You’re lying in bed. Curled in the fetal position. You mind flashes back to your 6 week check up with your OB earlier today.
“All cleared.” he said. Your ears heard him, but your brain was screaming…REALLY???
It is the wee hours in the morning and the baby stirs. You hold your breath trying to be as still as possible. As if your breathing might just wake him up.
Then you feel it.
That hand gently, lovingly caressing your hip. He’s making his move.
What do you do?
We know some women are able to hop right back in the saddle (as it were) at six weeks or even before. But those lucky ladies are the exception, not the rule. Most women really struggle with sex postpartum. And ladies…sex is really important. It is one way that we connect with our partners. It is one way to feel a little like the woman we were before baby. It is an expression of ourselves and our relationships. It is a way that we communicate with our bodies and nothing quite compares to it’s form of expression.
But sex after baby can be hard, and scary, and painful. We are going to breakdown the most common barriers to your sex life after baby and give you suggestions to conquer your obstacles and repossess your sexuality!
After pregnancy things are…a little different. That tight, firm baby bump has turned into mush. Maybe you have pain that you weren’t expecting. Your body looks and feels different. Going from pregnant to not pregnant might just be the most sudden change your body ever goes through. Sex should be enjoyable. And if your body feels a bit like you just ran a marathon with your vagina sex isn’t going to have a lot of appeal.
Obstacle: I’m dry as desert down there
Almost immediately after birthing our babies, we deliver the placenta. This organ is responsible for a majority of our pregnancy hormones. Upon the delivery of the placenta, we experience a very normal hormone free fall. When our hormones change this drastically, there are some unwanted side-effects. One of them being vaginal dryness.
Break out the lube! You most likely won’t always have this problem. But while you do, do yourself a favor and get things “greased up” down there.
Obstacle: Some positions really hurt
Some of our clients have told us long after they have healed down there, some positions are still pretty uncomfortable. The first thing to do is run, not walk, to your nearest pelvic floor physical therapist. Many women don’t realize a physical therapist can really help improve their sex life. Most often pain during intercourse is caused by a tight pelvic floor. Our Fit Mom Foundations gals get exercises every month to help strengthen AND relax their pelvic floors. We think it’s really important to establish strength from the inside out.
Obstacle: I’m afraid I’m going to pee during sex
Stress incontinence often happens at predictable times, most often right at the beginning of intercourse when penetration alters the angle of the bladder and urethra. Women with urge incontinence often lose urine during an orgasm, which may be particularly upsetting.
So, what can you do? First of all, see your local pelvic floor physical therapist! They can give you exercises that can help you relax and contract your pelvic floor and get it working properly. You can also start doing the Fit Mom Foundations program that gives appropriate exercises to strengthen a healing pelvic floor. In the meantime, talk to your partner about what you are experiencing. Together you two might be able to come up with a game plan. Peeing before sex can really help. And sex lying on your side will also lessen the symptoms.
Obstacle: I’m so tired
Before you had your baby, you probably didn’t realize just how much of an abundance you had in time. You could have coffee with friends, just sitting leisurely. You could enjoy lazy afternoons in bed with your partner. Enter the hurricane that is an infant! Suddenly, where there was abundance there is now scarcity, and a bleak game of survival. You might come to believe in that first year that you will never feel rested again.
Mamas, hang in there and look out for yourself! Adventures in lovemaking may not have the usual appeal in this first year, but the connection is worth the effort. You will need to negotiate life changes now. It is totally OK to choose sleep over sex! Heck…we’ve done it! But it’s also OK to ask for help. Maybe you can ask your partner to watch the baby while you get a nap in, and in return you might feel rested enough to feel a little frisky! Maybe you’ll find that quickies are totally satisfying and actually help you fall asleep faster!
Obstacle: I have a painful scar
Sometimes your scar needs a little love too! If your scar is painful you want to first make sure that it isn’t infected, so get it checked out by your doc. When Cara had her c-section she would massage her scar daily so that it would heal better. Gentle massage of the scar could be a great way to work in a little foreplay!
If your scar is from a vaginal delivery (tearing or episiotomy) there is a certain paradox here. According to the PTs, having sex helps to break down the scar tissue from the stitches. So, try to relax, breathe deep and remember that sex is not only bringing you closer to your partner, but is also helping you heal! Win-win!
Sometimes our bodies are ready but our minds just aren’t. Just because you’ve been given the go-ahead by your doctor doesn’t mean that you are “ready” for sex. It isn’t just your body that has changed. It is your whole life! You have trouble reconciling your mommy hat with your lovers hat. You might feel insecure about your changing body.
And, we feel we need to just come out and say this–much of the talk about postpartum sex seems to be centered around male pleasure, not ours. As if new moms only do the deed to please their men, not themselves. Sex should be something that you do when you are ready on the inside and out because you really want to.
Obstacle: I don’t feel comfortable in my own body
Barring any kind of tragic accident, going from bump to baby is the biggest physical change you will ever go through. That firm, tight belly that everyone wanted to rub and touch has been transformed into a squishy marshmallow. Change can be hard. And it is even more difficult for women to accept and love their bodies AS IS, RIGHT NOW postpartum.
This is an ongoing discussion that we have with the mamas in our Fit Mom Foundations group. We teach our clients to show their bodies gratitude every damn day. Your body has done–and is doing–amazing things. Seek the things you appreciate about your body. Seek the things you find beautiful. Gratitude can go a long way…even as far as the bedroom.
Obstacle: I’m too depressed
A new baby can sometimes come with emotional challenges. If you are feeling sad, please tell someone. Let your doctor or midwife know. Don’t suffer in silence and shame. There is no shame in postpartum depression. It can be a natural side effect of your hormones changing after birth and it needs to be addressed.
The good news is that sex–orgasms to be more specific–can be a natural antidepressant. Your body releases oxytocin, the happy hormone, when you orgasm. This helps you bond with your partner and boosts your mood. Also, recent studies have found some of the hormones in semen actually help improve your mood.
Obstacle: I just can’t share my body with another person again today
Sometimes it can be really hard to turn off our “mama energy.” As moms we are all in. We rock our babies to sleep. We feed them. We are the comfort they seek. Our bodies are where all this nurturing happens. It can be really hard to share that body with your partner after sharing all day with your kids.
“I’m ready for my boobs to be erogenous zones again!” one of our clients told us. We get it.
Making the time to do things with your body, for yourself, can be enough. Your “off-limits” boobs may not be “in limits” quite yet, but it can help you feel you have agency over your own body. We encourage our mama clients to take at least 8 minutes everyday to do their daily minimum pelvic floor exercises. This not only helps their body get stronger and feel better, but gives many moms a time out for a short time. If you are lucky enough to get the whole workout it, more power to you!
There are no right or wrong ways to have sex after baby, except if you feel you’re not ready physically or emotionally. We’ve seen too many moms struggle in silence so we wrote this blog to help and support new moms as they reach this point. Our clients have been such an amazing resource for one another, even about things as private as sex. They are a group like no other and it is amazing to see women bond together as they have.
If you’d like more support be sure to join our free Facebook community Salem Fitness Mamas. We’d love to have you!