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Sex After Baby

Jul28

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bounceback_sajillio.pngThe only memory I have from my six-week postpartum check-up after my first son was born was the moment when my doctor announced me cleared for both sex and exercise, and I briefly wondered how I’d never noticed what a big fat annoying stupid jerk face jerk he was before.

That first time, I clung to that six-week no-sex window for as long as I could. While technically my discharge instructions were simply “nothing in the vagina for six weeks,” I chose to interpret it more as “DO NOT TOUCH ME, AT ALL. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING ME. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT.” I was so horrified by the state of my body that I got dressed in my closet just to avoid seeing my naked self in the mirror outside. I wasn’t in pain or impeded by anything physical — I just couldn’t bear the thought of the squishing slapping awkwardness of sex when I didn’t recognize the body I now had. What if my boobs leak? What if my stomach dangles? What if I start bleeding again? There were a few halfhearted attempts at first, and I honestly don’t really remember when things got anywhere back to “normal.” I had to accept that the extra stretched-out skin around my middle wasn’t going away anytime, which was no small thing.

The second time, IF I MAY SUPER OVERSHARE HERE, we barely made it to six weeks. I grudgingly followed the technical instructions but…you know, did other things. I was determined, and much less bothered by the physical fall-out of childbirth.

What killed us, though, was the exhaustion, and simply finding the TIME. Our alone time together wasn’t just cut in half — I felt like two children splintered into fourths. If Ezra was asleep…Noah was awake. Our chances of being interrupted were doubled. Someone always had a cold, or needed a diaper change, or help going potty. My in-laws were like, right there, using the hall bathroom. The baby was like, right there, in our bed. I remember one night coaxing Ezra to sleep in his cradle swing (not technically allowed for sleeping. do not try this at home. insert disclaimer here.), climbing into bed while Jason brushed his teeth…and by the time he was done I was sound asleep. Probably drooling. Sexy!

I don’t really have any tips for making that aspect any easier. Spontaneity helps, as does recognizing the fact that while you may be really, really tired, intimacy with your partner is sometimes more important and worth digging deep for one last reserve of energy. Also: preschooler cartoons on high volume.

And finally! Two people here, in this equation. An understanding, non-pushy partner is critical. He or she may THINK you look just fine, but by simply saying, “Oh, stop it, whatever,” isn’t going to make you feel any better. Your doctor may give you the all-clear but stuff might still just HURT. Tears, episiostomies, hemorrhoids. A c-section leaves your girls parts okay but your stomach muscles might not be up for other physical aspects of sex. It could be weeks, it could be months. And it is entirely your call.

My husband was, hands-down, absolutely perfect, both times. He never pushed (though certainly let me know that he was willing and able ANY time I wanted), he remembered the romance (cooking dinner, random champagne on a Tuesday, flowers, etc.), and he did his best to gently let me know that he still found me desirable (lingerie that…ahem…highlighted my best postpartum boobage feature). He was willing to talk openly about what the labor and birth experiences were like for him — what it was like to see me go through pain and various indignities…and then get sliced open while he sat there and watched. This was a conversation that helped us both a lot, emotionally, for some reason.

There was also the added benefit that I find good dads incredibly sexy, and the sight of him with his arms full of our boys definitely prompted a bit of “okay, put those kids down and KISS ME, YOU FOOL” on my part.

Want to read more on Sex After Baby? Here ya go: How to Get Back in the Saddle Again After Having a Baby.

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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24 Responses to “Sex After Baby”

  1. Anonymous Jul 28 at 10:25 pm Reply Reply

    I can’t believe I’m the first one to comment. It’s like we’re in school and the teacher, Amy, is standing there silently giving us stink-eye because no one will speak up!
    Fine.
    I have a question. The nurses, my friends…they all said “do your kegels.” Which I’m sure is lovely advice, and I know, um, which muscles to target. What I don’t know and am too embarrassed to ask in person is, how many reps and sets per day? How long do you hold and release?
    Please don’t give me the “do them at every stoplight” advice. The lights on my way to work are timed such that I only hit one or two. Besides, what if I lived in a one stoplight town?
    Thank you, Amy, for this fabulous column!

  2. wallydraigle Jul 28 at 10:55 pm Reply Reply

    Oversharing time! Oh, I love this! I hope no one I know reads this and recognizes me. If you do, please pretend you never read this.
    Just remembering our first time after the baby was born makes my whole body clench up in terror.
    I think I am built rather small down there (I do know I have a narrow pelvis, but I don’t know if that means anything for sex) because sex has always been somewhat uncomfortable–even painful, at times–for the first few minutes. This has nothing to do with lubrication. Anyway, I had a c-section, so no stretching or anything happened.
    OHMYGOSH. It was like losing my virginity all over again. Except that I was made of extremely sensitive sandpaper (and lube didn’t help). Honestly, even though it’s been fine for months now (well, as fine as it gets, see aforementioned discomfort), I’m still afraid of sex.
    (This has nothing to do with my husband. He’s gentle and absolutely terrified of hurting me, but there was no getting around it, that I knew of. This time I plan on asking my doctor about it because I’m not doing that again unless it’s truly the only option.)

  3. Joy @ Mommys Joy Jul 28 at 11:24 pm Reply Reply

    From my experience it definitely takes time to get back in the saddle. And six weeks is only the first barrier. For me it wasn’t the… ahem…intimate physical aspects, well I had those too, but more the fact that by the end of the day of being touched non-stop by a baby, I really just didn’t want physical contact with another human. It was kinda like sensory overload. My hubby has been the most patient and wonderful man through it all and realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t him it was me and that I just needed some physical space. He also figured out all on his own that by morning I had had enough space and was comfortable with some grown up attention. Smart man.
    Thanks Amy! I’ve had a blast reading all your posts!! Keep up the great work!

  4. Rebekah Jul 29 at 1:50 am Reply Reply

    What a reassuring column. I kept reading about how pregnancy can heighten a woman’s libido and then pitying my poor husband when all I wanted to do was sleep!! Now we only have five weeks to go – And I finally really want to make love and… have just been diagnosed with an irritable uterus – GAH!
    I’m relieved to hear that it can all go back to normal, and that it’s worth the effort. And I can definitely my husband buying lingerie to effectively highlight the ‘boob-age’ – As a former A cup (now C and may possibly hit D), he is definitely enjoying that part of the pregnancy :D

  5. Olivia Jul 29 at 9:01 am Reply Reply

    Four months postpartum with my first, and my biggest issue with sex is just that I don’t think about it. It rarely crosses my mind, and when it does it’s usually bad timing. I told my husband it would be up to him to make the move and essentially remind me for a while.
    Body issues are also there (my boobs did leak during sex!), and the timing thing seems extra difficult since baby shares the bed with us. Forutnately, my husband is super patient.

  6. Cindy Jul 29 at 9:28 am Reply Reply

    Kegels – I did them with my first so much that my muscles were tired when I was done. I would hold for a count of 10 release repeat 10 or 15 times every hour or two. The first night after giving birth (vaginal) I woke up at 3 am to pee. I stood up and swoosh – yes, I peed all over the floor. Of course, i wasn’t alone in the room – there were 5 of us and one woman was up brushing her teeth after a shower. She handed me some towels and said “you should have done your kegels”. I started crying, saying “I did, I did”. She tried to convince me she was kidding but I was too far gone. But, I do suggest doing them because my recovery was fast and everything is great and strong down there :)

  7. Olivia Jul 29 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    Joy, I told my husband morning is probably a better time to catch me, too.
    wallydraigle, have you spoken to your doc about the discomfort? I have heard of conditions that cause pain/discomfort not necessarily being related to size. There are treatments that can help.

  8. Catherine S Jul 29 at 2:01 pm Reply Reply

    The PP sex is traumatic for most people I think. It has been almost 11 months since my son was born by CS and the dryness is just now getting better. For a while it was like the freakin desert had taken up residence in my vagina. My doc gave me an estrogen cream called estrase(sp?)that helped with getting some natural lube going instead of constantly having to use astroglide.
    I WISH my doc had imposed a 6 week limit, but I had my check up at 4 weeks and my husband was chomping at the bit. No more “docs orders” for me, ha, not that I was really complaining. For some strange reason, he chased me around like when we first met after our son was born. I was shocked as I still had about 15 pounds to lose and an ugly CS scar but apparently being the mother of his child really turned him on:)

  9. Me Jul 29 at 4:45 pm Reply Reply

    We did a day before “officially” 6 weeks. He was gentle, and was really glad to have it. I was sensitive, but not in pain. We used tons of lube.
    Basically I am just frustrated. Don’t get me wrong – I am getting satisfied, but I am frustrated that it is not the same. My breasts leaking during sex, using condoms (yuk) because we are both concern the birth control pills will reduce my supply, and feeling “different”. I knew it wouldn’t feel the same but still, haven’t I gone through enough with the pregnancy? Between gestational diabetes, being swollen, peeing all the time and that stupid linea nigra which has not faded.
    Oh well, as I said, I am getting satisfied. But I do dig deep down when I am really tired to keep things moving forward because it is important for us to remember “us”.

  10. Sara Jul 29 at 5:52 pm Reply Reply

    Just want to put this out there…
    It was uncomfortable after I had my first child. I had a vaginal delivery and tearing. We waited the 6 weeks and eventually it got better…but there was some dryness for awhile.
    With my second child, we didn’t wait 6 weeks. It felt good, there was no dryness. It was again a vaginal birth with tearing…but for some reason, sex just went so much more smoothly. Perhaps the transition from one to two isn’t as monumental physically or emotionally. Plus, I’ve learned how to take care of myself better which means at the end of the day, I still have that little bit more to give and I want to be with him. You may be tired of giving, but if he’s doing it right you should be doing some “getting” too ;)

  11. geek.anachronism Jul 29 at 9:05 pm Reply Reply

    Oh god Me, that could be me as well! I had a bit of pain, but mostly it was weird and awkward. And I haven’t tried again.

  12. Toddler Crafts Julie Jul 30 at 8:18 am Reply Reply

    Yes, its quite weird to have it after a baby.I really just didn’t want physical contact with another human. It was kind of like sensory overload.

  13. Jane Jul 30 at 5:23 pm Reply Reply

    Often I’m too tired from work to have sex with my boyfriend. It sounds like sex with children would be impossible for us. How do you keep things fresh in marriage?

  14. Stef Jul 30 at 5:31 pm Reply Reply

    Sex after my first baby was no picnic, but it wasn’t bad.
    My second baby was another story. I had an emergency c-section and a whole mess of complications afterwards, ended up hospitalized for a couple of weeks. My husband was wonderful throughout, brave and supportive when I needed him to be.
    After that insanity, after feeling utterly out of any control over my body, having sex with my husband again was absolutely essential. It was a matter of feeling human again and reminding us both that I was alive and well.
    I’m gonna go home and give him the ol’ wink-and-nod right now. There will be action once the kids go to bed, oh yes.

  15. Amelia Jul 31 at 12:53 pm Reply Reply

    We waited 8 weeks and it didn’t stop hurting until 12 weeks post-partum (I had a huge episiotomy during my precipitate labor with a very large boy).
    The funny thing was, the first time I had an orgasm, my breasts started leaking like old faithful… not just a few drops, but rivulets of milk running down the side and soaking the bed. I guess orgasm can trigger major letdown! I laugh now, but I was certain, at the time, that my husband would find me disgusting. Not so, now he asks for sex more often than I am able to give – a 9 month old baby who STILL doesn’t sleep through the night leads to much exhaustion.

  16. Dawn Jul 31 at 1:42 pm Reply Reply

    After my daughter was born (vaginally), I wanted nothing to do with sex AT ALL. For a very long time. Though for me it wasn’t pain or fear or dryness oh no! It was me getting back at my husband for essentially ignoring me throughout THE ENTIRE PREGNANCY! Some days its amazing to think that we are currently expecting our second in a couple of weeks given the scarcity of the event. To paraphrase Steve Carell in “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
    Or maybe I’m just a bitter shrew. Who knows?

  17. Della Jul 31 at 10:41 pm Reply Reply

    After I had my son, I was in the mood faster than my body was ready. Luckily we didn’t partake until after the 6-weeks. The place where I had torn/got stitches was still very raw. Additionally, I just was NOT making enough natural lube. For the longest time, I did not want to use artificial lube because I didn’t want to hurt my husband’s feelings (the idea being that apparently I just wasn’t aroused enough and if I would really get into it, I’d make plenty, right? Well, hormones being what they are, no.) Once I finally got over that mental hurdle and was willing to tell my husband we needed lube, it really helped.
    HAVING SAID THAT, trying to fit in a quickie when you have this problem DOES NOT HELP with the lube and pain issue. Girls, you need some time to get horny. If that means you have to plan your next sex, totally DO it! Send each other dirty emails all day leading up to it, for example, to get in the frame ahead of time. If we REALLY didn’t have time for foreplay, I found it helpful to get in the shower and, um, “prep” myself (in the bedroom, he did the same while awaiting my arrival). Perhaps planning to send your kid(s) to an away-from-home babysitter for a couple hours would give you enough time for the foreplay to actually sink in.
    But even more so (and God grant that your husbands are understanding) – make plans to start something, but no commitment to finish it. If your body is ready to continue, if you’re throbbing and aching from your wait like a romance novel character, SWEET. Go for it. But if not, perhaps you can find another way to take care of your husband’s need to continue, while being satisfied with the intimacy you did get. This way, you’re building up your association of intimacy with enjoyment, rather than deciding you’re going to go for it when you’re not ready, having pain, and building up dread – making it even HARDER to get excited the next time.

  18. jonniker Aug 02 at 9:59 pm Reply Reply

    Hey, so, uh, oversharing times A THOUSAND here, and LATE, to boot!
    My boobs leak. Every. Time. I. Have. Sex.
    And I’m … twentysomething weeks postpartum. Have a bra ready is what I’m saying.

  19. Cheri Aug 03 at 7:25 am Reply Reply

    To anonymous ( first poster) My Dr. said to do 100 kegels every day. My 2nd baby was 11 lbs, and apparently everything in there is heading south. I will do more kegels!!!!

  20. Michelle Aug 03 at 12:19 pm Reply Reply

    I am all about the oversharing and I am also late to the party but here it goes…
    I’ve had three babies born via c-sections, my first one we barely made it to the two week mark before resuming sex but we also had the baby during our first year of marriage so I just blame it on being newlyweds. With the second baby we held out a little longer…three weeks. My hubs never pressures me into anything so it was definitely a mutual decision (more mine than his). With the third baby who is 7 months I am in a complete fog. I know we have started having sex again I just can’t remember when, I am thinking it was somewhere around 6 weeks. Taking care of three kids has definitely hampered the sex life thanks to be completely exhausted but I just keep telling myself it is quality over quantity.
    Okay now that I have divulged a lot more then one person probably needs to I am going to exit gracefully! ;)

  21. Liza Aug 04 at 9:54 am Reply Reply

    We waited about 8 weeks after my son was born. It was partly pain down there, and partly the severe breastfeeding problems- bleeding nipples, thrush, masitis, you name it- I could not bear the thought of anyone else being in the vicinity of my breasts. All I could think during the first few times was, “OMG, I pushed a baby out down there!” It was slightly traumatic, even though I had a wonderful labor and birth and my husband is kind and gentle. It took a good seven months after the birth before sex stopped hurting, which I didn’t expect at all. I had a second degree tear, so that probably had something to do with it.

  22. DeeDee Aug 05 at 1:34 pm Reply Reply

    First time commenting here, but I was just searching the internet for “vaginal atrophy” and realized Amy had posted something along these lines. So… I’m 4 months PP and seriously my vagina feels like it has dried up and died. I can’t even think about sex, because walking around I get paper cut like abrasions from the dryness. Seriously, I feel like I will never have sex again. I know it’s normal for your body to have symptoms of menopause when you’re breastfeeding (which we are – no formula or solids at all yet), but can I just say how much this sucks!! Also, I had a vaginal delivery and a 2nd degree tear and sex has never been that comfortable… Ok, thanks for letting me complain.

  23. Shylo Aug 06 at 8:49 am Reply Reply

    DeeDee, I had the papercut feeling, too. My midwife told me to use a hydrocortisone cream externally.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting a long time. My kid is 3 months old and between our ridiculous breastfeeding issues and severe postpartum depression, the sex is just not even something I’m thinking about.

  24. Andrea Aug 07 at 1:22 am Reply Reply

    totally hear you on the sucky sex part post baby. things were definitely not the same for me after my forceps delivery! found it hard to get info and for doctors to help – so out of frustration did my own research and website: http://www.afterbabybody.com. Dyspareunia = painful sex is a VERY common complaint after childbirth. According to the stats some moms have even better sex post partum -hate them!!

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