Let's Talk About Sex...After Baby
After eight installments in our Postpartum Series, we’ve arrived to THE BIG ONE…the one about sex. Talk about vulnerability! This post came out of a mixture of stories/advice from friends, troubles our clients went through, along with our own personal experiences. We are getting REAL, friends.
Like we’ve done a couple of times here on the Embrace the Cape blog, this post comes with a warning- This is unfiltered! Nothing to be ashamed of, but if the topic of sex isn’t your thing, then move right along and we’ll see you back next week!
We would be lying if we didn’t admit that Salt-N-Pepa’s hit song didn’t instantly pop into our heads when we started planning for this blog. If you don’t know what we’re talking about go ahead and take a listen to get you in the mood- Let’s Talk About Sex . Keep in mind, it came out in the early 90’s, we aren’t endorsing every line of the song—BUT it’s fitting when we’re about to talk about sex…… after baby.
before we get started…
Let’s pause for a minute and chat briefly about sex during pregnancy- specifically towards the end of pregnancy. If you’re currently pregnant you may have noticed or will notice that your hormones play a huge role in how you feel about sex or being intimate. You may have weeks where it’s on your mind all the time and you have a heightened libido, while other weeks the thought of having sex is somewhere on another planet. And your partner- they may have feelings about it as well... they might even be different from yours. If you find yourself on opposite ends of the spectrum from your partner this is a great time to open up dialogue about sex- expectations, boundaries, views or feelings about intimacy while there is a growing baby between you. Have you had a conversation like this before? If not, even reading the words may make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s so important for a healthy relationship. Take our word for it- any vulnerability you feel in regards to talking about sex will increase after childbirth. We hate to say it but having a baby changes things, especially in this department, and in a variety of ways that we will touch on below.
Here is what you need to know from your doulas about sex, how it pertains to pregnancy, and as a natural way to get labor going.
Unless your care provider has indicated otherwise sex is safe as long as you are ok and comfortable with it, and as long as your bag of waters is intact
Ever heard of prostaglandins? A synthetic form of prostaglandins is what is used in cervix ripening medications given at the beginning of an induction. Semen is a natural source of prostaglandins which is why it is often suggested to increase the chances of kick-starting labor.
Be prepared- if you’re nearing the end of pregnancy and you have intercourse it may cause contractions. Orgasms too. You shouldn’t go into labor unless your body is truly ready, but the Braxton hick’s contractions may feel more intense or more frequent than normal.
You don’t have to have sex in order to go into labor so if you’re not into it- that’s totally ok! Our advice is to always do what feels right. We always encourage intimacy long before we encourage intercourse. That’s because cuddling, kissing, flirting, all the other things- they help you produce the “love hormone” oxytocin. And guess what?! Oxytocin is the synthetic form of Pitocin— the medication used to induce uterine contractions.
ok, let’s get started
No matter how you had your baby, in the days or weeks following your birth, you are probably feeling one of two ways- amazing and like you just handled childbirth like it was your job, or like if you move the wrong way an organ might fall out. We know that’s graphic, but its actual words we’ve heard spoken from ourselves, from clients, or friends- and we want to be transparent. The pain from labor and childbirth is often talked about- but the aftermath is typically hidden or dismissed.
so what does this mean in regards to sex?
First of all, no matter how you are feeling physically, your body is 110% still healing for at least 6-8 weeks or more. We are going to mention again, for probably the fifth time, the why behind abstaining from intercourse or the insertion of any object into the vagina for those weeks of healing- no matter if you had a vaginal or cesarean birth. After the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus it leaves a wound that is approximately 8-10 inches in diameter. This wound has to scab over and heal—aka the reason for bleeding. Simultaneously, your uterus and cervix take about 6-8 weeks to close and go back to normal size. Point being, anything inserted can be a vessel for bacteria that can cause an infection. Also, whether you had stitches or not you may still have small lacerations along your vaginal wall that can be exposed to bacteria.
“So I can’t have sex, even if I feel great…. and I’m, ya know, READY?!”
We strongly encourage you to meet with your doctor first! But, creating and birthing a baby, seeing your partner become a parent, mixed with the intense hormones you are feeling- it can be sexy. So, if your hormones and body are telling you that you’re ready to get a little frisky, then do it! There are so many other ways to have intimacy and pleasure without intercourse; you just have to get creative. Think of it like 6-8 weeks of foreplay, and take advantage, because we can’t promise that the frisky hormones will stay around forever.
Again, we encourage open dialogue about this with your partner. They may not understand the importance or the why of waiting, especially if you’re feeling great. Read through this blog with them if that’s the case! Then, come up with some creative ways to take the edge off of waiting. You can even pre-plan your first “date night” after the long awaited doctor’s appointment.
sex?? yeah, no!
If READY is the exact opposite of how you’re feeling- you’re not alone! You may even be feeling some dread in regards to getting the all clear. If “6-8 weeks” is not enough time for you- that is perfectly fine and normal! You have gone through a multitude of changes emotionally and physically, you are delicate in this phase of your life, please give yourself some grace. Our hope beyond all hopes is that you’re in a relationship with someone that can see how vulnerable you are in this space, and they can be respectful of that. Dialogue- crucial. Men specifically can be oblivious to things, especially regarding sex, without a direct conversation. While women typically anticipate our partners to see all of the moving pieces and know, without asking, exactly what we’re feeling and thinking. So remember, if you are with someone and they are initiating sex, take a deep breath and respond gracefully. Take a minute to explain some of the things you are feeling emotionally and physically and offer up an alternative idea. I.E- cuddling, making out, spending time together, other forms of sex. Most likely they just miss you and want to connect with you. Once you take a deep breath you might realize you miss them too.
Once you’re feeling more ready or you ARE READY- here’s what to expect:
Go ahead and arm yourself with some good lube, we’ll even make it simple by recommending a natural brand you can add to your amazon order- Good Clean Love. Because let’s just face the facts- the significant hormone changes and the added hormones if you are breastfeeding may leave you a little dryer than normal… or a lot dryer than normal. Add that to any trauma to your vaginal area from birth and your anxiety about sex alone can cause you to be dryer than normal. More than anything just take things really slow and say pause or stop if you are feeling any friction that feels uncomfortable.
So here’s the deal, if foreplay wasn’t a thing before baby, it’s probably going to need to be now. The stresses and exhaustion from having a newborn, mixed with the hormones mentioned above may lead to a lack of natural desire to do anything but sleep under the sheets. It’s hard to make the switch to someone’s mommy to someone’s lover without some sort of transition. Foreplay is different for everyone so it may take some discussion, trial and error, and research to figure out what works best for you. We all know what Google is- there is no shame in searching the words “foreplay ideas” if you need to get some options to get you started. Do this with your partner! Researching ideas together may be all the momentum you need to get you in the mood.
Fair warning your breasts are going to be noticeably different after having a baby, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You, or your partner, may have already noticed some of these changes during your pregnancy. If not, here is what you can expect. They will be larger, larger and darker areolas, sore, more sensitive…and they will leak. The sensitivity that you experience may be a good or bad thing and may require some guidance and conversation. You may find that being touched turns you on (aka great foreplay!) or that you don’t want your breasts touched at all- maybe even to the point that you want to keep your bra on. This sensitivity shouldn’t last forever but it may continue through your breastfeeding journey. And the leaking- remember the mention of the “love hormone” oxytocin above? It’s produced when you’re breastfeeding your baby and is what helps the muscles around your milk glands contract producing a milk letdown. It’s also produced when things get “steamy,” especially as you near an orgasm, which means there may be milk EVERYWHERE. We promise this isn’t a bad thing, just something to anticipate and make the most of. And a little heads up to your partner might be helpful so they’re not so shocked when this happens.
Having a baby may make you feel a little numb in the sex department. This is one of those things that we talk about as being common, but not normal. Unfortunately, low libido can last quite some time after having a baby, especially if you’re breastfeeding and without the return of a menstrual cycle. Other than hormones- diet, exercise, sleep, relationships, stress, and even clutter & stress within your home, can all play a role. But if focusing on those things still isn’t helping we strongly encourage you to talk to you care provider. We also really like the Meet Rosy app which was created by OB/GYN Lyndsey Harper in order for women to have a safe place have access to tools to help with their libido. —”Rosy is a resource to connect the 25 million women in the US with decreased sexual desire with hope, community, and research-backed solutions to improve their lives.” Also, the Sex With Emily podcast episode- “Make Your Libido Great Again.” has some great info on the subject!
other things to expect…down under
We’re just going to come right out and say it- queefing. If you haven’t experienced it before, you might now. Carrying and then delivering a baby changes your anatomy down there. It also opens things up and allows more air in, so during the height of passion you may hear some sounds that leave you giggling. Again, nothing to be ashamed of, but it can catch you by surprise so laugh it off and just keep going! We promise if you’re in loving relationship it is not going to faze your partner one bit.
Unfortunately, certain positions that you loved before may feel really uncomfortable or even painful after carrying a baby. Pregnancy takes a toll on your pelvis and all of the organs and muscles within it. If you find yourself in pain during intercourse contact your care provider! They can refer you to a pelvic floor physical therapist that can give you the tools you need to help make things more comfortable. Here is another Sex With Emily episode describing what to expect when seeing a pelvic floor specialist- “More Sex, Less Pain with Heather Jeffcoat.” They can also help with any urinary incontinence or urgency issues you may have. Locally we love and adore the therapists at Vitalize Indy.
the finish line
Yes, sex is different post baby- but it can also be great. Like really great! If you’re in a committed and loving relationship, then you have just taken things to a new level. You have experienced the wonder of parenthood and creating life, you have grown and will continue to grow together. And though you may be thrown into some obstacles you weren’t expecting- overcoming them as a couple is going to take your intimacy to new heights. All of that means that the “finish line” is going to be something greater than you have experienced before.