Wincing at the thought of doing the deed? It's all good.
You’ve just pushed something the size of a watermelon out of your vagina, you’re sleep deprived, still healing and you’re pretty certain your nether regions aren’t ever going to be the same again. Yeah, chances are, after just having had a baby, sex is the last thing on your mind.
First time mum Lisa, 32, explains the struggle. “To be honest, I felt a lot of pressure from my partner to have sex again after we had our baby girl, but I really didn’t want to,” she tells me. “It wasn’t because of physical issues – I was in size 8 jeans a week after she was born and had no tears or other complications – I just had absolutely no libido. And I breast fed so I had my daughter hanging off me a lot, and when she was asleep I craved my own personal space. If I’m being completely truthful, the last thing I wanted was a man lying on me.
“Oddly,” Lisa adds, “I was experiencing this crazy love for our daughter too, to the point that she was all I wanted. I wanted her near me always and hated sleeping apart from her because I was worried, and naturally that caused some disruption to our sex life.”
As it does for many couples, Lisa says the change in circumstances resulted in some tension.
The lack of sex drove my partner mad initially, and we had a lot of fights. He was worried I was losing interest in him, but that wasn’t the case at all. I still enjoyed intimacy and wanted cuddles and stuff; I just wasn’t in the mood for sex, and we didn’t really get back on track until she was about one and a half/two, around the time when I stopped breastfeeding.
I ask Sarah Swofford, author of From Ouch To Ahhh: The New Mom’s Guide To Sex After Baby, how to ease the transition.“The good thing about sexual challenges after baby is that it can be a wonderful opportunity for couples to think outside their routines to feel sexually connected,” she tells me. “There should be lots of sexual play before intercourse is even attempted: touches, caresses, oral pleasure, and I really encourage new moms to give themselves the time and space to explore masturbation as a way of reacquainting themselves with sexual pleasure too.”
Why so? “It’s a wonderful, no-pressure way to wake up nerve endings that may not have been stimulated in a while, to get a feel for what has changed, what feels good, and what doesn’t,” Sarah explains. “Then you can communicate these things with your partner.”
If you’re really not ready, Sarah suggests that couples practice non-physical intimacy together; things like talking, drinking a glass of wine together and sharing thoughts and feelings, or reading an erotic book or story together, she encourages.
The important thing is communicating your desires and what feels good. If touches feel good, but intercourse does not, tell your partner! It may feel intimidating, but practicing open sexual communication during challenging times like after you’ve had a baby will be skills you can use throughout your relationship.
As for your first time back in the sack? “Take it slow!” Sarah warns. “Use lots of lubrication because lower estrogen levels postpartum can cause vaginal dryness. Communicate what feels good and what doesn’t. Your body is different and will feel different than it did before baby and pregnancy,” Sarah points out. “Be playful and flexible and get to know your new normal.”
Ultimately, communication is key. “A healthy relationship is one where your needs can be expressed and honoured,” Sarah surmises. “If a mum is not ready for sex, she should not have sex, and communicating about it will help both partners feel understood. It can be easy for the partner of a new mum to feel left out, but honouring those feelings as well, without having to have sex she doesn’t feel up to, builds the type of intimacy that is key to healthy relationships.”