Resuming sex after birth often comes with some frustrating issues, and it may feel like you’ll never bounce back to active sex. While you should first get the green light from your doctor and take things slow, here are 5 issues often experienced and what to do…
1. Sex is painful. If your doctor already gave you the green light, usually 6 weeks after birth, and you experience this, post-pregnancy hormonal changes which often fuel vaginal dryness may be responsible. If you are nursing, breastfeeding may also reduce vaginal lubrication, causing pain during penetration. It’s also possible your vaginal area is still sore following the rigours of childbirth.
While you should talk to your gynaecologist for further advice, let your spouse know what you are experiencing, so he can tread as gently as possible. Also, use water-based lubricants. However, if you observe pain comes from your vaginal tear, c-section or episiotomy stitches, it’s best to stop intercourse for now and try again after a week or two.
2. You just don’t feel like it. It’s been over 6 weeks you gave birth and your spouse is eager to get under the sheets with you but you just don’t feel like it, despite that your stitches have healed and you are no longer sore. This is normal, as your body is still going through a whole lot – your womb linings are healing, your uterus is shrinking and you’re likely fatigued and overwhelmed by the demands of caring for a newborn. If you are breastfeeding, the hormones that aid that can also decrease your sex drive.
It’s best to just take things easy, tell your spouse how you feel to erase thoughts you don’t feel attracted to him and get intimate in other ways besides intercourse in the meantime. Seeking counselling with your spouse also helps.
3. Leaky and tender breasts. It’s also common for breast milk to leak and get splashed all over your spouse and sheets while in the act, especially when you have an orgasm or your breasts are stimulated. This is because the hormone oxytocin which is associated with milk letdown also aids sexual excitement. The leakage may be embarrassing for you and a turn off for your spouse.
To deal with this problem, pump your breast milk or breastfeed baby immediately before sex to relieve fullness as much as possible. You should also consider wearing a tank top or nursing bra during sex if you’re worried about leakage or tenderness. You should perhaps also ask your spouse to skip caressing your breasts for now if your letdowns are a turn off or constant nursing and pumping make them feel so tender, you just don’t want to be touched there.
4. Sex no longer feels the same. This is thanks to all the stretching your pelvic muscles recently underwent to make way for baby’s exit. You can help those muscles get back in shape sooner by doing Kegel exercises. See how here.
5. You feel less sexy and so self-conscious. Your once flat belly is yet to return to its pre-pregnancy size. Add that to your baby fat, the stretch marks and so on, it’s normal you may not feel as sexy as before and worry your spouse may find you less attractive.
However, beating this feeling largely depends on you. Embrace your new body, exercise, set realistic goals to bounce back, invest in a sexy lingerie and pamper yourself. Anything that will flatter your body and make you feel good about yourself will boost your confidence.
Note that whether you had a C-section or vaginal birth, preferably, you should hold off until your postpartum vaginal discharge or bleeding abates as having sex before that puts you at risk of infection.
In addition, though waiting 6 weeks post-baby is usually recommended, whether you can resume sex depends on your overall emotional and physical state as resuming too soon can disrupt your postpartum recovery process.