Some women can't wait to start having sex again soon after having a baby. But getting back into the saddle can be tough for many new mamas, especially given everything that's stacked against them: the lingering pain from delivery, raging hormones, baby blues or postpartum depression, weird body changes, and of course, the biggest libido-killing elephant in the room: the pure exhaustion a having a newborn.
Even when you've started feel like you might have a handle on this parenting thing, getting the sex life you used to have back can seem impossible. And yet, according to one study, a full 94 percent of respondents claimed to be satisfied with their post-baby sex lives, and more than half said having a baby improved things. (Woot!) The truth is, it just takes some time—and effort. These tips can help you bring back the heat and connection that got you that baby in the first place.
Most new mothers are advised to hold off on intercourse until six weeks after delivery, which is when they have their postpartum checkup. You'll want to make sure that you've had a chance to heal, and that the lochia (discharge of leftover blood and uterine tissue) has stopped. Pay attention to your body—the time your body takes to recover is largely individual. Your partner should wear a condom, and you might need to use a personal lubricant.
If you had an episiotomy or other laceration, the time it takes to heal will depend on how extensive it was and where the cutting was done. Even at six weeks, women who have had this procedure will probably still have discomfort if they attempt intercourse. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate some of that discomfort. In some cases, an over-the-counter, water-based vaginal lubricant can help.
Your partner might be chomping at the bit, but your new-mom bod needs time to recover! Don't rush into it—your hormones won't return to normal until after you've begun menstruating again, and that may not be for four to 12 weeks after delivery. If you're breastfeeding, it might take considerably longer.
Also, caring for a newborn day and night may leave you too fatigued to want sex. You might feel "touched out" after cuddling a newborn much of the day. Talk to your partner about your feelings.
When you resume having sex, it may be slightly (or very) uncomfortable at first. You and your partner may have some fears about whether you've healed completely (even though your doctor gave you the go-ahead to have sex). Here's what you need to know to have great postpartum sex:
1. Use birth control. Check with your doctor or midwife about birth control before resuming sex—nothing will kill your just-getting-up-to-speed libido faster than getting pregnant (or even imagining getting pregnant) again so soon. (Just ask Tori Spelling, who announced her pregnancy with baby #4 when baby #3 was just 5 months old.)
2. Take it easy. Accept that you'll be making love rather delicately during these first few months. The genital area does revert to its prepregnancy state: Kegel exercise can help to restrengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Your post-pregnancy sex may also be plagued by common fears that your body will feel "different" to your partner after having given birth. For the sake of your own happiness and your relationship, it's time to disconnect from those feelings, if only for a little while. Here's how: Take a shower, put on a sexy nursing bra (yes, they exist), and repeat your new mama-mantra: these body changes are badges of honor for bringing a beautiful baby into the world. And, let's be honest here: Your partner certainly isn't thinking about them—he's too overjoyed to finally be getting some action again.
3. Lube up. Even if lube was never part of your repertoire before, it'll be your BFF post-baby. One reason: "Breastfeeding can reduce estrogen, thus leading to vaginal dryness," explains Rachel Needle, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and executive director at the Whole Health Psychological Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. And dryness leads to...OUCH! But that's nothing a little water-based lube—well, more like a lot!—can't fix.
4. Get over the leaky boob thing. After you have a baby, your breasts that were perhaps fuller, firmer, and more fun to have in bed with you may now suddenly be leaking on you and your partner during sex.
5. Acknowledge your partner's fears. Your partner may have hidden fears or questions he or she is afraid to bring up. Men expect women's bodies to go through major changes during pregnancy, but many are unprepared for the physical changes women will experience after childbirth. If your partner is in the delivery room with you, he can be awed by the miracle of birth yet simultaneously stunned by the physical pain and trauma you're experiencing. The good news: This typically proves to be a temporary phase, and as with most things postpartum, all that's needed to help fade those images is a little time.
6. Masturbate. Wait, what? Aren't you supposed to be focused on your partner here? Surprisingly, according to Marin, some self-pleasure is actually key to getting your intimate life back: "Your body has not been fully yours for almost a year, and it's time to start redeveloping your relationship with it," she says.
7. Actually, stop thinking about sex so much. It sounds like a contradiction, but obsessing because your sex life isn't what it used to be can leave you and your partner feeling distant and frustrated with each other—so just. stop. Acknowledge what's going on and then focus on other parts of your relationship: Tell your partner something you appreciate about him. Reminisce about your favorite memories together. Make a point of having a conversation about something other than the baby. These connections will remind you of the things that you love about each other and the relationship you had together even before you started a family.