Now you’ve given birth, what about your sex life? Sex expert Rachel Foux has the answers to the questions you’re too embarrassed to ask about post-baby sex
As long as you've had a straightforward birth, there's no reason why you shouldn't resume sex after any heavy bleeding has stopped. However, if you've had a more complicated delivery, needed an episiotomy, had stitches or a caesarean section, you should ask your healthcare team for advice. Likewise, if you experience pain during intercourse at any time.
No matter what type of birth you've had, it's important you feel physically and psychologically ready before resuming sex. While being a mum is rewarding, it can also be exhausting. Lack of sleep and breastfeeding, which can cause vaginal dryness, can take their toll on your libido. Some women also have self-esteem issues they need to work through before they can even think about having sex again.
There's no magic date by which you should be up and running again. Remember that everyone's different. While some women may feel ready as soon as one or two weeks after birth, others may want to wait a few months. In some cases, women want to wait up to a year. Ease yourself back into sex at your own pace and don't be tempted to compare yourself to anyone else.
If you've had a vaginal delivery you may notice some loss of sensation when you have intercourse, as during the birth the vagina will have been stretched to accommodate your baby. The good news is that, like any other muscle, the vagina can be toned up again through exercise - especially by working on your pelvic floor muscles.
Even if your partner notices your vagina feels less tight after the birth, it's worth remembering the vast majority of men don't really have an issue with it - they're just delighted to have intimacy with you again! Many partners are completely in awe of you after being there during the birth, so any loss of tone will be a minor thing in the grand scheme of things.
It's absolutely vital to use contraception as soon as you start having sex again - unless you're planning on having two pregnancies close together. It's possible to get pregnant again within the first month of delivery, so don't believe those old wives' tales about breastfeeding stopping ovulation!
Use lubricated condoms and keep plenty stashed upstairs and downstairs so you won't be caught off guard without any if your baby's asleep upstairs. If you're happy to abstain from sex for a few weeks, the mini pill can normally be prescribed around three weeks after your delivery. Otherwise you should be able to have an intrauterine device (IUD), for example the coil, fitted after your six-week postnatal checkup.
If you find your sex drive is low, it's really important to talk to each other and express physical affection in any way you can. Try a good cuddling session, or perhaps a massage. Try to forget about the million and one things that need to be done and make your relationship with each other a priority.
You can help the recovery of your vagina by doing pelvic floor exercises within about 24 hours of giving birth. Begin with five contractions three times a day and gradually build up to 10 contractions ten times a day.
Dr Miriam Stoppard
As your libido starts to return, be kind to yourself and take things slowly. Try treating sex like a menu as you ease back into it. For starters, why not try just massaging each other's genitals and exploring erogenous zones? Second time around, choose a 'main course', such as oral sex or something similar that isn't complete penetration. Next time, and when you're ready, you can finally choose from the dessert menu.
Remember, keep expectations realistic - don't be disappointed if sex isn't as mind blowing at first as it was pre-baby. It will take time to adjust physically and psychologically to you new role as a mother and lover. In time, you may find having sex becomes even more satisfying post-baby. After all, you and your partner will have been through one of the most powerful transitions together, which can create a wonderful sense of intimacy between you, and this, after all, is the key to the best sex of all.
Rachel Foux is a sexual educator and author of The New Mum’s Guide to Sex (Vision). Rachel also runs Household Companion, which aims to improve sexual relations between new parents.
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