*Disclaimer: always follow the advice of professionals. Just because I couldn’t control myself before the 6 week caesarean guideline doesn’t mean to say that you will be!*
Reader, if you’re of a sensitive nature, this probably isn’t the article for you.
I have an avid interest in anything to do with pregnancy, childbirth, post partum, relationships, the physical and mental aspects too. But rarely do I ever come across sex being mentioned, and when it is, it’s pretty much whitewashed, as if the topic is so utterly scandalous! (I prewarn you, I’m going to come over all ‘Mrs Focker’ in this article!) I want to open up a dialogue and inspire people to talk about sex more.
As an upfront person, I honestly consider sex to be an important aspect of life; obviously, this varies from person to person, so I’m not saying that sex is the be all and end all. However, it’s an integral part of your relationship, or if you’re a single mama, future relationships – not to mention the proven health benefits of a healthy sex life! Therefore, like all aspects of a healthy relationship, it’s something that we should be upfront about.
As I love to say; awareness beats ignorance!
I’ll be writing about my experience from my perspective; I appreciate that we all have very different experiences. I hope that at least some of you will be able to relate! I’ll also be using feedback from ladies from our private group in order to provide a balance!
Sex after having a baby is a MASSIVE thing, and such an important step, physically and emotionally. You’ve just been through childbirth. Your body has taken a beating, and so has your lady garden (or your lower tummy depending on how baby was born). You and your partner now have to divert attention from each other to this new little baby, which of course impacts on your relationship (not necessarily in a negative way).
I worried that I’d gained loads of weight (6 stone), that my boobs were leaking, that I didn’t ‘feel’ the same after 9 months carrying a baby around inside me. I worried that I smelled like baby sick, baby shit, 3 days of sweat and dirty hair. My Victoria’s Secret lingerie doesn’t even touch my arse anymore.
The operative word here is ‘worry’. Worry, worry, worry. The one thing that really strikes me about post partum sex is the FEAR! So, that’s what this article will focus on addressing, both from my perspective and the perspectives of ladies in our private Facebook group.
- The fears
- How we overcome them
- Coping mechanisms
- Loving yourself
I don’t claim to be an expert; I’m merely writing from my own perspective, with some guidance along the way from our private Facebook group, in the hope that people can relate.
‘When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are between the ears’.
For me and my fantastic fiance, we’ve always been very compatible; mentally, spiritually, emotionally and sexually. Therefore, from the moment that I got those two blue lines, I was worried about ‘upsetting the perfect balance’ that we’ve always maintained.
I mean, where would we find the time to connect (pardon the pun)? Would we lose sight of each other through the haze of sleepless nights, dirty nappies and crying fits? Or would we be brought closer together than ever by gummy smiles, big doe eyes and first giggles?
Ultimately, and thankfully, it was the latter. A new baby shocks the foundations of even the most secure relationship, it’s totally natural, but we found that communication kept us on an even keel (cliché but true).
Yes, we do argue more than we did before, but by making our arguments ‘functional’ in that we communicate, air out our grievances, and resolve them, we’ve strengthened our foundations. We use conversation as a coping mechanism, we use compromise as our cement. Jeez, that sounds as cheesy as it gets, and I hate the whole ‘inspirational’ jargon; but it’s true! Talk, talk, talk. It’s cathartic.
WHEN IS IT ADVISED TO HAVE SEX AFTER A BABY?
For a caesarean, it’s generally 6 weeks.
For a vaginal birth, its generally when your lochia (after birth bleeding) has finished, which is usually around 3 weeks.
However, it’s advised to wait for your 6 week post-partum checkup in case there are any underlying issues that sex could affect.
In my case, I waited until my lochia finished instead of the 6 weeks I should have as I had an emergency caesarean. However, if I could turn back time, I’d have waited that extra few weeks to reduce the risk of infection. I’m a fool, but an honest fool!
WHAT IF I GET PREGNANT AGAIN?
After having a baby, you’re very fertile, even if your periods haven’t returned. EBF (exclusively breastfeeding) isn’t reliable either.
At your 6 week check up, contraception will be discussed. However, you can go to a GP as soon as you feel ready to jump back into an active sex life.
It’s always advised to let your body recover before getting pregnant again; research also suggests that a gap of less than 17 months can increase the risks of a premature second labour, and a low birth weight. This risk is the greatest in second pregnancies less than 6 months after the first.
In short… get contraception. Double up if you’re particularly concerned about falling pregnant too soon! Also familiarise yourself with where you can obtain the morning after pill locally, just in case!
WHAT IF MY CAESAREAN DRESSINGS COME AWAY?
My wound was packed and tightly sealed each time I was seen by the district nurse – I had to go daily for 12 weeks to have a deep infection scraped out and cleaned. It’s really not advisable to do the deed when you’re bandaged up to the eyeballs and stinking of rotten flesh like I did, but if you and your partner are unable to resist the fervour of passion, keep it gentle. No swinging from the chandeliers and all that jazz.
I’m certainly not advocating sex before the advised timescale – please TRY to keep it in your pants! If I could turn back time, I’d have given myself a break and just waited.
If you’ve had a caesarean, wait until your doctor gives you the OK, and ask for some adhesive dressings that are difficult to dislodge. I found that mine wouldn’t have peeled off even if I’d done back flips down the street (not that I could have done that…).
WHAT IF MY EPISIOTOMY STITCHES BURST?
Don’t expect too much too soon.
Obviously, you should wait until you’re fully healed. From our member feedback, it seems that even at this point, you’ll likely feel like a virgin again (is it just me who sang that like Madonna?).
From chatting to members of our private supporters group, pain & tightness after an episiotomy was predominantly the biggest worry. According to the NHS, this is completely normal. Episiotomy stitches usually heal within a month, but you’ll still need to treat the new scar tissue gently.
You can read more here;
Listen to your body and listen to pain signals; they’re there for a reason! Each time, push yourself further and ease yourself back into sex, don’t expect the full shebang straight away! Lube, foreplay, and patience are key.
WHAT IF IT HURTS?
See above. Trust your body.
It MIGHT hurt, to be really honest. Prepare for all eventualities; lube is your best friend. Keep it gentle, slow and relaxed. The first time might not be ‘the’ time, but if you build your way up, you’ll avoid unnecessary pain.
WHAT IF I’M TOO LOOSE? OR TOO TIGHT?
I actually did a poll about this; the vast majority of our participants found that they felt the same or even tighter after, evenly distributed between ladies who had stitches and ladies who didn’t.
From a scientific perspective (I love me some good old science)… the vagina is designed to stretch and accommodate a baby, and lets face it, if having a baby left you with a ‘bucket’, people wouldn’t have more than one!
Your foo may feel different for a while but it should go back to normal in time; if it doesn’t, get checked with a doctor! They’re there to help. They’ve seen it all and will be totally understanding if you’re self-conscious and embarrassed (not that there’s anything to be self-conscious or embarrassed about).
Prolapse and other pelvic floor issues after a baby do happen, and they’re a legitimate concern. If you have any worries whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to get checked out.
You can read about pelvic prolapse here:
BUT ITS TOO SOON. BUT… WHEN?
Listen to your body, go with your instinct. You’ll know when the time comes!
Don’t feel pressured, and don’t worry that your partner will be put out if you’re not ready to bang; your body, your choice. Gently reassure your horny hubby or lusty lady that you still love them, but coerced sex is not fun sex, not romantic sex, and not acceptable sex. Both parties need to be happy participants!
Remember that there are no ‘rules’ (obviously listen to the guidelines though) when it comes to when you ‘should’ have sex after having a baby.
“Well, Bob at work reckons his missus was back in the saddle after 7 weeks! It’s been 10 weeks since you had the bairn!”
Bloody good for Bob. Give him a gold star for all I care. We all have different birthing experiences, and different recoveries. Comparing with others will just make you feel inadequate!
WILL I EVER GET MY LIBIDO BACK?
For me… this wasn’t an issue. I wanted to pretty soon after my caesarean despite being as sick as a dog, but I put that down to my raging hormones. For other ladies, it’s not the same, and it’s 100% normal to have low to no desire to do the nasty post-partum.
From post partum depression, to hormones still being off-kilter, breastfeeding (produces prolactin which can dull your libido) to medication, there are a plethora of reasons why you may not feel like sex for any given period of time after you’ve had a baby. This is normal. Open up a dialogue with your partner, and be honest. The truth will bother them less than just going along with it unhappily.
If you’re really struggling down the line…
• Explore other ways to find intimacy together; date night, for example. It could be 5 minutes together giggling at an inside joke, a shared bubble bath when baby is asleep – take every opportunity possible!
• Build up with some physical contact; skin-to-skin, cuddles, sweet kisses. Not inherently erotic but this may help to bring the sparkback.
• Visit a couples therapist if it’s getting to the point that you feel like nothing is helping. Some are specifically trained in terms of sexual issues.
HE WANTS TO… BUT I REALLY DON’T! (OR VICE VERSA)
No means no, and if he thinks no means yes, well, do I even need to spell it out? A truly understanding & supportive partner will be sensitive to your needs. You need time, you need space, and you need to heal.
As I said previously, don’t feel pressured and don’t compare yourself to other new mums.
On the flip side, you may find that your partner is reluctant; often because they’re worried about hurting you, or for the same reasons that a new mum may be worried. It’s easy to forget that our partners often mirror us; even with pregnancy symptoms! Give your partner time to ease back into your sex life, and don’t take it personally.
WHO DO I TALK TO?
This is where a strong support network and a good doctor are vital.
Shit doctor? Switch.
Shit friends? Try to make some more. (Our private group is excellent!) Baby groups are great; I’m quite shy so I prefer online groups. My writing is far more eloquent than my speech!
Ok, maybe I’m over simplifying, as its not as easy as just ‘making’ new friends at the drop of a hat. However, you can join local groups, or even Facebook groups and chatrooms, to meet other ladies who relate to you. I’ve found the group to be so helpful and reassuring; I don’t feel alone or abnormal thanks to the ladies who’ve given me advice and encouragement.
The importance of having someone to talk to is massively understated, in my opinion; its cathartic to vent, rant, ask questions, even have a cry, in the presence of an understanding friend.
Venting is cathartic, and mentally healthy. Venting to someone who understands and can relate over a cuppa is even better.
But I look like shit…
You’ve just birthed a little human. Cut yourself some bloody slack. If your partner isn’t looking at your marvellous, life-bearing body in sheer wonder and thinking ‘how did I ever get this goddess?!‘, they’re not worth it.
Having a baby does change your body, there’s no two ways about it. It’s normal to hate your new tum, the stretch marks…. I gained 6 stone and felt horrendous.
Treat yourself with tenderness, and trust your partner. After giving him a baby, the last thing he/she is likely to be worrying about is the bodily changes that you perceive to be bad.
This is a conversation that me & Toby have had a few times… in my lowest moments, I’ve even gone so far as to apologise to him for becoming, in my eyes, repulsive. He’s massively reassured me every time, and I’m now at the point where I feel much more comfortable in my new skin. I’m trying to lose weight for my own health, which is going well and making me feel fab.
That doesn’t mean to say that you need to diet to feel good about yourself though! That’s my coping mechanism. For you, it could be a new haircut/new nails/decorating/a new hobby that helps you to become comfortable with your post-baby bod.
I’m not going to lie and say that it definitely won’t hurt, or that you won’t feel self conscious. I won’t lie and say that you won’t feel desperate to please your other half by reciprocating sexual advances before you’re ready, and I definitely won’t lie and say that it’ll all be easy as pie.
But, I will tell you that any issue that you’re worrying about WILL have a solution. I’m ever the eternal optimist, and I love my rose tinted spectacles, but I honestly feel that by being positive and empowering yourself with helpful information, you can get over ANY hurdle that new motherhood throws at you. It really helps to step out of your comfort zone and face your worries head on.
Pour yourself a glass of vino (or something else equally tasty), pat yourself on the back, and cut yourself some slack. Stop comparing yourself to other people and do what makes YOU feel comfortable and secure.
Relax, and have fun!