It’s the thing that all women…and probably men too….worry about. What will sex after baby be like? Will it be painful? Will it be terrible? Will it resemble nothing like that it was before? Because of all these questions and more in our heads, the prospect of sex after baby whilst you’re trying to come to terms with new parenthood can be incredibly daunting. Following on from our post on feeling unsexy after baby and what to do about it, I have my good friend and psychosexual and relationship therapist Clare Faulkner back in the hot seat to find out everything we need to know about sex after baby.
Firstly, let’s talk our lady bits – is it true our vaginas will feel different during sex after baby?
It’s important to remember that we are all different and our own unique experience is just that, unique! Yes, it is true that some women may report a difference but not every woman will. A change may be expressed as a difference in sensation (heightened or less sensitive), the vagina may feel loose or wider, lubrication may have changed or soreness might be present.
The difference may be a reflection of what happened during the birth, for example a perineal tears or damage to the pelvic floor.
Is it true that most women are likely to experience discomfort during sex after baby?
No, on the whole I would say this isn’t true. It’s important to give the body time to heal. Usually once the GP signs you off at the six-week appointment much of the necessary healing has taken please. However, try not to feel pressure and rush it. If it hurts it won’t be enjoyable which slightly defeats the object! It’s totally normal not to be wanting sex straight away- you have a tiny new human to look after who is probably keeping you up all night!
If pain does persist it might be worth discussing with your GP who can check that everything is healing as it should
What about if you had a C-section, are we still likely to experience discomfort?
Just because you have had a C-Section doesn’t mean the pelvic floor has got away unscathed. Regardless of the type of birth I still recommend pelvic floor exercises (also called Kegel exercises) after birth for woman. Pelvic floor exercises help to tone the vaginal muscles as well as the pelvic floor.
Specialist Woman’s Health physiotherapists can do internal examination to check the damage and recommend exercise programmes post birth. Speaking from personal experience I found this to be very useful. My physio carried out Ultrasound imaging of the pelvic floor muscles as well as a perineal evaluation. No woman wants a future prolapse so I would advise investing shortly after delivery.
Is it true we don’t need birth control if we’re breastfeeding?
This is a myth. Breastfeeding should not be used as a method of birth control as it’s not a reliable option. Neither should you rely on waiting until you get your period back. Pregnancy can occur as soon as three weeks after birth so please speak to your GP or practice nurse about contraception.
Is it true that we’re likely to be quite dry down there?
It is normal to experience dryness after birth. This is due to the reduced levels of Oestrogen compared to pregnancy. Breastfeeding further depletes levels so this is worth considering when assessing your vaginal dryness. Women should find that once periods return the oestrogen levels go up which should help issues. Dryness has a tendency to increases with age so a natural change in your body might be inevitable. If this is the case you can use lubricant.
I recommend Yes, the organic intimacy company. They do a range of organic lubricants including a water-based or plant-oil based options. N.B. oil based lubricants may not be suitable with condoms so please check before use. Their vaginal moisturising gel can also be used daily to hydrate and relieve vaginal dryness and discomfort.
Can orgasms actually be better after baby?
Some women do report that birthing awakens their genital area and they report more sensitivity. Some couples may experience a new intimacy as a result of becoming parents which has a positive shift on the relational space. This then feeds their sex lives.
Professionally I would say that most couples experience a new baby as a passion killer, so please don’t doubt yourself if you are not feeling ready for sex
I’ve heard that some women simply cannot stand to be touched after baby – is this true?
Yes, and this is something I have experienced this in my practice. There are many reasons and factors to consider with this presentation. For example, birth trauma, relationship issues, a psychosexual presentation, post-natal depression, and exhaustion to name but a few. Not wanting to be touched in the initial months is quite normal, but if this persists you might consider discussing with a professional as well as your partner.
Is it normal to feel totally unsexy after baby?
Absolutely. For some women, their new curves look and feel so different to their pre-baby body. There are the changes to the vagina which we have touched on plus aching boobs which may have a tendency to leaks when you don’t have your (unsexy) feeding bra on.
Then there is the psychological element. New mums have a new identity and role to integrate whilst attempting to hold onto their individualism.
The relationship narrative might be one of snappiness, irritability, sleep deprivation and lack of time and space all of which leaves less desire for intimacy.
On the whole babies don’t tend to be passion makers so if you are having sex at all you are doing well! It will come back, eventually, but for now it’s totally normal to be focusing on your new bundle of joy.
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Clare is a London based integrative psychosexual and relationship therapist who works with both couples and individuals on a wide range of sexual and relationship issues. If you’d like to talk more with Clare about how to get your sexy back post baby visit her website here.
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