5 Must-Have Conversations About Having Sex After Your Pregnancy
As a postpartum advocate and coach, I often hear about a lot of misguided advice my new mom clients receive, especially when it comes to having sex after childbirth. A provider to one of my new mom clients recently told her, “Drink a glass of wine and get it over with.” “You owe it to your partner after this long,” was said to another person I know. Whether or not you have had your postpartum check-up and received the go-ahead from your provider — when and how to return to sex after pregnancy is likely on your mind.
You might be feeling trepidatious about having sex after giving birth, but don’t let that get in the way of intimacy. The goal is not to rush back; it’s to find out what works for you and your partner and how to identify your needs and keeping the lines of communication open. You may be worried that sex can obviously cause you to get pregnant, but there is so much more to intimacy than just sex. Together we will explore common fears of new moms, and ways to talk about them with your partner.
1. You’re afraid you will get pregnant again
So you have a new bundle of joy and you are also feeling exhausted and overwhelmed from it. No matter how much you love your new little one, the thought that you could get pregnant after giving birth and have another baby right away can feel scary. Every woman and body is different, so there is no exact timeframe to answer the question of when you can get pregnant again after birth.
The Mayo Clinic recommends waiting 18-24 months between birth and conception. At a minimum, they recommend waiting six months. For women who are breastfeeding, the menstrual cycle tends to be delayed longer than those who are not breastfeeding, due to the hormones produced with milk production. Your menstrual cycle can return anywhere from six weeks to more than six months after delivery, so having a plan is important.
If you are worried about becoming pregnant again, you can watch for the signs of ovulation and talk with your provider and partner about birth control methods. Many providers discuss birth control, condoms, natural planning and medical intervention at your postpartum check-up.
If you are watching for signs of ovulation, American Pregnancy suggests watching for:
- Change in Cervical Fluid
- Changes in basal body temperature
- Change in cervical position or firmness
How To Talk About It With Your Partner:
When having this conversation with your partner, make sure you both share your preferences for birth planning. If you want more than one child, discuss the age gap for kids you would ideally like (knowing that life does not always follow our plans!) and discuss prevention methods you feel most comfortable with. Have an honest conversation about how pregnancy and birth impacted you, and why you might be afraid to get pregnant again.
2. Your Stitches and Scar Tissue Are Still Healing
Naturally, we do not want to hurt the birth site. Penetrative sex might irritate vaginal stitches and scarring, and sex can also irritate a cesarean scar. Many couples have limited information on the healing and rehabilitation of the birth site.
How To Talk About It:
Bring your partner into the conversation around how your stitches and tissue are healing. Discuss the risks of infections and the timelines that your provider sets for you and your healing. Talk about alternatives to penetrative sex that could allow you to experience intimacy without fear of hurting your body.
3. Sex is Painful When You Try It Again
If you have the gumption to have sex again, and then experience pain, you might draw back and feel nervous. Regardless of how you gave birth, your pelvic floor went through a lot in carrying and birthing your baby. Pelvic floor changes are very common, so common that some countries have pelvic floor therapy as standard postpartum care (get with it, America!). If the positions and approaches that worked before are not working now, you may have fear around trying again.
How To Talk About It:
Get real with your partner about how different positions do or do not feel pleasurable. Communicate what causes pain, and then work together to make adjustments for gentle and connected sex. Show your partner a picture of the pelvic floor and how the muscles and tissues overlap. Share how some places can become more tense or sensitive after birth and need time and practice to rehab. This is also a great time to discuss whether pelvic floor therapy can assist your recovery.
4. You Are Dealing with Anxiety and/or Depression
If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or another perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), it can be difficult to calm your mind and body to engage in sex. Your thoughts may also make it difficult to take your eyes off of the baby. It may cause racing thoughts that prevent you from being mentally present in sex. PMADs can also impact your libido, making it difficult to get “in the mood.”
How To Talk About It:
Ask your partner about what he or she can take off of your plate so that you can breathe deeply and think about connecting. Those overwhelming thoughts that run through your head? Get them out. Tell your partner that you need to get things off your chest without judgment and without being “fixed.” Just getting it out of your head often helps alleviate the control these thoughts can have.
5. Your Body Feels and Looks Different
“Will he (or she) even be attracted to me?” It can be a question that dominates your thoughts in the weeks after childbirth when you start thinking about intimacy again.
Pregnancy and birth does incredible things to the body. However, it can be difficult for many women to embrace and feel at home with these changes. The fear of being unwanted or rejected by a partner can make many women put up defenses.
How To Talk About It:
Like discussed earlier, it can be very empowering to learn with your partner about the changes your body goes through in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Recognize and celebrate each change as much as you are able to. If you know sex is on the table for that night, spend some time during the day feeling sexy. Put on an outfit you enjoy. Take a pause to celebrate your naked body in front of the mirror before you take a shower. Ask your partner to vocalize the things she or he enjoys about your changed body.
Intimacy is more than a physical sexual exchange. It is mental and emotional, and it requires us to be vulnerable. It takes learning and communication. If you are in a place where you are nervous about having sex again, know that you are in good company. Many new moms face these similar fears about having sex after giving birth, and you, too, might be wondering what happened to your sex drive postpartum. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting back into the sack again after baby.
However, there are resources, conversations – as well as toys and tools – that can help you and your partner reach your intimacy goals again.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you feel you are struggling with a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder or are struggling with concerns about having sex after your pregnancy, please consult your healthcare provider.