The Sex Life of New Parents

Your sex life may never be the same again—here's why.

Unrecognizable and fatigued is how many describe their bodies after childbirth. The changing landscape, fluctuating hormones, and downright messiness of new parenthood leave many new parents feeling unsexy. Sometimes so much so that they're uncomfortable with the idea of merely taking off their clothes, never mind letting someone else touch their body. But not everyone feels this way—for some, sex gets better after giving birth.

Keep in mind that you should get clearance from a health care provider before engaging in sexual activity after childbirth. Often, doctors recommend waiting on penetrative sex for six weeks; but you may be able to resume non-penetrative sexual activity sooner.

Read on to learn why sex changes after childbirth and what you can do if you're experiencing low libido.

Why You May Have Low Libido

A low sex drive after childbirth is totally natural. Afterall, your body went through a lot of work, probably some trauma, and afterward, your hormones shift a lot.


Progesterone is highest during pregnancy and plummets after birth. According to a 2019 study, this, combined with high prolactin, low estrogen, and potentially lower dopamine can result in psychological impacts, like depression and reduced sex drive.

Bodily recovery

Following childbirth, you need time to recover. According to the Office on Women's Health, physical changes after birth include:

In addition to the typical healing process, if you've had an injury, like vaginal tearing, an episiotomy, or pelvic floor prolapse or dysfunction, or if you had a C-section, your recovery time can be more painful or lengthy. It's natural not to feel sexy as your body heals, which usually takes around six weeks.


According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Perinatal Education, up to 45% of new gestational parents report experiencing birth trauma. While most people think of birth trauma as experiencing a life-threatening situation, there is no list of which things make a birth traumatic; that's because people experience things differently. A traumatic birth may include fear for your life or your baby's life and can also result from your birth not going as planned.

Birth trauma can interfere with your-day-to-day life, including your libido. The good news is that therapy is effective for processing birth trauma. So, talk to a health care provider for guidance if you've experienced it.

Why Sex Can Get Better

Better sex after parenthood? Who knew? Lots of people, it turns out. And even further, some say that they feel an incredible new level of desire and love for their partners after witnessing or experiencing childbirth.

And surprisingly, there are many physical changes post-pregnancy that may make your sex life better than ever, too. Sensory experiences after childbirth can be more intense, says sex therapist Sallie Foley, coauthor of Sex Matters for Women. Some people enjoy the additional sensitivity of their engorged breasts while they're nursing, she notes, while others claim that although orgasms may take longer to achieve due to fatigue, the sensations can be more physically profound.

Cheri Van Hoover, an assistant clinical professor of nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, speculates that increased blood flow during pregnancy increases pelvic congestion of the vaginal area and engorges the genitals—perhaps permanently enlarging blood vessels and making the genital area more sensitive to stimulation. According to a study in Circulation, total blood volume increases on average during pregnancy by 45%.

Rediscovering your sexuality after parenthood provides fresh opportunities to deepen your understanding of yourself as a sensual being and to explore new levels of intimacy with your partner. Read on for some tried-and-true tips for enjoying postpartum sex after childbirth.

Get Comfortable in Your Skin

Your body has gone through an enormous change during pregnancy and after giving birth. So how can you embrace your changing body? Here are a few tips.

Don't compare yourself to others

If you can accept your body just as it is, you may discover that sexuality is less about slinky dresses and more about having a powerful body that can do wonderful things, says Cathy Winks, coauthor of The Mother's Guide to Sex.

Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and your postpartum body is beautiful. Media is full of unattainable beauty standards—most of which are unhealthy. So, embrace your postpartum body, even if it takes some time.

Get moving

Once you have the go-ahead from a health care provider, move your body to help boost your energy, confidence, and sexual health. As Foley points out, exercising is the closest thing you have to a fountain of youth. It helps your body maintain nutritional and hormonal balance. And it boosts your mood because it releases feel-good chemicals in the brain.

In fact, the sexual benefits of exercise are potent. For instance, the physical flexibility that results from exercising also contributes greatly to the comfort and pleasure of sex with a partner, especially if you want to try more adventurous positions.


Masturbating after birth can be a way for you to feel in control of exploring your body and help you find out what feels good and what doesn't. Be sure to talk to a health care provider about when it's OK to masturbate—often external stimulation is OK in the earlier weeks after giving birth.

This sort of private time is crucial to rediscovering your sexuality after giving birth, says Winks, because then you can show your partner how and where you enjoy being touched now. In fact, she goes one step further, suggesting that every new parent needs to figure out what makes them feel good before resuming sex.

Overcome Discomforts

No matter how smooth your childbirth experience or how cheerily your health care provider gives you the green light for sex at your six-week checkup, you may find sex uncomfortable.


After giving birth, some people experience pain as a result of scar tissue, which can make them approach sex with a lot of trepidation. Even if your episiotomy or tear has healed, your genitals may still feel bruised and sore, and your perineum can continue to feel tender for anywhere from three months to a year, says Van Hoover. Or, if you've had a cesarean section, your abdominal wound may still be tender for several months.

In a 2019 study published in Midwifery, researchers evaluated perineal pain in the first year after childbirth in Swedish participants. At three months, 62% of people experienced perineal pain, 39% experienced pain at six months, and 10% were still experiencing pain at one year. For those with severe perineal injuries the rates in all timeframes were higher.

So, before resuming intercourse, talk to your partner about your concerns. You may want to start your new sex life by experimenting with fingers and sex toys. When you have penetrative sex, use positions that put you more in control of the angle, speed, and depth of penetration, Van Hoover suggests.

Sex can be scary that first time, but it probably won't hurt as much as you think it will. Plus, by slowly, gently stretching the vaginal area through sex play, you're actually helping your tissues resume their previous shape.

Vaginal dryness

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), low estrogen often causes vaginal dryness. Since estrogen drops after giving birth, many new parents experience an increase in vaginal dryness—especially if they're breastfeeding. That's because nursing suppresses your ovarian estrogen production, and such decreases can make you drier. So, always keep a lubricant by your bedside and, when you begin having sex again, make sure to use lots of it!

Breast leakage

If you're breastfeeding, there's a good chance that you will experience leaking or spraying milk when you are aroused. This happens for some people with breast or nipple stimulation; while others can experience it even without direct stimulation. That's because nerves, hormones, and emotions play a role in the milk ejection reflex.

For some people, this is an adventurous plus to breastfeeding and sex. For others, it's entirely unwanted. Some people find that wearing a nursing bra during sex for the first few months helps. Eventually, your letdown reflex won't be triggered quite so easily and sex will become less messy.

Communicate With Your Partner

Probably the toughest sex act is the verbal one, especially for new parents who have little private time. But talking about sex after you've had a baby is almost as important as doing it. You and your partner will both benefit from honest discussions about how having a child has changed your sexual needs and expectations. Don't forget that your partner probably has as many issues surrounding your brand-new sex life as you do, Winks points out.

A good way to approach even the most intimate conversations about sex, says Foley, is to make open-ended statements and ask your partner to share their feelings about the same topics. If you find these kinds of topics too tricky to discuss, write the answers on a piece of paper and then swap them. Some examples include:

  • "My most exciting sexual moment with you was..."
  • "The part of my body that I feel most self-conscious about is..."
  • "The thing about sex that I'm most uncomfortable with is..."
  • "My favorite part of making love to you is..."

If you do get into a thorny discussion about your sexuality, be clear and direct. Use "I" statements, says Winks, such as "I feel insecure in my new body," rather than defensive or accusatory words. Most important, go into these talks with a generous spirit, advises Winks. Seeing the situation from the other person's point of view will help you approach any discussion with more understanding.

Embrace Your New Sex Life

When it comes to sex after parenthood, one of the biggest changes may be less spontaneity. That lusty, do-me-on-the-living-room-floor sex you enjoyed before parenthood is likely in less supply now. Plus, anyone with a small child knows that by the time the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, and you and your partner are finally alone, sleep often wins out over sex. So, one of the biggest things you can do to enhance your new sex life is to make time for it.

Some people find that scheduling sex works for them, but it's not the only solution. Some other ideas for having more sex after kids:

  • Jump in the shower together for a morning quickie.
  • Have sex during baby's nap time.
  • Talk to a neighbor or friend who might be willing to occasionally swap childcare.

While it might be tempting to disappoint yourself by comparing sex to what it was pre-baby, try not to think of this as a loss, but rather as an opportunity to reinvent your sexual partnership. To emphasize this, Winks suggests exploring other ways to express yourself physically, like massage, taking bubble baths together, and even re-creating those high school make-out sessions in which you kept your clothes on.

The more new sexual roads you travel together, the more your feelings about your body will evolve and your attitudes will shift, says Winks. Your experience of sexual pleasure will be in a continual state of flux. But your right to pleasure is constant, and no one can assert that right as well as you can.

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