Sex after baby can seem like a daunting topic. Not only are you recovering from childbirth, (whether you delivered vaginally or by cesarean section), but you're also probably exhausted from caring for a newborn and even a little scared--not to mention the fact that due to hormonal changes, your libido is down. It's normal to be concerned about the quality of your sex life--and whether or not it will ever be the same again. "I always tell women, (after they finish breastfeeding), most moms have a full return in libido and enjoy a healthy sex life again," Marianne Ryan, PT, OCS, and author of Baby Bod: Turn Flab to Fab in 12 Weeks Flat, said.
Ryan talked us through how to prepare for your first time--and what you can do to reclaim your sex life. "A lot of women express fear of intercourse after childbirth and most women have a decreased libido after childbirth for a few months, longer if they are breastfeeding," she said. "Have very low expectations, make sure you have your doctor's okay and, in an ideal world, a physical therapist. Your body has to be ready for it and you have to be psychologically ready for it -- and if it hurts, no intercourse. It can be uncomfortable the first or second time, but test it out."
Ryan also advises against strictly relying on kegels. Sure, doing 100 kegels a day might sound like an ambitious way to strengthen your vagina, but it doesn't really work if you aren't properly aligned and breathing correctly. "I find them to be a big waste of time. Some women's muscles are really tight after childbirth, especially if they've had tears, so they have to first learn to relax and elongate their muscles," she said.
"The traditional treatment was to hand a woman a piece of paper and it was kegel exercises and tell them to go home and do them and they did a study that 51% of women were doing them incorrectly," she continued. "I've started not teaching kegels at all, even to my pregnant and postpartum women. I use something that I call the pelvic floor starter which includes alignment, stacking the rib cage over the pelvis, along with the right breathing techniques and then a muscular contraction. You start with a slow hold and then some quick ones."
Although the common misconception is sex may only be different after a vaginal delivery, the truth is that even women who have had C-sections experience a decreased libido and weakened pelvic floor. "Postpartum hormones affect C-section moms and vaginal moms. They can experience dryness and decrease libido. Some C-section moms can experience pelvic organ prolapse from carrying the baby and some of them go through labor and pushing prior to having a c-section," Ryan said.
The key to a successful postpartum sex life starts with an open line of communication with your partner. "Many partners do not understand the fear and decreased libido. Men often feel rejected rather than understanding that it is pain, lack of sleep and decreased desire interfering with their sex life," she said. "It is important to clearly state that you are not rejecting him."
When it comes to getting intimate again after childbirth, Ryan said it's normal to be scared--but to first and foremost make sure you're both physically and psychologically ready to do the deed. Once you are ready to have sex again, she recommends lubing up and easing into the act. "It takes a while for natural lubrication to come back and, especially if you're lactating, you're going to be dry down there," Ryan added.. "Definitely consider using lubrication and lots of foreplay."