How long should I wait?
Some mums will want to hang on until their 8-week check before trying to have sex. “But if you’re physically comfortable, then there’s no reason why you can’t start earlier,” says GP Catherine Hood, specialist in post-pregnancy sex. It often depends on your birth experience, says Rachel Foux, sex and relationship therapist (www.rachelfoux.com). “Some women won’t want to have sex if they’re bleeding, but others won’t mind,” she explains.
Can we go straight into sex?
“Do whatever feels comfortable. But it’s best to start with some non-sexual massage around the lower body, both by yourself and together,” says Rachel. “Many couples go for their first night out together, have some drinks, come home and have sex on the sofa. That’s fine, but you need to have thought about contraception.”
What if I’ve had a c-section?
“I had a caesarean, and the only thing I would say is that no one said that sex after a caesarean would be painful. It was quite a shock andwhen you’re not feeling great about your body because of stretch marks, the extra weight and general exhaustion, to finally get to the stage where you’re comfortable to have sex again only to find that it’s physically impossible is devastating. I wish someone had mentioned that it would take a while to get back to normal – it’s taken us six months.
My husband never pressured me and let me lead the way with how far we could go. So don’t feel shy about telling your partner what the problem is – the tension will only make everything worse.”
Lisamarie Lamb, 29, from Kent, mum to Alice, 6 months
Should we plan it?
“Night feeds and early waking can make it difficult to find the time and private space for intimacy,” says Catherine Hood. “Be inventive. Meet up for sex during the baby’s nap. It may seem contrived but it’s a good way to keep your sex life going.”
Can I get pregnant?
“It’s possible to get pregnant almost immediately after giving birth. If you’re breastfeeding then it’s less likely, but don’t rely on this as contraception,” advises Catherine. “If you want to wait a while before having another child, talk to your health visitor or midwife about contraception.”
Will I still want it?
Traditionally, you might expect your partner to be the one most up for sex. “But women will feel horny, too,” says Rachel Foux. Whether breastfeeding will have you gagging for sex or gagging at the thought of it is unclear. Our midwife Anne Richley explains: “Prolactin, the hormone needed for producing milk, can reduce libido. But when you breastfeed you make oxytocin, the love hormone, which is also produced when you’re aroused, so some women find that they have an increased sex drive.”
“It’s down to the individual,” says Anne. “There are no hard and fast rules. Someone I knew, who gave birth vaginally and was also breastfeeding, felt so horny that she was having sex two days after the birth!”
What if I don’t want it?
“It’s normal to experience loss of libido after giving birth. Having a baby can put tremendous pressure on your body,” says Jodie Lam from Durex. “Team that with juggling your career and family, midnight feeds and lack of sleep and it’s no wonder that sex is the last thing on the agenda. The most important thing is to have honest and positive communication about your sexual relationship with your partner.”
How can we get started?
“Take it slowly and enjoy exploring each other’s bodies through touch – it doesn’t have to end in sex. Light stroking and a sensual massage can help you reconnect with your partner,” says Jodie. Catherine Hood agrees: “Try to keep a sense of togetherness throughout by holding hands, cuddling on the sofa and kissing, even if sex feels like a far-off prospect.”
Does it get easier?
“I would advise mums to take it very easy after an episiotomy or tears. I had internal scars, which can be incredibly tender, and for me, sex did hurt the first time. I tensed up expecting pain, which made it worse. That started a vicious circle and it took a year for us to get through it. Four years on, it can still be sore if we’re not careful. It gets stressful, with you worrying about not providing for your partner and them worrying about hurting you. But you just have to be persistent.”
Louise Turnbull, 36, runs bumpbuddies.co.uk, and is mum to Evie, 3, and Freya, 18 months
What if I tore?
Obviously it depends on how serious the tear, but the best way to see if you’re healing is to check (or get your partner to check) with a mirror. If you’re not keen to, ask your GP to do this,” says Rachel Foux.
Will it hurt?
“Anxiety can come from the idea of something going in where your baby came out, so the more you can touch the area with massage, the better. We’re talking massage rather than pleasuring at first. You want to have touched and been touched there before you start anything sexual,” advises Rachel.
Will it be the same?
There’s so much more involved in post-natal sex, says Rachel, especially emotionally. “It’s about finding intimacy with your partner again. It takes energy and focus, and that’s not usually where you’re at postnatally,” she says. “So talk about what might happen with your sex life before you have the baby. If you stay intimate throughout, then being intimate after the birth will be easier.”
Will I be drier?
“A sudden drop in hormones after the birth can mean that some women will notice that their vagina is drier when it comes to sex, and they may need to use a lubricant. The hormones will return to normal eventually. But we can’t blame hormones for everything, the biggest passion killer is sheer fatigue,” says Anne Richley.
Will I still have an orgasm?
“This can take more time,” says Rachel Foux. “It’s stressful being on call 24 hours a day as a mum, so letting go enough to climax can be overwhelming.” Take it easy and try other ways to have an orgasm without full penetration, like masturbation or getting your partner to pleasure you. The good news is that some women find it’s actually easier to have an orgasm after becoming a mum. Yippee!
Try it tonight… easy ways to get intimate
- Lying together naked, just holding each other
- Lying with his penis outside the lips of your vagina
- Putting the tip of his penis inside you but not moving
- Inserting the whole penis but not thrusting
- Cuddling in spoons with penetration but no thrusting
- You on top – so you can control the amount of penetration
- If it’s uncomfortable in any way, stop! There’s no rush
- If you need lube, try Sensilube (£5.99 for 40ml, www.durex.co.uk), which is designed to mimic your body’s natural moisture.