Your OB or midwife just cleared you for sex……now what??
Returning to sex postpartum is usually an anxiety inducing event for many mothers and is often a topic of conversation with my clients. There are many common components involved in this anxiety including (but not limited to):
- Fear it will hurt
- Exhaustion/Sleep Deprivation
- No time without baby attached to mom or close by
- Decreased confidence in her body’s appearance
- Worry that partner won’t find her attractive anymore
- Disconnect from her physical body
- Hard time thinking of self as sexual being since giving birth
- Unresolved birth trauma
All of these components are real and valid. I have personally experienced most of these after the birth of both of my babies.
What is also true is that we all are sexual beings at our core and that returning to sex is not only good for our relationship, but it is also really good for our own selves. Returning to sex helps us reconnect to our new bodies and remember that our body is also for the purpose of pleasure, not just to feed, hold, cuddle and soothe a baby. Now 6 weeks might sound way to early for you, which is fine!! 6 weeks is commonly too early for many women. I do encourage my clients to start giving intercourse a try if they haven’t yet by 6 months postpartum since it can take some time and practice for it to get good again and good sex is a good thing……even if its very infrequent!
So how do you get started?
My recommendations to my clients is to start slow……like really slow. It’s common to think that once we are cleared for sex that we must do just that…have penetrative intercourse. But we commonly forget about all the yummy things that can and should happen before intercourse. And many of those things are not only pleasurable, but they also help reconnect you to your own body and reconnect you with your partner.
It is always a good idea to have an honest conversation with your partner and explain how you are feeling……..talk about how you need to start out slow, without any pressure to have to go “all the way”. Many women feel pressured to have sex because they feel that their partner needs it but the more we can talk openly about our concerns around returning to sex, the more our partner can be on the same page with us and respect what we need to work towards the common goal.
Many of my clients are relieved when I remind them that they can start “messing around” with their partner without intercourse even being on the table yet. Without the main event being the goal, the pressure is off and then pleasure and connection can start to organically develop.
I also recommend finding some time to explore your body on your own. Most of my post vaginal birth clients tell me they don’t recognize their vulva anymore or they haven’t looked yet. This is your new body so take a look and get to know it. Yes, it looks different but it can still bring you the same pleasure! For women who are worried about pain, it can ease your concerns if you explore penetration with your own fingers or sex toys by yourself (or with your partner) to find out what the sensations are like before your partner is in control of the penetration. Be curious about this new body of yours!
And when you are ready to start having penetrative intercourse again here are some tips:
- Lots of lube: postpartum hormones will keep vaginal tissue drier
Some suggestions: Coconut Oil (not with condoms), Isabel Faye (my favorite), Sliquid Organics, Good Clean Love. Stay away from KY & Astroglide because they kill the good vaginal bacteria. For more information about lube, read this great article by the Pelvic Health & Rehab Center.
- Go slow
- You are in charge of speed, depth and when it stops
- Positions where your legs are closer together will have less strain on pelvic floor and vulvar tissue.
- Orgasm prior to penetration produces feel good hormones and lubrication that will help the ease penetration.
It’s normal for intercourse to be uncomfortable the first few times but every time it should get better and better. If you have been having penetrative sex for a couple months and there is still pain, it’s time to see a pelvic floor physical therapist to find out the cause of the pain and get it treated so that pain is not a hurdle to your sex life……..because don’t you have enough things getting in the way already?