself as a milk-making-mom-machine. I promise you, your partner still thinks you’re sexy. Your body feels soft and your breasts are leaking. I promise you, your partner still thinks you’re sexy. To boost the mood, give each other a little massage with some awesome body oil. Sneak away while baby has a full belly and a fresh diaper. Or, try sex first thing in the morning after you’ve both had a few hours of consecutive sleep. If you’re worried about breastmilk mishaps, put on a supportive bra (maybe two) and tuck in a couple breast pads. Or just throw it out there, Hey honey, if my milk lets down, I may want to take a commercial break. 

“Reaching orgasm is impossible.”

Postpartum orgasm can be difficult to achieve. Inability to orgasm can be due to low pelvic tone, hormone changes, fatigue, stress, or all of the above. Psst (I’ll just set this right here)… researchers conclude that anywhere between 40-80% of women need direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. So, there’s that. To improve your pelvic tone, basic kegel exercise is a good place to start. For the sake of simplicity, be like Nike and Just Do It. When you find a few minutes of down time (in the shower, staring at the coffee pot, waiting in the car for 30 minutes in the parent-pickup line at preschool) alternate quick and slow pumps (try to hold for 10 seconds) ideally three times a day. You can’t screw this up. Don’t forget to contract the rectum as well. It can only help. 

Some women have to work quite hard to restore pelvic tone. If you are concerned about your difficulty with kegel exercise, incontinence, or inability to orgasm, call the birth center. Your body may need more than simple home exercises and some women benefit from the help of a physical therapist. 

7 Quick Tips for Comfortable Postpartum Sex:

  1. Share your fears and what you’re excited about. Maybe your partner is even worried about hurting you. Talk more about it. When that time comes, it will be more fun and less scary.
  2. What’s your birth control/family planning story? There will be time to talk options at the 6-week postpartum checkup.
  3. Put the lubrication at the bedside. Coconut oil is a perfect semi-solid natural option. If you’re using a condom, choose a water-soluble option instead. 
  4. Communicate your needs. Is one position more comfortable than another? Do you need to stop or slow it down? Tell your partner; It will build trust and be better for everyone. 
  5. Penetration isn’t recommended until after 6 weeks. This is due to increased risk of infection and the need for healing. But, if you are feeling sexual and it feels good, find your orgasm in other ways. 
  6. Remember that it will get easier. It will get better.
  7. Nothing embarrasses your midwife. If you are having problems in the bedroom, we hope that you won’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

Let’s Talk about Sex! (..During Pregnancy)

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It is not uncommon to feel apprehensive about having sex during pregnancy. Common worries we hear from both mom and partner include: if it will hurt or be uncomfortable, that it will hurt your baby, that your baby is watching or that it will cause uterine contractions that could lead to a miscarriage or preterm labor. With all the care and caution you take to care for your body and your unborn baby, it is, of course, natural to have these feelings and reservations. The good news, though, is that for the majority of women with healthy, normal pregnancies, sex is perfectly safe. Here’s everything you need to know about sex during pregnancy.

It’s Usually Safe:

Despite the fears that you or your partner might have, for the majority of women with a healthy, normal pregnancy, sex is perfectly safe. Fortunately, baby is well protected in the uterus by amniotic fluid and the mucus plug which securely separates the two. While many women are concerned about orgasms causing uterine contractions that could lead to a miscarriage or preterm labor, this is highly unlikely in a healthy pregnancy. Most miscarriages are caused by a fetal abnormality that does not allow the fetus to develop properly and preterm labor is usually not a concern unless you have certain, predetermined conditions. Although you may experience mild uterine contractions after an orgasm, they should not harm your baby at all. 

Your Baby is Not Watching:

Despite dad’s worries that baby might be ‘watching’ or that he might ‘poke him in the head’, again, baby is safe and secure in the uterus, separated not only by the amniotic fluid but a secure mucus plug which will not be released until you are in labor. Your baby will have no awareness of your intimate acts beyond possibly enjoying the rocking motion from his cozy, safe cocoon. 

It Might Be Different:

Many things about sex, starting with your drive, might be different during pregnancy. You might find that you are more interested or not at all interested, or it may wax and wane with the progression of your pregnancy and the fluctuation of your hormones. With the nausea and exhaustion associated with the first trimester, you might find that sex is the last thing on your mind while the reprieve from discomfort often experienced in the second trimester might have you desiring it more. Hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can be experienced by each woman differently so don’t be alarmed if you notice a change in your desire, one way or another. You may also find that you are able to climax more easily due to the increased blood flow to your genital region. 

In addition to your sex drive, you may find that certain positions are less comfortable with your growing belly while others are easier. Typically, opting for positions that do not put pressure on the belly or have the woman lying flat on her back for long periods of time are the safest bet. It’s also best to avoid anal sex while pregnant due to the potential for bacteria transfer and infection. Should you be sexually active with multiple partners during your pregnancy or have a partner with an active infection, it is imperative that you use protection to prevent contracting an STD. STDs can be dangerous for not only you, but your unborn baby as well. 

There Are Some Circumstances that May Make it Unsafe:

While sex during pregnancy is safe for most, there are some circumstances in which your doctor or midwife may advise against it. These may include if you:

  • Have an incompetent cervix
  • Have a history of repeat miscarriages 
  • Have a history of preterm labor
  • Have placenta previa
  • Are pregnant with multiples
  • Are high risk for a variety of other reasons
  • Have a history of pregnancy complications
  • Have bleeding or have been placed on pelvic rest.

If you have concerns about your pregnancy or feel that sex during pregnancy may be unsafe for you, speak to your doctor or midwife who can advise you on the best options for you and your partner.

You Don’t Have to Do It:

Pregnant Couple Intimate

Between sore breasts, your growing belly, nausea, frequent urination and general fatigue, it’s not uncommon to feel disinterested in sex. And that is okay! Your body is undergoing so many physical and hormonal changes and it’s perfectly okay to forego sexual activity when you’re not feeling up to it. 

Communicate your needs to your partner and allow them to do the same. Find alternatives to sex such as kissing, cuddling or massage. There are many ways to connect that don’t involve sex if you are not physically or emotionally up for it during pregnancy. 

When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife:

Although some cramping and spotting after sex during pregnancy can be normal, excessive bleeding or painful cramping may be cause for concern. Call your doctor or midwife or go to the ER if you are experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding, severe cramping or you are leaking amniotic fluid. Medical attention may be required. 

For questions about sex during pregnancy, natural birth, prenatal or postnatal care or other women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.