If you’re expecting a baby, you already know that your life will be changed forever. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing, but being aware of the realities of life as a new parent can help you navigate some of the challenges to come, one of which being the changes in your sex life. Not only does your body have to heal from the physical trauma that is labor and delivery, but you can also expect your hormones to throw a few curve balls, too. Add to that the pure exhaustion of having a newborn, and sex can become daunting. While it may take some time to get back to the place you were sexually before your baby arrived, the good news is that most women report being just as satisfied (if not more!) when they get there. So to help you prepare for how things will go down in the sheets, we asked top experts to share the realities of sex after having a baby.
Yes, sex may be uncomfortable at first
Full disclosure: Sex will probably hurt postpartum. Your body has to heal from labor and delivery, which is why your doctor will likely advise you to wait at least six weeks, and maybe more if you’ve had a C-section. Stephanie Buehler, MPW, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and AASECT-Certified sex therapist at Hoag for Her Center for Wellness in Newport Beach and Irvine, CA, recommends that couples try using their hands or a small toy before attempting intercourse, as well as a lubricant. Because there may be changes in natural lubrication during the postpartum period, lube will help prevent discomfort.
You might not be turned on in the same ways
“Hormones, changes in bodily tissue, and shifts in the pelvic floor may mean making adjustments in how a woman is turned on after she has had a baby, with more or less stimulation in erogenous zones and genitals,” says Buehler. This, she explains, is perfectly normal, and both the woman and her partner should enjoy exploring these changes. Instead of the fire-engine hormones that revved your sex drive and may be in part how you got pregnant in the first place, you’re now being bathed in the feel-good hormone oxytocin that comes with snuggling, nursing, and caretaking.
Or you might not want sex at all for awhile
It’s not uncommon to lose your libido after giving birth. “Low estrogen levels, which will continue until a baby is weaned, contribute to lower sexual desire,” says Xanet Pailet, sex and intimacy coach and author of Living an Orgasmic Life. “And while many women might not admit it, there is a sensual aspect to breastfeeding: The bonding hormone oxytocin is released and so is prolactin, which not only helps with the ‘let down’ response but is also part of the sexual gratification feeling after lovemaking.” Some researchers suspect this is why breastfeeding meets a woman’s need for intimacy.
It may take some time to feel sexy again
Your body just went through the greatest of obstacles, carrying a child for nine months and then delivering it into this world. This, of course, comes with physical and emotional changes. “Many (25-50 percent) of women report feeling less attractive shortly after having children,” says Nicole Prause, PhD, a neuroscientist researching human sexual behavior, addiction, and the physiology of sexual response and founder of Liberos LLC. “These common changes in self-esteem and activity level can impact sex in a number of ways — most directly in the form of lower sexual drive and, more indirectly, no longer engaging in the activities that promote closeness.” This is a perfect opportunity to ask your partner for support, advises Pailet. “They can be your greatest ally here and help to romance you by sending you sexy texts, taking you out on a date, buying you lingerie, and making you feel desirable again,” she says.
It will be harder to find time for sex
Remember those long nights of lovemaking? Consider them a thing of the past. “Finding time to have sex will be one of the more challenging aspects of your relationship, especially with young children underfoot,” says Pailet. “You’ll have to get creative — grabbing a quickie during nap time, having sex in the same room with a newborn, as they have little awareness of their surroundings, etc.” She also urges new parents to remember that sexual intimacy doesn’t have to be intercourse. “There are many other ways in which a couple can connect intimately — giving each other massages, reading erotic stories or just fantasizing about what you’d like to do to each other,” she says. “The key thing is to keep the erotic energy between the two of you flowing, even if the burner is on low.”
It's often best to book a sexy getaway
If at all possible, try to book a vacation at some point during your child’s first year. “Less stress, no responsibility, and someone else taking care of your meals, creates the relaxing environment that you need in order to feel like a sexual being,” says Pailet. “It also provides you with the opportunity to share in pleasurable activities that you both enjoy.” Yes, you’ll miss your little nugget, but just think of how refreshed and renewed you’ll feel when you get back home.