Caring for a new born in the first couple of weeks can be daunting, sleepless, and perhaps a little sore, so sex may not be at the top of many women’s agendas. Everyone’s experience is personal, it’s really important not to rush in. Sex postpartum will inevitably change, but for some women, giving birth heralds an opportunity to enjoy sex again.
1.Getting into the mood isn’t just about flowers and a romantic dinner
For many women it’s perfectly normal to see a decline in libido, especially if the birth experience has been traumatic. Levels of libido are governed by numerous physical and psychological factors – linked to sleep deprivation and fatigue, preoccupation from a needy baby, worrying about changes to their vagina, fears about what their partner will think and whether they are still attractive to them, as well as being in an unsexy environment surrounded by smelly nappies and baby sick. But, it is also worth noting that it can be chemical in nature. Breast-feeding mothers may experience a lower libido due to reduced oestrogen levels. Studies have shown an increase in sexual desire and frequency of sex within 4 weeks of stopping breastfeeding. Whilst I don’t suggest stopping breastfeeding, it is often reassuring for women to know that they are not alone in their feelings and there may be a hormonal reason behind it.
2.Let’s talk about sex baby
It is difficult to focus your mind on much else than your new born, but it is important to make time for yourself, and give yourself the opportunity and environment to relax and get romantic. Talk with your partner openly about your thoughts and fears and you may also find that your partner is concerned about your recovery and not hurting you during the act and so it’s important to discuss what you are comfortable with. It may be challenging in the first couple of months but if you have the luxury of a trusted family member or friend then get away for a cheeky weekend.
Changes in hormones can also make sex more painful, with a reduction in oestrogen levels post partum reducing lubrication in your vagina, making it uncomfortable, dry and even rough for both parties. You can try self exploration to get you more comfortable with the idea of penetration but I would really recommend using lubricants if you are noticing any dryness. But never forget how useful foreplay can be in getting the juices flowing, so perhaps get your partner to give you a massage to get you in the mood.
4.Tears and stitches take time to heal
An episiotomy (a surgical cut between the vagina and anus just before delivery to ease the passage of the baby) can also make sex more painful, as can vaginal tears. Recovery time is very important; stitches can take up to four weeks to heal. On average about 9 in 10 new mothers have to undergo an episiotomy. If you have experienced this procedure you should take it slow. Intercourse will put pressure on your perineum in different ways, so to enjoy sex again, it may simply be a matter of position. Find a position that you are comfortable in and you may find that going on top will reduce the strain on the stitches. Be on the look out for signs of infection
Simple painkillers may help, but if there are specific areas of pain that you are worried about you should see your GP. This is of particular importance if you notice the pain associated with any discharge, smell or a new onset bleeding, as it may be asign that the stitches or tears have become infected or not healed. Keeping your perineal area clean helps to prevent such infection and you can ensure this by regularly changing sanitary pads and showering or bathing daily. Providing everything looks healthy, you may be prescribed a local anaesthetic gel to help overcome pain in particular sore patches.
5.Tone those Pelvic Floor muscles
Your vagina will have changed shape after child birth, and it may make sex feel different, but pelvic floor exercises will help tighten and tone your muscles. It will also help prevent urinary incontinence which is also an element that may make you feel less sexy and in the mood.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if you’re having unprotected sex you could become pregnant in as little as 3 weeks after giving birth! Whilst this risk is reduced if you are solely breastfeeding, it is still important to make contraception a priority if you don’t want to be planning your next little one.