Lets Talk About Sex – Considerations for Intimacy in the Postpartum Period

You’ve made it to your 6 week check up. Somehow, with sore nipples, a handful of showers, and more diapers than you ever thought possible, you have made it. You may be feeling an array of emotions – excitement at being cleared for intimacy, dread at being cleared for intimacy, even a mixture of both.

Your partner, on the other hand is definitely excited. It’s like the one doctor’s appointment (aside from maybe ultrasounds and the birth) that they’ve got in their calendar.

So what happens after you go and get cleared? Do you go home and do the deed that night? Get it over with, kind of like that first poop after delivery – you know you’ve gotta do it, you’re scared to death, but you know its gonna feel good in the end.

Yup. Just compared sex to poop.

Or maybe you are psyched. Maybe you run home, throw that kid in their safe sleeping space and get to it.

Maybe you are somewhere in the middle. Cautiously optimistic but not quite feeling it yet.

Let me tell you, all of these reactions are normal. Its normal to have no interest, its normal to be nervous, its normal to be excited. To those of you that regained your post baby libido early on – this piece isn’t necessarily for you. You are fabulous and normal and living your best life so get off the internet go get it on! Or do something nice for yourself. Or whatever.

All my other ladies out there who are feeling anything but excited – let’s talk for a bit.

There are a lot of factors that go into libido post baby. I’m going to try to break it down for you here to help you understand what may be impacting yours as well as ways to help your partner to understand what is going on for you.

Let’s start with physical factors. Ok. So your doctor does a pelvic exam at 6 weeks and tells you you are good to go. But things still don’t feel right down there. Maybe things are sore, maybe there is numbness, maybe you are drier than toast. So why did your doctor say you were good to go if you don’t feel it?

There are some really good reasons for this. Your doctor or midwife has an amazing function. They are bringing your baby safely into this world and hopefully making sure you are safe and recovering in the time immediately following. When they do their pelvic exam, however, they are checking your cervix as well as checking stitches, if you had any. The speculum that they use to check your cervix pushes your vaginal walls, and thus your pelvic floor muscles, off to the side. Unless you have some serious prolapse going on, chances are they aren’t noticing it.

I had a pelvic floor physical therapist tell me that peeing when you sneeze is common after children but its not normal.

Thats right ladies, let that sink in.

That same PT also told me that if she could get her hands on every postpartum woman who has delivered babies multiple times then panty liner sales would seriously suffer.

So back to the pelvic floor. A weakened or strained pelvic floor can impact the way that sex feels. Even if you have not had a vaginal delivery, you could still have pelvic floor dysfunction from the weight of carrying the child. I am not a physical therapist nor a doctor, but I can tell you that if you aren’t physically feeling good you probably aren’t feeling too sexy.

If you are having any off symptoms vaginally it could benefit you to see a pelvic floor physical therapist. They help to assess and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, check for prolapse, correct posture, and even adjust your pubic bone. You know when you get that sharp pain in your pubic bone after you have babies when you cross your legs – yea they can help with that.

So step one is to get all of the physical roadblocks out of the way. Make sure that you are pain free and feeling good. For my breastfeeding mommas, a little lubrication is helpful to have handy.

On to other factors. There are emotional factors that can impede on a woman’s libido postpartum. I often explain to my clients that women are wired differently then men. Typically for us we don’t have arousal without desire. Men on the other hand can have arousal without desire.

You know what I’m talking about. When your man wakes up with a morning…surprise? Yea that’s arousal. Then he’s like, “well hey, I’ve got this thing all fired up – why don’t we do something with it”. Yup, that’s desire. Arousal is physiological and desire is cognitive and emotional.

As a mother of a newborn, or even young child, it is hard to have desire. You are touching someone constantly or being touched, you are talking about poop, cleaning poop, sleep deprived, isolated, and a whole host of other things that mean that you don’t have time to think about sex therefore you do not have time to create desire.

It’s not that you don’t think your partner is attractive or that you don’t love them, its that you are so exhausted and touched out that the thought of someone else touching you makes you wish you were a porcupine.

Also, there isn’t a ton of time to connect with your partner. Date nights are a distant memory and you can’t remember the last time you and your partner had a conversation that didn’t involve someone else’s bathroom habits, or the daycare schedule, or grocery shopping. I know its hard, but this is why it’s so important to try to make time as a couple to connect. Dating out is optimal but you don’t have to leave the house.

You can date in. I have couples that play board games, or do puzzles, or share a craft beer, or throw darts at home once the baby is in bed. All of this is good at making you both feel like people again and not just parents.

Aside from the connection between you and your partner, there is the other factor of how you now view your body. Some women find confidence they never had before in their postpartum bodies. Some women struggle with finding confidence in the different terrain of their bodies after children and need time to adjust to this.

Feeling good about yourself is a really great way to start building more desire. Do things that make you feel strong. Do things that make you feel sexy. Do things that plain old make you feel good. Find beauty in the changes that pregnancy and childbirth has wrought.

The thing that I tell all of my couples is that there are a lot of different kinds of normal in regard to sex in the year following a birth.

Yea, that’s right, I said a year. Your cervix is ready to go at 6 weeks but you might not be and thats ok. Be patient with yourself, your body, and your partner. Chances are they are feeling neglected and miss you. Talk to each other and try to find other ways to connect if intimacy is off the table.

But give yourself time momma and give your body time. And show your partner this blog :).

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Lets Talk About Sex – Considerations for Intimacy in the Postpartum Period

  1. I’ll be brutally honest…it took years for even an inkling of that feeling to come back. My second didn’t sleep through the night till age 4 and a half…that’s YEARS. She didn’t sleep. Let that sink in. 🙂

    1. Ugh that is so tough! But you bring up a great point about intimacy and how well the kids sleep. It’s definitely harder when the kids don’t sleep and when you are constantly exhausted.

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