A Partner's Guide to Having Sex After Childbirth
Whether you are ready to have sex the moment your partner has given birth or need a few weeks to process, your wishes come second to the needs of your significant other.
After going through birth, it is common for partners to be abstinent while recovering mentally and physically. A study published in BMJ by obstetrics and gynecology researchers in Beijing, China, found that more than a third (36 percent) of partners resumed sexual intercourse within three months. The study authors indicated that the resumption of the mother's period and having sex during the pregnancy were both influential in whether someone has sex within those first three postpartum months.
Those factors aside, there's plenty you can do to stay emotionally and physically intimate before sex is back on the table.
New moms dedicate an enormous amount of energy and time to their newborn. Between feeding every few hours and adjusting to having a whole new life in their hands, this is a partner's opportunity to show the mother love and care.
DJ Singh, M.D., a California-based women's specialist and OB-GYN, said, "Depending on mode of delivery—abdominal or vaginal—a partner can help with assisting, positioning with feeding (breast or bottle), ambulation healing and recovery. In addition, there are numerous tasks that come along after childbirth, including laundry, cooking, groceries, doctors appointments, and frank and honest discussions regarding postpartum blues and depression."
If she is feeling overwhelmed, run her a bath, do the dishes or encourage her to go on a walk. Intimacy can only happen when you feel safe and loved—making your partner's comfort a top priority in the weeks immediately after the baby is born will help bring sex back into the relationship sooner.
A brand-new body
A woman's body goes through dramatic changes while she's pregnant. During those postpartum weeks, her organs return to their original spots, the abdomen reconnects and the breasts engorge with milk. Whether this is her first or 10th child, her body is becoming brand-new.
With that comes a lot of insecurities. Chances are, she feels uncomfortable with certain parts of her new body. You can help with words of affirmation and compliments. Prioritizing small things like praising how she looks, holding her hand and giving little gifts will help her accept the changes with her new body.
Following pregnancy and the first few weeks with a newborn, it is common for women to feel like their body does not belong to them. Maryland-based birthing expert and doula Amira Stokes said, "With birth, recovery is as much of a mental recovery as it is a physical one. [Give] the mom some room to breathe and let her tell (or show) you when it is time to have sex again."
The over-touch phenomenon
A common complaint with new moms is feeling over-touched. What that means, essentially, is her sense of touch, specifically, is overstimulated, and she needs a break.
Board-certified OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist Cindy Duke, M.D., explained, "It is a sense of overwhelm or discomfort with being touched when you were previously OK with it."
Between feeding the baby every two to three hours (sometimes more) and all of the holding that happens in between, often the last thing your partner wants is to be touched by someone else.
If that is the situation, avoid any physical intimacy and instead try other ways to connect. This could mean a meaningful conversation or trying out some touch-free orgasm techniques.
"A mother who is breastfeeding and constantly being touched by her newborn is likely not going to need/want a lot of external touch, but when she is ready, communicating openly is key," said Los Angeles–based licensed marriage and family therapist Jayme Waxman. "Not just about sex, but about the experience each of you is having in this new step of parenthood. Check in with each other about how you are doing, and make time to connect intimately before sexually."
Waxman recommends an intimacy card deck or another tool for connecting in the bedroom. "If libidos are low or unbalanced, then check in with what is comfortable for the lower-desire partner," she said. "If they aren't ready for sex, ask for consent to masturbate with them, or for other touch, or ask them where it would feel OK/good to touch. It's a slow process to get back to sex sometimes, and in most instances, it's important to listen to the new mother and let her take the lead."
Hormones gone wild
Just because the baby is out doesn't mean everything is back to normal. It can take months (in some cases, up to a year) for women's hormones to regulate again. "Hormones and the body are trying to equilibrate after the 'stress' of childbirth," Singh said.
And further factors may complicate the balancing act. "Issues of libido are multifactorial: Lack of sleep, medical conditions associated with pregnancy, job/work, postpartum support all play a role," she continued.
With such a perfect storm in place, your partner simply might not be in the mood, and even if she is, the same old tricks might not make her orgasm. While things may go back to normal at some point, it's not a bad idea to try out something new.
Help get your partner in the mood
Once you know without a shadow of a doubt that your partner is ready to dive into bed with you, it still isn't necessarily go time. One of the most important factors for women to engage in sex is to feel comfortable enough to do so. Helping her relax can be the best foreplay around.
Before a night together, encourage her to partake in whatever she needs to relax. Run her a warm bubble bath and hand over her favorite romance novel or send her to the spa for a massage beforehand.
Take into consideration any distractions, as well. Send any older kids to Grandma's (or another caretaker, barring that) for the night. Sometimes, the only thing that will get her off is to remove anything that she cannot get off her mind. That can be as simple as ordering dinner or making sure that the kitchen is clean.
Vaginal tearing can occur during childbirth, requiring stitches and lots of uncomfortable healing time.
In most cases, Singh explained, in four to six weeks, "sex is usually safe." Of course, medical issues, difficult deliveries, surgeries and lacerations may take time to heal and should be factored into recovery timelines. "Guidance on sex after childbirth needs to be individualized for each person," said Singh.
While healing shouldn't take too long, the idea of putting anything inside of her might make her cringe. This doesn't mean, however, that she isn't ready to have some fun with you. Get creative and find new erogenous zones to get her excited.
"Schedule a time for intimacy once a week, even if it's not sex, so that you start to prioritize and make time for one another," Waxman said.
Time to experiment
It's understandable, and in fact a good thing, that you want to get back to having sex with your partner. You just need to get creative and think of some other ways to become intimate. This could be as simple as a massage or as exciting as mutual masturbation.
Most importantly, Waxman said, "Validate the new mother's experience. If they are feeling insecure or physically uncomfortable, let them know that it makes sense. Praise them for the job their body just did, and let them know you're available to figure out time and space for them to do their own self-care."