When the time comes to be intimate again following childbirth, it can bring up complex feelings. Here’s how to work through them…
Birth is a powerful and incredible feat, and bringing a child into the world is arguably one of the most life-changing things a person will ever do. But childbirth takes its toll on the body, both physically and emotionally – not to mention the months of pregnancy beforehand, which stretch and push your body to, what feels like, its limits.
Once your little bundle of joy is safely home, you begin the journey of learning how to navigate your lives as a couple, while simultaneously doing your best to take care of your baby.
It may be the last thing on your mind for a while, but there may come a time when you’re ready to resume sex with your partner. For some, sex is an important part of growing and maintaining not only a physical connection with their partner, but also an emotional one.
Thinking about the actual event, however, can be daunting. If you’ve had a particularly traumatic birth, stitches or tears (or even if you haven’t), it’s normal to have some anxiety around sex after pregnancy and birth. Here are five simple and effective steps to help ease your worries.
1. Don’t push yourself
Although it’s best to wait until you’ve stopped bleeding before you start having sex again, after a straightforward birth it’s likely that your GP will ‘sign you off’ at your six-week check for physical activity – which includes sex. However, it’s important that you don’t view this as a ‘must-do’, unless you really feel ready.
Leah Hazard, midwife and author of Womb says: “It’s dangerous and unhelpful to think of the six-week check as a time when women get some kind of professional permission or validation to resume penetrative sex. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to intimacy: every body is different, and every timeline of recovery and readiness is different.”
2. Make time for intimacy
A baby makes you busy. So busy, in fact, that it’s all some of us can do to lie on the sofa mindlessly scrolling on our phones for an evening. But carving out a little time for intimacy – kisses, cuddles, holding hands – can help you feel much more connected with your partner, and allow you to remember the sweetness at the core of your relationship, outside of dirty nappies and feeding schedules.
Leah says: “Some people will feel emotionally and physically ready for intimate touch just a few days after birth, while others may not feel that way for many weeks or months. Both approaches are fine. It’s important to give your body and mind time to adjust, and it’s also helpful to remember that a nurturing physical relationship with your partner doesn’t have to involve penetration, or even genital contact.”
3. Ensure you’re completely ready
Vaginal dryness is a common cause of painful sex after giving birth, and it’s really key not to push yourself if you’re hurting. Even if you’re in the middle of what you thought might be your first time back between the sheets with your partner, you should press pause on things if you’re feeling uncomfortable or in pain. It’s important that your partner should be respectful and understanding of this. Buying a water-based lubricant can really help!
4. Don’t go ‘all the way’
There are so many ways to be intimate with your partner which don’t involve full, penetrative sex. Engaging in some foreplay is a fun and exciting way to reintroduce sex into your relationship, while also easing the anxious thoughts you may be having about painful or awkward intercourse. Open communication with your partner about your boundaries is important here.
5. Get some help
Leah says: “If you feel that there’s a specific issue with your physical recovery – either with your perineum or your caesarean section wound – do speak to your midwife or GP to see if treatment is required.”
Emotionally, if your anxiety is too much to handle when it comes to thinking about resuming sex, it’s important you look into getting some support, likely from your GP who may refer you for talking therapy. Close friends and family can also be a great help if you’re finding things difficult. Please don’t suffer in silence.
In short, there are no hard rules for resuming sex after childbirth. You should set your own timeline, go at your own pace, and only do what feels right.