Have you had sex yet?” A mom friend demanded of me over coffee just six short weeks after our babies were born a few days apart.
The word had lost all meaning. Honestly, it had not even crossed my mind.
Who could think about sex amidst the blur of diapers, breast pads, cracked nipples, sleep deprivation and the inability to sit down properly?
I had never felt less sexy in my entire life.
I confessed that we hadn’t. “Why? Have you?” I asked, lowering my coffee cup in disbelief.
“Yeah, we did it at the weekend. It was fine.”
And suddenly sex, or the lack of it, was at the forefront of my mind. How long had it actually been? Was I in any fit state to have sex? Did I even want to?
Whether you’re a single mom or have a partner, it is inevitable that the topic of sex will come up sooner or later.
And yes, the thought of having sex after giving birth is a daunting prospect but I was extremely surprised to find that it is actually better than before – and many of the women I spoke with felt the same way.
Don’t believe me? Read on to discover all the in’s and out’s (pun intended) of this sensitive subject.
Why Is Sex Initially Off The Table After Giving Birth?
Unless you have given birth, or perhaps had major vaginal surgery of some sort, it is hard to imagine the feeling of dread at the thought of something touching your vagina again, let alone entering it…repeatedly.
You are bruised, swollen, torn and bleeding.
Or perhaps you had a cesarean section in which case you have a six-inch scar across your abdomen and extensive muscle separation.
Or maybe you have hemorrhoids, internal scar tissue, and a prolapsed bladder.
Are you feeling turned on yet?
The damage is not purely physical either.
Many women are left psychologically traumatized by childbirth and 17% of new mothers suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, with the main being replaying the distressing event over and over in your mind and avoiding anything associated with it, in other words, your vagina.
As our children played in the sandbox in the park, Maria, a mother of two, told me she couldn’t let her husband touch her intimately after the birth of her first child because it felt “too doctory” down there.
Which is understandable. For months (nine to be exact) your vagina is poked, prodded and has cold metal tools inserted into it.
To consider your vagina as an area where you can feel pleasure again can be a challenge.
Many moms also feel completely out of touch with their post-baby body. On average, the recommended weight gain for women is between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy which can harm new moms’ sexual confidence.
The problem is that only 32.1% of women hit that mark and half gain even more.
Then there is the exhaustion.
Newborn babies wake roughly every two to three hours around the clock for feeding, burping and a diaper change.
This means new parents are basically sleep-deprived zombies, focusing all of their attention and energy on keeping this little, helpless bundle alive with very little thought for anything else.
And this little helpless bundle may well be in your bedroom, or even your bed, which pretty much rules out any sex.
The Realities of Postpartum Sex
The ‘6-Week’ After Pregnancy Recovery Deadline
But before you know it, you’ve reached the all-to-soon 6-week target date which is how long women are advised to wait to allow the body to recover.
Recover being the operative word.
During labor, the cervix dilates by up to ten centimeters to let that baby through.
And then there is the vaginal stretching and sometimes even tearing.
Between 53 and 79 percent of vaginal deliveries result in a tear of some sort, according to a study by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Both of these things leave many women feeling ‘loose’. More on this wince-inducing term later.
And let’s not forget postpartum bleeding that can last up to eight weeks. Goodbye skimpy, lace thong, hello giant, black, period panties.
The 6-week postpartum check is something of a milestone (or a looming deadline) for many couples.
Jennifer, a first-time mom said her husband kept demanding “has it been six weeks yet?” in the first few weeks of their daughter’s life.
And my OB-GYN announced at my appointment; “Tell your husband you’re good to go!” Which was both terrifying and reassuring in equal measure.
So after about eight weeks, it was finally time. I couldn’t put it off any longer.
My husband and I didn’t discuss it, which, in hindsight was a mistake. It felt as though it was my decision to make and I certainly felt an element of guilt for not being intimate with him for such a long time.
So I drank a bottle of wine, girded my loins (so to speak) and went for it. And it was… fine.
It certainly wasn’t good, which is probably because I was about as penetrable as an unshucked oyster. But we did it and it was fine.
Which is more than can be said for some moms I have spoken with.
The Reality Of How Breastfeeding Can Impact Your Sex Life
Karen, a mother of three, said after the birth of her first child;
“When the much-hyped six weeks post-birth arrived, I was full of dread. I felt I was betraying my baby for giving my body to my husband in such an intimate way and it all felt foreign. It was also very, very painful and dry, like sandpaper.”
Many breastfeeding moms have an issue with dryness.
She explains; “Postpartum sex is very similar to postmenopausal sex.”
Rebecca who nursed her baby for eleven months visited her OB-GYN after the pain of intercourse felt like “knives”. Her doctor informed her that her body was in “menopause mode” due to lactation.
Breastfeeding really can be a hurdle on the track of good postpartum sex.
Some breastfeeding moms told me they felt that their breasts ‘belonged’ to their baby and that they couldn’t have their partner go near them in a sexual way.
Which, again, makes sense.
This previously erotic area your body, suddenly has a new, rather unsexy function; a food source for your offspring.
More udder and teat, than breast and nipple.
Breastfeeding also causes your body to produce higher levels of the hormone prolactin which basically kills your libido.
But if you do find yourself getting intimate with your partner, the hormone oxytocin (the love hormone) is likely to be released, which is the same hormone that causes the let down in lactating breasts.
In other words, your partner gets a face full of milk.
And where dads may be chomping at the bit for some intimacy, the physical act of breastfeeding can actually satisfy mom’s need for closeness and affection, thanks to the release of oxytocin.
I personally found that I felt closer to my husband when I stopped breastfeeding. I no longer felt like a battered, bruised and leaking dairy cow.
My sense of ‘womanliness’ returned and I actually wanted intimacy again.
And I know my husband did too.
What Is The Truth About Childbirth And A ‘Loose’ Vagina?
So come on, are moms loose after giving birth?
She has had women come to her in tears because they can’t feel anything during sex and their partners have said it feels…different.
Dr. DeLucia explains that the way your vagina recovers has all to do with genetics:
“It’s basically luck. Some women have a natural muscle tone and bounce straight back post-childbirth. Others look like a cannonball has been fired through there.”
Of course your vagina changes after birth. It has squeezed a watermelon-sized object out of it.
The truth is that the vagina is a stretchy muscle and is therefore designed to eventually return to its normal, pre-baby state. As is the case with muscles all over the body, some recover faster than others.
The majority of the moms I spoke with said it felt more or less the same as before.
Brianna a mom of three says:
“My husband said physically, it feels exactly the same. He commented that he noticed that I exude more confidence sexually and I initiate sex more than I have in the past and that’s been a big turn on for him.”
And for some partners, it feels even better than before thanks to the infamous (and horrifying) “husband stitch”
Dr. Schulz explains this procedure occurs when women are being sewed up after labor.
“Sometimes an extra stitch is added which makes the opening of the vagina tighter.”
However, the idea that men need a “tight” vagina for good sex is neither true nor helpful when discussing postpartum intercourse.
In reality, good sex has nothing to do with a “loose” or “tight” vagina. Dr. DeLucia explains that good sex comes down to “arousal, lubrication, connection, and communication.”
Personally, I found that when I opened up to my husband about feeling nervous, things quickly moved on from “fine.”
How Do Men Cope With Sex Post Childbirth?
Some studies have suggested that men need sex more than women, while others dispute the notion.
I think the fact that most men want to have sex sooner than their child-birthing partner has very little to do with libido and everything to do with the fact that after giving birth, a woman must allow her body time to recover while a man does not.
It only makes sense that he will be eager for sex sooner than she will.
It is clear from many of the moms I spoke to that women understand this fact and feel a duty to sexually satisfy their partners, even if they don’t feel ready themselves.
A mom friend confessed in hushed tones as we pushed our strollers through the park that her husband was so sexually frustrated in the weeks after their first son was born that he asked if he could masturbate on her when she wasn’t ready to have sex.
Close your ears kids!
Indeed there are a myriad of ways you can pleasure your partner after having a baby that don’t involve intercourse.
Much of the anxiety that new moms feel about having sex for the first time after childbirth is also not just about their own discomfort, but what the experience will be like for their partner.
Will it still feel good for him? Will I be loose? Will he still be attracted to me after seeing… what he saw?
In the words of one mom I spoke to; “My husband saw me shit myself during childbirth. That’s not sexy.”
But many men I spoke to stressed that they wanted to be supportive not sexually satisfied in the weeks after becoming a dad.
I asked my husband, who was very involved during the birth of our son, whether what he saw “put him off.” He assured me that witnessing childbirth made him feel proud rather than repulsed.
The truth is that for most men, what they miss in the months after becoming a dad is not necessarily sex, but intimacy.
As hard as it is for a woman to rediscover herself sexually post-childbirth, it is a difficult time for her partner too.
All of a sudden your two-person team has a new, cuter and much needier member who is stealing all of mom’s attention.
Some partners are disregarded, banished to the couch and scolded for interfering which puts a huge strain on the relationship. New dads have even described feeling jealous of their baby.
Dr. Jennifer Landa is an OB-GYN and author of The Sex Drive Solution for Women. She advises new moms not to emotionally or sexually neglect their partner as it causes your relationship to suffer. She writes in her book:
“You can devote some of your energy toward cultivating a healthy sex life without compromising yourself as a mother. Sexual intimacy is important for creating harmony in most marriages.”
Many of the dads I spoke to agreed with the interviews in this revealing article, that when they did get physical with their partner, they were so happy to be intimate again, they didn’t give much thought as to whether their partner felt loose or not.
Sex Postpartum Can Be Amazing – Really!
Once I got through the “feels like the first time” stage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that things got easier, more comfortable and actually, really good!
I now feel more in tune with my body, closer to my husband and there’s an intensity that wasn’t there before.
And other moms I have spoken to describe a similar sensation.
“Sex is amazing post-kids. It’s more comfortable, it’s completely painless and I somehow became more limber than I was in the past.”
“Sex is definitely better. Now that I’m not pregnant, we can be a little rougher with each other and that’s very satisfying for both of us. My husband is a bit more confident and my g-spot seems to have become more sensitive!”
I asked Dr. Jane Owen, an OB-GYN at Mount Sinai in New York if childbirth can move things around down there.
“The g-spot is on the anterior wall of the vagina. It can definitely stretch out and move forward during childbirth, making it more accessible.”
And therefore easier to orgasm in certain positions.
Dr. Schulz explained that all the stretching that happens during childbirth can actually strengthen the muscles in the vagina, especially if you’ve been doing your kegels, making orgasms more intense.
Furthermore, the growth hormones that are released during pregnancy can lead to more nerve endings in your clitoris. More nerve endings mean more orgasms.
So not only can you physically feel more pleasure during sex post-childbirth, but the emotional connection to your partner is also heightened.
Carla, a new mom said;
“The few times we’ve had sex it has been wonderful. It’s more meaningful because we need that connection now more than before.”
Many moms said that because sex is now a lot less frequent than before kids came along when you do muster the energy to get intimate with each other, it’s special and much-needed.
My friend Alex, whose little boy is just a few weeks older than mine says: “It feels more passionate because it always follows such a long dry spell.
Couples Who Enjoy Sex Make Good Parents
So although you’re exhausted, irritated with your partner for leaving a dirty diaper on the bedroom floor and worried your baby will somehow know if you’re doing it, sex is worth prioritizing.
It is the private and sacred part of your relationship that is reserved for just the two of you.
After all the diaper-changing, bottle-washing and lullaby-singing is done for the day, sex can remind you of who you are as a couple and who you were before the new teammate came off the bench.
Cindy Barshop, the founder of VSpot explains how important intimacy is in a relationship.
“It is critical. It is a natural, human aspect of life. If you are suffering after having a baby, there are things you can do.”
Dr. Schulz agrees:
“If it’s painful, speak to your doctor. Try other ways of being intimate with each other rather than penetration, like oral sex or using sex toys. Remember what it’s like to have an orgasm.”
And Dr. Landa writes in her book The Sex Drive Solution For Women:
“Couples who enjoy each other sexually make healthier, happier and more balanced parents.”
Katie, a mom of three, sums it up perfectly:
“Sex has magical abilities to clear the air, we both sleep better and it breathes new life into our marriage. For these reasons I really prioritize it and the more you do it the easier it is. I encourage all moms not to compare themselves to some mythical standard.” – Katie
Because standards are certainly expected to be upheld for many new moms.
We face a lot of scrutiny in the months after giving birth, whether it’s how your body looks, if you’re breastfeeding or not, if you’ve gone back to work and how much sex you’re having (or in other words, how well you’re satisfying your partner) is just another to add to the list of judgements.
Moms are supposed to “bounce back” physically and professionally, emotionally and sexually, behaving like nothing has happened when arguably the biggest thing in your and your partner’s life has happened.
Which is why you have to approach sex post-childbirth differently. New parent sex is basically the opposite of sex in the movies.
Many moms describe how they have to “get creative” about when and where they have sex so as not to disturb the baby.
Emily, a first-time mom said they have sex in the middle of the afternoon in the hallway or the kitchen while the baby naps. “It’s like being a teenager again. There’s risk involved – like having sex at your parent’s house.”
Other moms schedule it into their partner’s diary and even send them a calendar invite or a text reminding them that “it’s on”.
They believe the anticipation adds to the excitement and transforms sex from a chore that needs ticking off the to-do list into something fun and passionate again.
Maybe it does mean starting again from scratch and learning how to be intimate with each other in this new phase of your life.
For all those new moms who are stumbling blindly through the postpartum fog, I promise, one day, you will wear nice underwear again.
You will get dressed up and go on another date night.
You will want to be intimate with your partner again.
And it will be more than just ‘fine’.
Remember, sex is what got you into this mess in the first place and sex will get you through it.
Are you struggling to be intimate with your partner after having a baby? Do you want to have sex but are scared it might be painful? Or is breastfeeding ruining your sex life?
Maybe your sex life better than ever after having a baby?
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