One of the topics often worried about but not talked about is postpartum sex. You’re given all the information in the world about taking care of your incisions, how to feed a baby, how to lay them to sleep, and if you’re lucky, you’ve gotten great info about breastfeeding. But no one talks to new moms about how to reconnect with their partner.
That post 6 week check-up they give you the “OK” to be able to have sex again but has anyone told you that you may not even want to have sex? Did they mention how your hormones change the way you feel and how your body responds? Have they even given any tips on how to get back into the act? I know I for one never got any information. After 4 children, the only thing that has ever been brought up in any conversation with my OB during my postpartum check-up has been, “so what birth control have you been considering?”
I was the first in my family to breastfeed past a couple weeks. So imagine my surprise when I had all these changes and had absolutely no one to talk to about it. No one was able to tell me “Hey just so you know, watch out for-…” or “You may experience-…”. After my first child, my libido was basically GONE. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Why was this happening? 11 years ago, there was not much info on the internet. Luckily, Facebook was available and Mommy Groups were in full force. I searched all over the group posts to see if there was anyone else that was suffering like I was. Too embarrassed to just come out and ask my question myself, i continued to stand in a dark corner, wondering if I would ever be “normal” again.
As luck would have it, 3 or 4 months into my breastfeeding journey, someone had finally asked the question! I was finally going to get answers! Yes, if you are a breastfeeding mama, your sex drive could decrease. It wasn’t just me. I wasn’t alone. But that was all I was given. So now what? Breastfeeding is the cause of this, so did I have to choose? If I stopped breastfeeding, would it return?
I chose to continue breastfeeding, but I tried to force myself to WANT to be intimate. It wasn’t working. So with lack of support and education on breastfeeding, I ended up quitting at around 6 months. (If you don’t want to make the same mistakes I make, click here—>Things I wish I knew about Breastfeeding…
As baby 2 came I knew to expect the changes, but there was still no one to explain to me what was going on or what to do. By this time I talked with my OB about it and received a generic “Oh that’s normal” response. It was as if no one wanted to talk about it. Or perhaps, they just didn’t know? Regardless, it took a lot of learning on my part to educate myself on what was going on with my body. Once I became a nurse, I made it a point to understand these changes, so that my patients could be better informed as well, and not go through the confusion and frustration that I went through.
So are you ready ladies? Let’s talk about sex…
How soon after giving birth can I have sex? Why do you have to wait 6 weeks?
I get it. If you’re one of the gals that isn’t affected negatively by hormones and such, you may be eager to reconnect with your partner, now that you’ve gotten rid of that “space” between you two. But it’s important to understand that your doctor isn’t telling you to wait for your 6 week check up just because they don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or have any pain. They want you to wait because you are now susceptible of a vaginal or uterine infection. If you had any repairs during delivery including an episiotomy, having sex too soon cause put you at risk for other complications, like postpartum hemorrhage. If you had a c-section, you are definitely still healing. So just wait at least 4 weeks. Your body will thank you later.
How does sex feel after birth? What you need to know..
Hormones can decrease your sex drive
So what causes a postpartum mom to have a low sex drive(libido)? Oftentimes, it’s due to hormones. That’s right ladies. These hormones just can’t seem to leave us alone and unfortunately, if you’re breastfeeding those pesky hormones work in overdrive. Here’s the 411. If you’re breastfeeding, your body releases more of the hormone called prolactin. This is the one that produces breast milk. Unfortunately, the downside to an increase in prolactin levels is a DECREASE in your libido.
Great right? The thing I need to feed my baby also makes me uninterested in my partner. So what else? Well mama, there’s more. Your levels of testosterone also decrease when breastfeeding. You may have known this the “male hormone” which plays a pretty important role in a females libido.
“I had absolutely no desire, but I wanted to try because my husband was about to deploy. He himself didn’t pressure me at all. I had a pretty severe case of PPD so I still to this day don’t really have any libido(15 months PP)”Anonymous Military Spouse
This is something that was never told to me when I had my first child. I thought something was wrong with me. I didn’t want to be intimate, and because of that, I felt that my lack of interest would push my partner away. It wasn’t until I did some digging that I found out that breastfeeding could cause a decrease in libido. Here’s the thing. I STILL didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding but I also wanted to be intimate with my partner. So how do you balance it? How do you get yourself to WANT to have sex? Keep reading…
Hormones can cause changes in the vagina
Say what now? more hormone issues? Yes, hormones again. So we’ve covered prolactin and testosterone, now let’s deal with estrogen. Breastfeeding can cause low estrogen levels which can cause vaginal dryness, tightness, and/or tenderness.
So how do you solve this problem? Lubricant! Yes, sometimes your body just needs a little help down there.
One reader states
Mine kind of goes without saying but I had a severe 2nd degree tear and that made sex unbearable for the first 8 weeks. Even at 8 weeks it felt like sandpaper. Slow and lots of lube was key…”Anonymous Poster
Picking the right lubricant may be difficult since there are a few different types, so let’s break it down.
Water based lube can work with pretty much any activity. The good thing about this type of lubricant is that it doesn’t break down the effectiveness of condoms. It also washes off pretty easy and doesn’t stain your sheets. You can go crazy.
Silicone based lubricants work really well for people with sensitive skin because it’s hypoallergenic. It also lasts longer than water based so you don’t have to apply as often. Silicone lubricant’s don’t break down condoms either so it’s definitely a plus. The downside is, they can degrade the surface of your toys.
Oil based lubricants last for a while, so once you start, you’re free to have fun all night. These types of lubes are also great because they can double as a massage oil. Unfortunately with this type of lube, it can break down latex condoms, causing tears and breakage. So if you decide to go with an oil based lubricant, it would be wise to use a backup method of birth control. Another downside is that these lubricants put you at a higher risk of developing infections like bacterial vaginosis.
These have become more popular over the years. These lubricants use as few ingredients as possible. So things like coconut oil and aloe based lubricants would fall under this category. Just be careful. If you do decide to go into your pantry and break out the coconut oil, know that your sheets will stain and it can break down condoms.
You may have feelings of arousal while nursing
Did you know that the same hormone that is released when you have an orgasm, oxytocin, is also released when you breastfeed? It’s no surprise that almost 50% of women that breastfeed their children experience a feeling that some describe as erotic. Don’t worry, while these feelings may seem awkward, they are completely normal and in no way sexual.
Things could get messy
It is not uncommon for you to squirt out milk during sex. Remember that hormone oxytocin we talked about? It also controls your letdown. So while that climax might be coming, don’t be surprised if things get a little more…Wet and sticky. How to solve this? You can wear nursing pads in your bra or you can feed baby prior to sex to try and empty your breast as much as possible before you get it on.
A nice perk from the “Big O”? Many women report being able to pump extra milk after a good romping session. Some call it, the “Slutty Pump”. Take advantage.
You’re too damn tired
Let’s face it. Who is in the mood for extracurricular activities when you’re sleep deprived, exhausted, and stressed to the max. Is you significant other helping out with the baby? Are they annoying the heck out of you? None of this makes you want to hop in the sack and have a good time. So give yourself some grace. You have a demanding job. And maybe if your partner knew how to help support you better during your postpartum period, you would be more willing to be intimate with them. Well hot dog! You’re in luck. There’s a blog post for that!
“My highest issue after I had my first two was a low sex drive. My body changed so much I personally did not feel comfortable. And I breastfeed both. One nursed and exclusively pumped for my second. I would say I got back into the swing of things after I stopped breastfeeding. After I had my twins (now 2)it was pretty much the same. Once I stopped breastfeeding. Breastfeeding two was so much harder for me though. And I literally lived in my pump so sex was not even an option for me lol”Anonymous Mom
Some medicines can lower your libido
If you’ve been diagnosed with postpartum depression/anxiety or even before pregnancy, you are likely experiencing some form of sexual dysfunction. You were likely prescribed an antidepressant. It has been shown that some antidepressant medications can lower your sex drive. Many women have noted that their libido decreased significantly once they started antidepressant medication. This is particularly true in those that are taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). According to Harvard Health Publishing, SSRI medications include:
- citalopram (Celexa)
- escitalopram (Lexapro)
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- paroxetine mesylate (Pexeva)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
- vortioxetine (Trintellix, formerly called Brintellix) (2019).
It’s important, that if you are experiencing issues with you sex drive while taking medication for depression/anxiety, that you speak with your provider. Here, they can adjust your dosage, recommend a therapist, or even add a different medication to help.
Ways to be intimate after having a baby
With the many issues surrounding postpartum sex, the question is, how can you solve this problem? How can you get back to feeling like yourself again and wanting to be intimate with your partner? Here are some thing to think about and possibly try to incorporate to get you started.
It’s no secret that a good round of foreplay can really get someone in the mood. So who says it has to stop after having a baby? It’s more important now than before to have a good foreplay session. Not only does it help to get you in the mood, it helps to get those “juices” flowing to help with the dryness you may be experiencing. Don’t forget the lube!
Quickies are great
Sometimes thinking of the long drawn out love fest is a turn off. Thinking of everything that you need to get done in that amount of time can have you pushing it back further and further. So instead of being turned off, have your partner turn you on and do a quick and spontaneous love sesh. Make things more fun and pick a different spot other than your bedroom. The key is, that during this quick session you’ll be focused on each other and connecting rather than running away from your love making.
Rearrange your schedule
Sometimes moving your plans up a little can help you get in the mood and in the bed. By the time the day is done and you’ve changed all the diapers, fed your baby non-stop, cleaned, did laundry etc, who is thinking about having sex by then? At this point you’re exhausted and the only thing you can think about is getting at least a couple hours of sleep before the baby wakes up again. So move your love making session up to the late morning or afternoon! Get a quickie in while the baby is down for a nap. No pressure at the end of the day, baby sticks to their nap schedule and both parties will be satisfied. Don’t forget to pump after! 😉
Take it slow
Listen, there’s no rush to get back to sexual activities. Your body literally housed another human for 40 weeks(give or take), evicted said human, and now physically and mentally recovering from the whole ordeal. So if you’re not ready to get back into the swing of things in 6 weeks, it’s perfectly ok. When you ARE ready, make sure to communicate with your partner. Let them know if you’re uncomfortable and if at any moment you want to stop. Did I mention lube?
Work those muscles
No I’m not talking about your biceps or abs. Kegels ladies! Get back to those kegel workouts. Not only do kegels help with restoring muscle tone it can also help with incontinence. So tone up gals. Do them often, and try it during sex. You’ll thank me later.
If you’re not ready to have sex but you still want to connect with your partner, find other ways to be intimate. I’ll give you a few to get started.
- Give each other a massage: Nothing says “I love you” more than a nice massage.(ok maybe there’s other things) But imagine having your spouse come home after a day of work and he breaks out the oil and gives you a nice massage, after you’ve had a trying day at home with the kids. Give one back.
- Have an old fashioned make-out session: Oh you remember those! Before you had kids, and before you even thought about the idea of producing a child. Making out was THE thing to do with your boyfriend/girlfriend. So go ahead and run up to second and third base. You’ll start to feel young again.
- Write each other love letters: No I’m not talking about the “Do you like me? Circle yes or no” type letters.
I’m talking about actually taking out a pen and paper and writing out a thoughtful letter to your spouse telling them how you feel, what you love about them, how they make you happy. No texting. An actual old fashioned letter.
- Nap together: This is something both of you will love and appreciate. A nice nap together, snuggled up while the baby sleeps. Both of you wake up refreshed and ready to adult again. The best part is….SLEEP.
- Take a bath together: Fill that tub up with your favorite aroma therapy, light some candles and just have a nice deep conversation while soaking in a bathtub filled with bubbled. No room for 2 in your tub? Try the shower. Get nice and sudsy. Wash each others back. Hold each other under the water.
- Sexting: Ok, NOW you can pick up your cell phones. Send a few racy photos to each other. Send text messages with details that would make Stormy Daniels blush. And if you don’t want to go over the top, a little flirting over text is good too!
How soon after giving birth can you get pregnant?
Have a backup plan in place
Repeat after me. It is possible to get pregnant immediately after birth. Breastfeeding does not stop you from getting pregnant. Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. The last thing you want, is to get the news of an unexpected, very quick pregnancy. While you still may be thrilled, if it wasn’t in the plans, it may throw you for a loop at first. So choose your birth control wisely, and make sure you are taking it like you should. Having a problem deciding on what birth control method to use? Check this out!–>Choosing The Right Birth Control: 11 Best Methods You Need To Know
You’re all set! Take it all in. Remember, every woman and every pregnancy is different, so it’s no surprise that every postpartum period is different. If you don’t experience any of these issues with postpartum sex, that’s awesome! But if you are, I hope this post has eased some frustration and given you a place to start on your road to postpartum recovery. As always, make sure to talk with your provider about any concerns you may have.
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You may also like:
Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, October 24). When an SSRI medication impacts your sex life. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/when-an-ssri-medication-impacts-your-sex-life