No more sex after childbirth. Fact or myth?


Many women – and their partners – worry about it: what if we don’t have sex anymore after our first baby is born? It’s a common concern. You’re experiencing childbirth and parenthood for the first time and perhaps you’re insecure about the many changes in your life. Your body has to recover, you don’t get much sleep, and there are many other things that demand a lot from you. Time to take a look at the concept of having no more sex after giving birth. Is it a fact or a myth?

Your body is strong

Your body has done something amazing: it grew a beautiful baby in nine months. You felt the baby moving in your belly while your body prepared itself to be able to give birth. Then you went through labour and childbirth and feeding your baby every couple of hours. All this makes you realise how special the whole process actually is. Pregnancy and childbirth are a huge burden on your body. It’s only natural that you have recover from it both physically and mentally.

Also, you’re definitely not the only one. A study from Barret in 2000 shows that 83% of the participating new parents experienced sexual problems in the first three months after childbirth. After six months, that percentage was 64%, and after a year, 11% of the couples still didn’t have sex.

Sex after childbirth: preferably not in the first six weeks

Gynaecologists recommend not having sex in the first six weeks after your baby is born. Your body is recovering and your vagina and uterus went through a lot. After six weeks, the placenta wound is healed, which means that there is less risk of an infection. It’s possible that you had to get stitches because of a vaginal tear. Your body might need more time to heal in that case. If you had a C-section, your body needs more time to recover as well, as this is a major abdominal surgery.

Also read: Sex for the first time after childbirth

Welcome, baby (and short nights)

Your life changes a lot after your first child is born. One of biggest changes is the amount of sleep you’ll be able to get. Before giving birth, you were able to sleep all night, but now you have to feed your baby every couple of hours. That has a huge impact on your sleeping pattern. Newborn babies need to be fed multiple times every night. If you bottle feed, your partner can help you, but if you breastfeed, you are the one feeding your baby every couple of hours. The fatigue probably causes you to go to bed early and every day all you want to do is sleep. So it’s not that surprising that you’re not in the mood for sex during that time.

Your body has to ‘depregnate’

If you’ve given birth, your body needs time to ‘depregnate’. This takes about nine months! During this process, your womb contracts and hormones that stimulate the production of milk become active. Your hormone levels are temporarily even lower than before you got pregnant. These changes in the production of hormones can cause fatigue, headache, and sadness. If these feelings don’t pass, it can even lead to postnatal depression. By the way, it’s not just new mothers who struggle with this; new fathers can experience postnatal depression as well. The changes in hormone levels can temporarily cause low sex drive after having your first baby.

Your body has changed

Besides all the changes inside your body, there are changes on the outside of your body as well. Many women feel insecure about this. The skin of your belly is not as tight anymore and your belly won’t go back to its original shape right away. Your pregnancy probably also created stretch marks on your skin. And your breasts are super full and sensitive, no matter if you’re breastfeeding or not.

No more sex after your first baby?

You may start to think that you’re never going to have sex again. Fortunately, that’s generally not the case. Most women get their sex drive back at some point. For some, that happens after a couple of weeks and for others, it could take a year. How do you deal with that together in a healthy way?

Mutual understanding

There’s a good chance that the male partner regains sexual desires much quicker than the female partner. “The worst thing a man can do is make his wife feel guilty for not being ready to have sex again yet,” says ‘Sex with Emily’ host Emily Hope Morse. “Women need support and want to feel sexy. If a man doesn’t pay any attention to that, it tough on both of you.” The woman shouldn’t feel pushed into having sex; this doesn’t make it an enjoyable experience. Keep in mind that it’s daunting for both partners. What will it feel like? Will it be painful? Will you still be able to enjoy it like you used to? By talking about your fears and desires with each other, you create a mutual understanding.

Alternatives for penetration

What if you don’t want to have sex yet, but your partner does? There are many ways to be intimate with each other that don’t involve penetration! You could try masturbating together if it feels good for example. If you don’t feel the need to be touched yourself, you can also give your partner a handjob or a blowjob. Other types of touches, like a massage or cuddling, can help to satisfy your need for physical contact as well. And who knows, perhaps a massage will get you in the mood much more than you originally thought. Sex toys can be a great solution as well.

Breasts: from sexual body part to a feeding tool

Breasts are very sensitive areas for women who have just given birth. “Many women who breastfeed struggle to see their breasts – which they use to feed their babies – as sexual body parts,” says Michelle Collins of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. “Breastfeeding causes many insecurities, problems with control, and excuses for not having to be intimate with their partner,” says Anne Semans, co-author of the book Sexy Mamas. On top of that, because of all the hormones, the vagina is unable to produce as much vaginal fluid. This is because the oestrogen level in the body decreases. Not enough vaginal fluid can make sex painful, even if you’re fully healed. Luckily, there is a very easy solution for this: using lubricant.

All of this doesn’t put a complete stop to your sex life. Talk to your partner about how you feel about your breasts. It is okay for your partner to touch them or do you want to wait? Does breastfeeding make them hurt? Does the thought of leaking milk make you feel insecure? In those last two cases, it’s better if your partner doesn’t touch your breasts for now.

Trust your body

Your body was able to achieve something special. So trust that your body is also able to restore your libido. There’s a good chance that you feel like having sex again after a couple of weeks or months. Or that it feels important enough for you to invest time and energy into it.

Find help

If sex is still painful after a couple of weeks or months or if you can’t seem to get in the mood for sex, you could consider finding help. If you experience pain, contact your GP or gynaecologist. Do you feel like you would benefit more from talking to someone who specializes in sexuality, because you don’t feel like having sex at all anymore and you want help with that? In that case, you should contact a sexologist or relationship therapist. Don’t be ashamed of your feelings. Instead, feel proud that you are willing to work on yourself.

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