- Healing time
During birth, a woman's vagina and perineum can get injured or even surgically cut (an episiotomy). For the new mother, this may cause some discomfort or even severe pain when having sex. There may also be other reasons why you don't want to have sex yet. Some women experience so-called post-partum depression after giving birth. The changing hormonal levels are like a roller-coaster ride for your body and may leave you feeling sad and depressed. That can have an impact on your sexual desire. Or you are just tired and burned out.
Some doctors advise a sex-free period of four to six weeks after giving birth. But don't take this as a magic number! You may feel ready earlier. Or not ready at all! Whatever the reasons may be: don't push it, give yourself and your body the time you need!
- Why is sex painful?
If sex is painful for you even after that recommended six-week sex pause, you’re not alone! About half the women described their sex lives as 'poor' or 'not very good' eight months after giving birth, a British study found. Problems you can have are vaginal dryness and irritation. There may also be some bleeding or discharge.
Women who had vaginal stitches or who are breastfeeding seem to have more pain while having sex. That's because breastfeeding changes your hormonal levels. Some of the hormones may decrease your sex drive even further. But whatever sensations you feel, listen to your body and ask your partner to be gentle and patient when you first try having sex again.
- Baby weight and stretch marks
Many women feel that they are less attractive after giving birth. They are worried that their partner will mind their stretch marks. Or they are worried about not yet having lost weight they gained over the past nine months.
Here are the facts: it can take several months for your uterus to shrink back to its original size, and your body has lots of fluids to lose. That takes time! It's normal to feel less attractive right after giving birth, but this should not keep you from showing your partner (and yourself!) some love. Try to take good care of your body, eat healthily and exercise whenever you feel up to it. And don't get frustrated: remember that it took you nine months to gain the weight (most women do) and it won't go away within a couple of days. Be patient!
- Low sexual desire and pain – what can you do?
If you don't feel you are up to sex, there are many other things you can to do to still feel loved and connected with your partner. Long cuddling sessions will not only feel very nice, but make you feel more attractive and wanted again. This is also good for your partner. You can be very creative and do whatever you feel like. Except one thing: a woman shouldn’t have oral sex done on her right after birth. There is a chance of infection so it should be avoided until all the tissue has healed properly.
Using creams or lubrication will get you over vaginal dryness and some discomfort. Regularly exercising your pelvic floor muscles during and after pregnancy may help limit pain during sex. To do this, you tense and relax your pelvic floor muscles often. It’s the same movement as stopping your urine mid-flow.
If you continue having problems and pain even after a few months, you need to talk to a health care provider. They may be able to help you get back to having a good sex life.
Read more about the pelvic floor
5. Sex and the new baby
Your baby will have an impact on your sex life as well! First of all, you and your partner will often feel exhausted after taking care of the baby and there will be sleepless nights too. Also, your partner might feel like all your attention is going to the baby – they can feel jealous or left out! Other men even feel bad about the pain they have caused their partner through childbirth and feel they can’t have sex again.
Whatever is true for your relationship, there is only one way to go: talk to your partner about it! Try to be honest. Allow yourselves to spend some time together as a couple, without the baby. Only then the two of you will find a solution that will make all of you happy.
And don't be afraid to show affection towards your partner in front of the baby (or child, as it gets older): research shows that this will help the child to understand what a healthy relationship is like!
This article was first published on 1st December, 2012.