Here’s How Your Sex Life Changes After Your Partner Gives Birth
Here’s How Your Sex Life Changes After Your Partner Gives Birth
Having a child with your partner is one of the great miracles of life.
When both of you want to bring another person into the world together, doing so can engender feelings of unparalleled joy and love.
But it’s also true that having a baby can be a very difficult process for a couple, even outside of the intense physical realities for the person carrying the fetus.
And then there’s the issue of what it does to your sex life.
In short, having sex after having had a baby is no picnic. Besides the likely reality that one (or more likely, both of you) will be severely sleep deprived in the weeks and months after the birth, the birthing partner’s body will likely have changed in some important ways, and the dynamic between the two of you may feel a little different, too.
Plus, factoring in the reality that many couples’ sex lives dry up as the pregnancy nears term, it’s not out of the question that it ends up being several months in a row without sexual intimacy.
So what does having sex after having a baby look like? AskMen spoke to a handful of experts to find out what you need to know when it comes to balancing your needs with your partner’s. Here’s what they had to say:
How Your Sex Life Changes After a Baby
How does your sex life change in the weeks and months after you’ve had a baby?
A better question might be, how does it not change? Because, frankly, more or less everything changes, when it comes to your sex life as well as many other aspects of your day-to-day.
“Hormones can lower sex drive, sleep disturbances can happen, postpartum issues, and stress,” says sex educator Debra Laino. “All of these will have a negative impact on sex.”
However, she notes, it’s not all doom and gloom: “Some couples do feel closer after having a baby, and sex will resume in a positive way when the woman can resume having sex.”
However, that might not happen for a little while. So if you’re still experiencing a lot of sexual desire that your partner isn’t yet capable of satisfying, a little self-pleasure is a good idea, according to Robin Hilmantel, senior director of editorial strategy and growth at What to Expect.
“If your partner hasn’t been cleared for sex yet, or if they don’t feel like they’re in the right mental headspace to have sex again, it’s a good time to rely on masturbation,” she says. “It can also be helpful to take things slowly — carving out some alone time and getting naked together can help pave the way for returning to sex, even if your partner isn’t quite ready yet.”
This period of your relationship “might feel scary or hard, but there is also a big opportunity to find new forms of intimacy during this time” says certified sex educator Nora Langknecht, marketing manager at FUN FACTORY, such as “cuddling, massage, acts of service, non-penetrative play.”
“And having a child is by no means the end of your sex life!” she adds. “Our desires are always expanding and changing.”
One more thing that you do have some control over is doing your share of the work to ensure that your partner isn’t extra exhausted and burnt out, Langknecht points out.
For people who’ve just given birth, she says “the first few months are often particularly tiring, because of the cultural expectation that they do the majority of parenting and housework. You can help alleviate some of that fatigue—and the low libido that comes with it—by sharing housework and parenting fairly.”
How Long to Wait Before Engaging in Penetrative Sex
“Four to six weeks is the recommended wait time post birth with vaginal or C-section,” says sex educator Debra Laino.
Hilmantel echoes the latter of those two numbers. A month and a half might feel like a long wait, but it’s for good reason.
“Most providers recommend waiting until your partner is cleared for sex at their six-week postpartum checkup,” she says. “Even if your partner feels ready earlier or didn’t get any stitches during delivery, remember that they’re still healing and that having sex prematurely could put them at risk for infection.”
Regardless of the exact timing, it’s important your partner check with their doctor, says Langknecht, since every person’s situation may be different. In the meantime, she notes, “There are lots of things you can do besides penetrative sex that are pleasurable (like oral, mutual masturbation, and stimulation of external hot spots).”
Tips for Re-Engaging in Penetrative Sex After a Pregnancy
The first time you have sex after your partner gives birth may be a long-awaited relief, but it might also be a bit tricky.
“Go slow as there may be some pain associated with penetrative sex if there is scar tissue from an episiotomy,” says Laino.
“Partners will need to be mindful of their significant other’s physical, emotional, and mental state when they re-engage in penetrative sex,” Hilmantel agrees. “Sex may feel painful, it may be uncomfortable, and it may be less enjoyable than it used to be — at least at first.”
“The key is communication,” she notes. “Giving your partner space to vocalize discomfort is important so you can understand how they’re feeling and know when to stop, empathize, and offer support. This may involve postponing penetrative sex and trying again after some more time has elapsed.”
“Start slow, and use plenty of lube for the comfort of the childbearing partner,” says Langknecht. “No matter what your exact circumstances, that person’s body is healing and what feels good might change.”
She also notes that your partner may feel reduced pleasure as well, for reasons out of your control, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like a great lover once the two of you resume having sex.
“For lots of people who’ve given birth, the pelvic floor muscles often get weaker, which means smaller orgasms and less ability to squeeze their penetrating partner,” Langknecht explains. “Thankfully, you can re-strengthen these muscles with Kegel exercises.”
Navigating Your New Sex Life
So what does your sex life look like in the months after the baby arrives? In short, it may involve more sex than the first few weeks after the birth, but it won’t necessarily immediately go back to how it was before the pregnancy.
Laino recommends some basics like getting as much sleep as possible and regular exercise to help rebalance your neurochemicals and hormones, as well as spending some time together without the baby to help stay connected to your adult selves. Communication is also important, she notes.
“Communicate so you are both on the same page when it comes to readiness to resume sexual activity,” Hilmantel agrees. “Continue that communication during your sexual activities to ensure you are both comfortable and enjoying yourselves.”
It may also mean that penetrative sex (or at least full-intensity, vigorous penetrative sex) is off the table, or less frequent, for a while.
“Go slow and be patient, as new mothers can have a difficult time separating their erotic selves from now being a mother,” says Laino. “If necessary, start off with a toy to stimulate the clitoris so she can have an orgasm without penetration.”
Regardless of whether you’re engaging in penetration or not, finding time for sexual activities together can also be tricky, notes Hilmantel.
“Try to make time for sex, but understand that babies aren’t operating on your schedule,” she says. “They might cry at an inopportune time, so be prepared to postpone sexual activity if necessary.”
When you do find moments to get it on, Hilmantel notes that adding some lube to the mix is a good idea, especially given that they’re breastfeeding-safe.
“Lubricants help a great deal when it comes to resuming penetrative sex, given that vaginal dryness is one of the most common reasons for pain when resuming sex postpartum,” she says. “Coconut oil or water- and silicone-based lubes are great.”
Another good trick for your partner may be to engage in Kegel exercises. These can “help strengthen your partner’s pelvic floor muscles and will come in handy during penetrative sex,” Hilmantel says.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that “intimacy can look like lots of different things,” says Langknecht. “If you don’t feel sexy or sexually connected at first, don’t assume it’s a death sentence. Take the little moments of connection you can get in those early, demanding days, whether that’s snuggling up, sneaking a kiss, sending each other memes, or holding hands.”
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