Written by Paula Brečak for Self Studies
Right after you have given birth, sex is probably the last thing on your mind. For one thing, it is usually the doctor's orders to wait a bit for your body and vagina to recover. But besides that, you might just not want sex either.
After giving birth, a woman's reproductive hormones, estrogen specifically, plummet, and with it, so does sexual desire and vaginal lubrication. If breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin will further inhibit estrogen, and oxytocin will be all focused on cuddling with your baby so the need for sexual intimacy might decrease. This part is meant to go like this. Your body and nature are telling you that now is the time to focus on the bond with your baby. This lack of desire for sex is also giving your body a chance to heal.
Aside from all the biological factors that lead to the decrease in sexual desire and sexual activity, there is also the reality that taking care of a baby is just exhausting. It is not the orgasms you are craving, but food and sleep. And while you are just trying to keep it all together, all these expectations that you should be sexual again are piling up as well. They could be coming from your partner, social media, the image our society has created of women, or even from yourself. You had just birthed a baby and already there is the pressure to be sexy again, sensual again, horny again. In time, all of these will come, but do not rush before you are ready.
Once you are ready to delve into your sexuality postpartum, let us first say - welcome. Welcome to your new self, to the new body you will get to explore and learn what makes it tick, to sensuality that you will reinvent, to spaces of your sexuality that you will dive into deep, to new levels of partner intimacy.
It can be difficult to see yourself as sexual once you become a mother. The fault is in the society that sees mothers as purely asexual. Nevertheless, you are a sexual being, even though sometimes you might need to put a little attention and work to bring out that side of yourself. To make yourself feel sexual, indulge in the activities that bring you relaxation and connection to your own body. Light a candle, draw a bath, massage lotion or oil all over your body to feel its curves and softness, to remind yourself of how good touch can feel.
Your partner might be eager to get intimate with you again. But instead of trying to fulfill their expectations, tell them how you are feeling and what you need. Maybe you need them to be more involved with the baby so you can get some rest and regain your sexual energy. Likely you do not want to jump into rough sex right away, but want your intimacy to take different forms. Communicate about what that might look like - how you want to be cuddled, what touch and where suits you, how you can both experience pleasure without penetration. Understand that intimacy goes beyond sex. Find ways to connect and create close moments which do not culminate in intercourse. These can be simple and brief, like slow dancing to a song or taking the time to talk about how you are both doing, without focusing on the baby. These exercises in intimacy might seem trivial, but they are very powerful and will help you get close and connected to each other.
The sexual self you were and have known before your pregnancy is somewhat lost. Perhaps the breasts used to be an erogenous zone, and now you can only perceive them through breastfeeding. Maybe even the thought of using your favorite vibrator now hurts. The touch and intensity you used to enjoy from your partner might not feel so good anymore. Try not to let these changes frighten you, instead approach them with curiosity. As you restart your physical intimacy, go slow and gentle. Act like it is your first time, because it is. It is your first time having sex after giving birth. Even if you have given birth before, this will be its own experience, foreign and exciting. Take little steps to explore each other’s bodies and what feels good. Discover new erogenous zones that you might never have thought of. Engage in sex that does not include penetration, such as oral sex, mutual masturbation, or make use of some couple toys.
Self Studies curates several tools that can help you engage with your sexuality and intimately with your partner after having a baby. Discover them in our New Mom’s Guide to Pleasure. To make partner sex easier after giving birth, we particularly recommend the Ohnut Buffer Rings and the Maude Shine Lubricant. Both will make penetration more smooth and painless. Sex after baby can be a wonderful thing that helps you get in touch with yourself and with your partner. What it should not be is a chore. Now is the time to listen to your needs and your body, to go slow and gentle, and to see how a small touch can mean so much.