Sex After Baby: What’s Holding Moms Back?
There aren’t many things that are more awkward than sex after having a baby.
You are a few weeks (or months) out from having the baby. FINALLY the house is quiet with no cries of hunger or a dirty diaper. “This is our chance” you tell your significant other. You get to the bedroom and you start to undress the mombod you’ve acquired. Maybe this feels invigorating, but for many women, this comes with a lot of overwhelming feelings. In general, marriage with young kids can be hard!
Whether you had a vaginal delivery, a cesarean, or your baby came out your ears, your baby-making area is not the same as it was just days, weeks or months prior. To be fair- your mind and emotions are not the same as they were either. You have undergone what is arguably the biggest transition possible for a woman. So here you are trying to re-engage in intimacy with your partner- you know, the kind of intimacy that created this little human being- and yet it often doesn’t feel like a smooth transition. A lot of women feel alone in this which brings shame and guilt. Women feel like they have something “wrong” with them. The reality, more women feel like this than we often believe and momma friend- you aren’t alone.
It’s weird. It’s messy. Oftentimes it’s painful.
If you’re new to my page, here’s the deal: you’re not going to find a bunch of “how to” articles where I claim to have the answer for your motherhood problems. Personally, those articles usually leave me feeling like I must be doing something wrong because someone said ___ would work and if I try it and it doesn’t work, I feel like I’m the failure. Momma- you’re not the failure. Our system is. Our need to “fix” postpartum and hide the struggles leads us down these paths of feeling inadequate. On my page, you’ll find a safe space. A space to say and think and feel your truths and read the same from others. This space isn’t about “fixing” you and your struggles, it’s about normalizing. When I can, I throw in some helpful ideas from myself and my community and consult with experts to offer some assistance, but again, this is not a “10 steps sure to give you hot sex” article. I’m sure there’s one out there, though.
Pregnancy and childbirth is extremely hormonal. These hormones can have an effect on both your mental/emotional sex drive. They can alter your physical libido, natural lubrication and body preparation for sex. Perinatal mood disorders (postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, PTSD) can also play a huge role in reluctancy, disinterest, and even fear of engaging in sex. Physically, the body has changed and sex can be painful.
When surveyed, an large number of women shared that on the first attempt at post-baby sex, they cried. A large number shared that, on the first attempt, it just didn’t happen. To bring some light and normalization, I recently took to the trusty Instagram to survey this hot topic. You’ll read what other moms say prohibit them from engaging in sex, how they described sex after baby, and some tips and ideas for making it happen and enjoying it again.
On hold: What’s keeping women from engaging in sex after a baby?
When polled, women of different ages, backgrounds, number of children, etc. responded with a number of related factors that play into sex:
-Not feeling it
-Postpartum anxiety which seeped into my sex life
-Sex came last to everything we had to do in caring for a newborn
-I was tired and didn’t feel like it
-Trauma from birth
-Stitches- even after I mentally knew they were healed, it was a weird thing
-Having a baby always close by
-Not feeling sexy
-Feeling touched out
-Fear of pain
-Feeling like an exhausted dairy cow (breastfeeding!)
-Not confident in my appearance
-Being over stimulated
-Turning off mom brain and focusing
-I’ve already given all of myself
Time, pain and anxiety were the three most common responses. Are these relatable to you?
Time: It’s no secret that babies take a lot of time. They are fully dependent, they lack sleep consistency, and any wrench in the schedule can take days to repair. This leaves parents feeling tired and with little “free” time for all the things they hope to accomplish.
Pain: Both vaginal and cesarean births come with changes to our bodies that take time to heal. After going through something as big (and sometimes traumatic) as birthing a child, the fear of returning or lingering pain is a reality for many women. Keep reading below for some insight from a professional on sexual pain.
Anxiety: Whether it’s a diagnosed case of postpartum anxiety or the specific areas of anxiety related to this new stage, anxiety can but a halt in our desires and effort for sex. In our survey anxiety was most frequently linked to body image and care for the baby. A woman who feels insecure in her body feels anxious about reengaging intimacy with a new look and feel. A woman who is continually worried about the well-being of her baby has a hard time getting her mind in the mode to be intimate.
So when women get to the space of engaging in sex after having a baby, how do they describe it?
-A process requiring patience and realistic expectations
-A nice thought, but not a reality
-The last thing on my mind
-Well needed bonding time
-Exhausting and leaky
-Took 10 months
-Last thing on my mind (which causes some marriage rifts)
-Not on the radar
As you read, a large majority of these descriptors link back to the fears and reluctances we read above. If postpartum sex isn’t as glorious as you would like it to be, there seem to be a number of women who are in the same boat. For some women, though, sex is better than ever after a baby.
Ideas to help get back to intimacy (when you’re feeling gross/anxious/tired/pain):
So we know that the majority of women are feeling like their sex life has taken a hit post- baby for a number of reasons. These are important things to talk with your partner about (and I would also recommend a therapist because I’m a believer that we ALL need a therapist- with or without a diagnosis!) Click here for a free Date Night Planner download!
Again, this post isn’t meant to be a “how to,” BUT our community has offered a lot of insightful ideas that might be beneficial to you and your partner. When we normalize the struggle, and share some possible ideas for improvement, we all win! Here’s what the community has to say:
-Watch comedy/stand up- laugh together to connect and loosen up
-Don’t force it- go for it on a day you feel more human
-Take a shower
-Wear your baby out all day or get a sitter
-Look in each other’s eyes and touch face
-Massages, hanging out in bed, cuddling
-Remove the expectation of sex happening and just be intimate
-Give yourself 5 minutes to self to mentally prepare/pray
-Have honest conversations with your partner about what you feel comfortable with
-Buy yourself something that feels sexy
-Wash your face, (or other 5 min hacks)
-Get a spray tan
-Text throughout the day to start the conversation
-Put it on the calendar to think about it and plan
-Ask each other about what to say/do during day to prepare for it and then practice what it is they share will get them in the mood
-Steamy text messages
-Pinches on the butt/playful during the day
Click here to download your FREE date night planner to take the guessing out and put the romance back in!
One momma who indicated that sex has gotten better post-baby shared: “Wait until you’re ready. It took me probably 5 tries to be okay with having sex again. I was so scared and it hurt like hell. The first time, I stopped him and cried and he just held me. But by having a partner to communicate openly with (and lots of lube!) practice can make perfect again. Plus- foreplay throughout the days in between. We are always playfully grabbing at each other, dragging out that goodbye/goodnight kiss a little longer and sending flirty texts. I find myself wanting him SO much more and when it comes to the nights it’s more raw, passionate and wild now. Plus, I feel closer to him than ever before. There’s something about my husband witnessing and helping with labor and delivery, all the postpartum healing both emotionally and physically that brought us closer together.”
Jessica, of The REALentless Mother writes about this in her upcoming book. “I always enjoyed sex with my husband but before kids, I was extremely self-conscious about how I looked, the sounds I made, even what my face looked like. I worried about it all! As a result, I spent more time in my own head than I did enjoying the intimate moments with my husband. After having 2 kids under two, I went on a challenging yet incredible journey to find balance and enjoy my life again. I share this transformation in my latest book The REALentless Mother. On this journey one of the things I discovered was the less I cared about what others thought of me, the happier I was. This shift has had a massive impact on all areas of my life, but our sex life is one unexpected bonus. I feel free to ask for what I want, try new things, and put myself out there like never before. Since this personal transformation, I have surprised my husband with a risqué photo shoot, bought naughty board games (my absolute favorite new date night activity), and had the confidence to wear sexy new things to bed. After having two kids in two years, my body is not what it used to be, but I have never felt sexier in my own skin. Embrace and love who you are, Mama. Confidence is irresistible.”
If body image/anxiety is a factor for you:
Stop following “fitspiration” moms. Some of these people are paid to lose the baby weight. Some have genetics that are prone to quick loss. Some of them are dealing with medical/body issues you can’t see from the outside. There tends to be a big societal emphasis on postpartum women to “bounce” back or lose the “baby weight” but you still have a baby- you still have a body that is working through the baby process and this is not a time to give yourself a timeline and strict rules. The stress of it isn’t worth it. If someone is pressuring you, bye Felicia.
If physical pain is a factor for you:
You might wonder if it was something you did or didn’t do during pregnancy and birth. In addition, painful sex can feel isolating and put unwanted strain on marriage. Yet, you are not alone. In fact, there are a number of women that report painful sex or pain in their pelvis after birth.
One reason for pain after birth can actually happen when the pelvic floor muscles become too tight. This can happen for a number of reasons, including birth trauma, past history of sexual abuse, and over use or improper use of pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
So, what is a girl to do? The ability to relax the pelvic floor is the goal when it comes to painful sex and pelvic pain. Michele of Mindful Mama Method gives these tips for releasing the pelvic floor.
So now what?
1. Remember that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do, even if it feels like it.
2.Communicate with your partner. Maybe try one of these at-home date night ideas!
3. Love yourself fiercely!
4. Let your S.O read this too, so they can get an understanding of other mommas. Share with a momma friend (or future momma) to reminder her that we’re all in this together!
5. Let me know in the comments what I missed!
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