Okay mamas, be honest…when you hear “postpartum sex”, how do you feel? Do you get a bubble of excitement or giddiness? Perhaps you experience a bit of internal groaning and dread? Maybe overtures of joy flood in, only to be followed by fugues of fear? For a new mother, the mere thought of postpartum sex can trigger an entire army of emotions as she tries to wrap her brain around something once again entering the very space that her little baby recently exited.
Drawing similarities between postpartum sex and labor might seem like an unfair comparison or a mental stretch. On the other hand, it can feel like a perfectly acceptable, natural parallel to use. Indulge me, if you will, as I highlight some truths behind this analogy.
1) Postpartum sex is uncharted territory.
You have never had sex with this post-baby body, after this particular child in this distinctive stage of your life with this exclusive set of emotions, experience and expectations. Even if you already have a child (or several!), each pregnancy and birth is unique. Thus, the way you are physically and emotionally impacted can be different each and every time. Some postpartum periods are smooth sailing while others feel like a long, difficult trek through the wilderness.
Since postpartum sex is a new experience every single time you have a baby, remember to be gentle with yourself! Just as in labor, it helps to mentally prepare for a positive experience; sex may go smoothly without any discomfort at all. Who knows…you might actually enjoy yourself in the very first go ‘round! But if there is discomfort or pain or awkwardness abounding, show yourself compassion. Chart this new course intentionally with your partner, taking steps (outlined below) to increase the likelihood of great pleasure.
2) Postpartum sex requires physical relaxation.
For a postpartum mom, the tip most frequently given for postpartum sex is lubrication. And for good reason! Physical intimacy is smoother (and more enjoyable!) when things are wet and slippery. Depending on hormone levels and breastfeeding status, postpartum women can experience a marked increase in vaginal dryness. So, even if you have never needed it before, do not be shy about employing outside lubrication!
On a physical level, it is important to go slowly. Consciously let go of your muscle tension. Stop, or take breaks, as needed. Remember to breathe; oxygenation helps keep your body soft and loose. Communicate what you are physically feeling and guide your partner, as needed. Foreplay is your friend!
3) Postpartum sex requires mental relaxation.
Set the stage for intimacy! What kind of environment do you find most relaxing and conducive to sex? Candles and soft music? Quiet and total darkness? Do warm snuggly blankets or crisp, cool sheets sound more enticing? If your partner does not already have an idea of your preferences for a relaxing environment, say them out loud. Those elements can only be incorporated if they are known.
Ponder what you need to mentally let go of the outside world and participate more fully. This might involve creative timing around a napping baby or tackling an unpleasant chore first (e.g. paying hospital bills). Whatever stressors are rolling around in your head, take steps with your partner to minimize them.
4) Postpartum sex requires emotional relaxation.
In order to be fully relaxed, it is important to feel safe. Your personal feelings of security will have a direct impact on how relaxed your body and mind are in this postpartum encounter. How secure do you feel about your partnership, family life or being loved? Do you need a security boost?!
One way to increase feelings of security is to speak to one another in your respective love languages. If you are not already familiar with this concept, I encourage you to take the quiz today and discover your love language! Filling up one another’s “love tank” is crucial for physical intimacy to be a positive experience. In the days or weeks preceding sex, see how many ways you can say “I love you” to your partner. Make a game of it! Be playful and fun with one another.
If the sex gets awkward, laugh together! Don’t take yourselves too seriously; it will free you from experiencing the perceived “weight” or burden of these early intimate encounters post-baby. (Double bonus – laughter instantly relaxes one’s mind and body!)
5) Postpartum sex progresses best when coupled with positive communication.
Be considerate in your communication, but also be open and honest with your partner. You do not have to bury or hide your feelings. Relationships work best under the light of authenticity. That being said, you are both in a very sensitive and vulnerable phase of family life. Speak your truth kindly.
Whether you are eager to physically reconnect with your partner or tensing up at the mere thought of it, sex is usually a part of the couple package. It can be a powerful form of intimacy and connection (which can be especially helpful during the postpartum time when couples may be feeling a bit distanced from one another). Embrace this early time in the parenting trenches and open yourself up to a new chapter in your sex life. Postpartum sex will look and feel different than pre-pregnancy sex; that’s okay. Different does not always equal bad. Just remember – however your experience ultimately takes shape, it will be much more enjoyable when created together.