Tips on a good postpartum sex life
A question from a reader!
Witches: Let's talk about sex. I have a six-month-old (first one) who is a pretty solid sleeper, so my husband and I have more time and more opportunities than we did before, but I just can't get there. I am uninterested, to say the least. I think he is still totally hot, and I love him more than ever since our baby was born, so that's not the issue. I don't know if I'm just still exhausted or if winter has me unmotivated or any number of other reasons. Has anyone else gone through this? Did you ever get back to where you were?
Oh we got answers! And this experience I think is pretty universal to anyone who has a baby at home whether you gave birth to it or not—breastfeeding or a second degree episiotomy or a jacked-up pelvis is just a fun bonus. On to answers:
“I probably shouldn’t tell you that children partially ruin your sex drive forever, should I? Seriously, when you are sleep deprived who wants to bang? I think with a new baby and especially when breastfeeding your body releases all kinds of hormones to keep you focused on the baby. I think time/years is the solution for this. I also notice when I get to the point (usually 2 years post baby) where I am working out more regularly again my interest in sex goes up some. But that goes along with more sleep, too. But I never want my breasts touched again sexually as a result of breastfeeding. They are forever ruined in that way for me.”
“I got so completely ‘touched out’ from taking care of a baby's physical and emotional needs all day that I didn't want anyone else (including my husband who I really do like) in my personal space. Getting time away (REALLY away, like at least one overnight) just the two of us was huge in reconnecting and me feeling human again. It's hard to accomplish with an infant, but super worth it. Think about who in your life you might be able to trust to come stay with the baby, and start planning something. Start small if you need to, like just babysitting for an evening. But if you can work your way up to a weekend away you will be glad you did. (Also, no, it will never be back to where you were before kids. Your life is different now. That doesn't mean bad, but it won't be the same.) Also, while you absolutely should not push yourself to do anything that doesn't feel right, sometimes I get too in my head about wanting the stars to be perfectly aligned. In that case, you may find it helps to sort of fake-it-til-you-make-it. I don't mean fake an orgasm, but rather decide to let the action happen before the feelings, instead of waiting for feelings first. I find this is for getting out of my own self-defeating thoughts, not for pushing myself into something that isn't okay. This is obviously NOT advice that will fit all people, especially someone with a history of trauma/assault/anything else that has threatened their boundaries or autonomy such that it could be at all triggering. But if it's just ‘Eh, I'm kind of indifferent,’ then no need to wait until anything feels magical. It's okay if it's just okay.”
“Honestly after 6 months I was still worried about pain—I was not ready. Plus exhaustion from lack of sleep, plus exhaustion from all the NEW THINGS we had to do and worry about. Just wasn't there yet.”
“Even with having had a planned c-section, not having intercourse for months on end with high risk pregnancy and postpartum, I was worried about the pain. After vaginal delivery it was way worse. Our therapist said this was absolutely common and men understand it not at all.”
“I’ve come to realize it’s all about the hormones. After a baby, your hormones are whacked for awhile. Sleep, exercise, diet, a partner that cleans a toilet can all probably help but really, you’re not going to want it want it until your hormones normalize. And it’s different for everyone. Just make sure to maximize those few days in your cycle when you’re actually horny, and then don’t feel bad during the rest of the month if you aren’t.”
“I think it’s pretty awesome that you are still into your husband and even more so since the baby was born. I felt like this transition was rough for our marriage. Don’t push and take your time.”
“Exercise helps a lot. It takes a while to reconnect with your body. Also sometimes it takes me one not-so-sexy rendezvous to feel connected to sex again, and then I'm like, ‘I'm back, baby!’”
“I related to this question so much! I felt so close to my husband in the first year of our daughter's life, but struggled with sex, in part because it was so painful. I was breastfeeding and I'm sure part of it was hormones. I also just did not feel attractive: while I lost my baby weight, my body was shaped differently, I couldn't afford to replace all my clothes and the pre-baby clothes that fit all looked off, while I breastfed I had these horrible acne outbreaks. I was also mentally in a bad place because I had a terrible job where my boss treated me horribly because she was upset I had a baby AND I was job hunting and going to grad school. Like, emotionally, physically, mentally, I felt OFF. And babies take a lot out of you! After caring for my daughter, I just had nothing left. That area of my life came back. But it took a few years to get there! I stopped breastfeeding, got that perineum cream everyone loves, changed jobs, could afford new clothes again, got into therapy, finished grad school, started exercising, and my skin outbreaks went away. My kid is 8 now, and our sex life is probably even better than it was pre-kids and it's been that way for a few years. But it was SO hard to see the forest for the trees when my daughter was six months old and the idea of getting it on just made me want to cry. The best sex advice I ever read came from Laura Berman, who said that basically if you're feeling indifferent or curious and your partner initiates, just go for it. She was clear about consent but that if you're in a drought and feeling weird about it, the best thing you can kind of do is actually have sex and you might find yourself enjoying it.”
“One day there as a brief window when both kids were asleep and we said ‘Let’s have bad sex’ which is basically an unsexy review to see what we’re working with for the right now. Knowing it wasn’t going to be ‘amazing’ but more ‘kick the tires, see what’s what’ made it easier to approach and not make a big deal about. Plus it ends up being pretty funny and we hold onto that longer.”
“There were definitely times where I was like ‘Fine, if you’re so hot to trot feel free to work towards giving ME an orgasm, but understand that reciprocation is not guaranteed. If that’s all you’re looking for, take care of that yourself.’”
“I got pregnant the second time right after I’d gone back to work 3 months after my first. I had a raging libido throughout pregnancy that somehow kept going. The lushness of pregnancy and nursing, increased blood capacity, kept me running hot.”
“My friend’s young horndog husband was rearing to go as soon as they brought the baby home. I was like 'Honey, you shut that shit down now, and explain to him why you wait 6 weeks for any vaginal insertion, doctors’ orders!' I really just think men know nothing and no one makes them.”
“Definitely wasn’t feeling remotely ready at 6 months postpartum either time. I was so touched out the first year with both babies, I didn’t even want to pet my cat. Being able to take a long weekend away together (where I could also sleep and read novels as much as I want) helped get us back on track both times. But not sure how helpful that is unless you have good extended family support!”
“When my first kid was six weeks old my BFF was visiting and we went out for dinner and I had a couple martinis (which felt like a couple million) and we talked about doing the deed and I decided, the hell with it, and bought condoms on our way home because I wanted to do it but also just wanted to get it over with. I was glad I did it and the martinis helped. That feels like a good analogy of our sex life as parents.”
“Maybe I'm not one to give advice because it's been a long time since I had a 6 month old and I divorced my kids' dad. But I would say that after having a baby it can take quite awhile to claim your body back. If you doesn't feel great 6 months after a child evacuated your bod, it's completely understandable if sex is meh to you. Sex is not just about a dude and his emotions, it's also a place where a woman should feel empowered and desired in a way that gets her excited. If you’re not there, you should be kind and compassionate to yourself because IT'S A FUCKING LOT TO DEAL WITH. But, if you’re feeling lost and are trying to keep a romantic connection with your hubs, then you need to carve out time together. And when I say together, I mean date again - try to keep baby and business talk to a minimum, find a common ground and remember why they found each other sexy to begin with, move with each other in the world - which is hard to do. Spending time kissing and holding hands can amp up those feels. I know that sound gross and boring, but I am complete jello when my husband plants a single kiss behind my ear.”
“The first time we tried to have sex after my son was born, I broke down in tears and couldn't go though with it. Also, I blame breastfeeding for not wanting to be touched.”
“I was dry as a bone down there and it felt very fragile - like it might shatter - until I stopped breastfeeding.”
“I think that it is too often one more thing you have to do for someone else. I don't know how we get over that in our culture. I really don’t.”
I hope you enjoyed this issue Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers, some of whom even enjoy intercourse! Please pass it along if you know someone who’d like this sort of thing a few times a week. If today’s issue made you feel better, made you laugh, or gave you a good idea, please consider becoming a paid subscriber to support the work.
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