Sex After Childbirth

What You Can Do to Help

Deep breath. I know this is a sensitive topic. The whole cautionary “nothing in the vagina for six weeks and make sure you use a contraceptive” spiel from the doctor is not nearly enough of a conversation about this topic. No one thinks to warn you that it will probably feel different. That it will probably hurt sometimes, even after the six weeks. That you will be tired. ALL. THE. TIME. There are so many unacknowledged changes that happen after you have a baby, so it makes sense if you’re not exactly feeling hot and heavy right away.
Here are five common reasons why a new mama might not feel like having sex right away, what you can do about it as a new mom, and what dads can do to help.

1. No desire

The physical toll that labor takes on the body is no joke. It is exhausting and long, and then you are immediately thrown into caring for the new little bundle of joy while nurses wake you or your baby every few hours to poke, prod, or question you. Then you go home and have to figure everything out and adjust to this new body, this new baby, this new life. Not exactly sparking romance here, am I?
This is the toughest one. You can’t just snap desire into existence. The best thing you can do is to give yourself time and focus on intimacy in other ways. If you and your partner can connect by holding hands, massage, making out (throwback to those teenage years anyone?), or simply talking, then your desire is going to come back much sooner. Dads, your needs may be unattended, but now is your time for selflessness. She has already given up nine months in pregnancy discomfort, labor, and now her body, her identity, her sleep, and many more. Show her some empathy and help her out. Connect with her in other ways and give her time. Pressuring her can have the opposite effect and make her feel less enthusiastic or make her feel coerced into it. Her desire will return, and if you have been encouraging and connecting with her, you will be the first one to know about it.

2. “I’m tired.”

A “new mom” level of tired is a whole new kind of tired. Sleeping every 2-3 hours is simply not enough sleep. It is a basic need, so extraneous things are not going to sound as good until you feel a little bit more rested.
Rest when you can. I know everyone has heard the age-old advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps”, but that is not always feasible, especially if this isn’t your first kid. Really it needs to be “don’t be afraid to ask for help”. Ask your husband and ask your trusted friends and family. Sleep when you can and practice good sleep hygiene (put those cell phones down!). Dads, if you are not waking up every single time she does and staying awake the entire time, then you do not know that kind of tired, even if you are more tired than you were before baby. If you want sexy times back and you’re not already helping her get some sleep, time to step it up.

3. Sex hurts

A vaginal delivery is a traumatic experience for the body and the vagina specifically. At six weeks, there may still be lingering injuries or pain, tissue changes, discharge, etc. that can alter the feel of sex and make it hurt. Also, lubrication may not be up and running quite yet. Even if you had a C-section there can still be vaginal pain or pain in your pelvic floor. Nothing brings desire to a screeching halt like unwelcome pain in all the wrong places.
Lube is your best friend. If that still doesn’t help, it couldn’t hurt to make another trip to your doctor so they can make sure there is nothing wrong. If you’re all clear, it may just mean taking more time. If penetration hurts, explore with hands or mouth. Focus on intimacy in other ways.

4. Not feeling attractive

Your body just birthed something the size of a small watermelon. Your body is not likely going to snap back from that immediately unless you have a whole team of people ready to make that happen (think celebrities with their dietitians, personal trainers, nanny team, etc.). Every system in your body, including your skin and hair, adjusted to having this life inside of you and now it needs time to readjust.
You just made a human. A human. That’s an incredibly powerful thing that your body is able to do, so give yourself a break. Your body is probably going to be different in at least some ways forever, and that’s ok. Focus on eating healthy and moving around slowly to build strength. No need to run marathons. There are lots of postpartum workouts on Youtube, you can go for short walks, or just carry your little baby around the house. If you are living a healthy life, regardless of whether you lose weight or not, you will feel better. Dads, the mother of your baby needs to hear how attractive she is still. That you desire her. That she is freaking amazing. If you can help build that self-esteem, she is going to bounce back and be up for sex.

5. Postpartum Depression

This is a very serious mental health issue that needs treatment. Please seek counseling and/or medications to help. Of course you are not going to feel like doing anything sexual if you are experiencing PPD. Get help so you can feel better. Dads, get her help and help ease her burden of responsibilities so she can recover. Your family is not going to run well if someone is down for the count.
Single Moms
And for you single ladies! The stress of doing it all on your own PLUS any or all of the above can make it feel impossible to have a healthy sex life ever again. Be sure to rely on your support systems. If you need a buff to your support system, try a mom app. Peanut, MomCo, Mom Meetup, or Momlife can help you make some valuable mom friends that will likely understand your struggle.