by Dr Janet Morrison, World Association of Sex Coaches Certified Sex Coach
I have a two words for you…No Way! Not only will your sex life continue, but sex postpartum gives you the opportunity to expand your pleasure repertoire and enhance your connection.
Women are typically given the green light to resume sexual activity around six weeks postpartum. Depending on whether the delivery was vaginal over an intact or traumatized perineum, or was a result of a c-section (which is a major abdominal surgery) will determine when a woman will actually feel comfortable proceeding with a sexual connection.
There are various obstacles a postpartum woman may face in becoming physically intimate again. If she is breastfeeding, the hormones that support the creation and let- down of milk can interfere with desire. Prolactin, the hormone that promotes adequate milk supply, is a potent drive-killer, and part of Mother Nature’s defense to prevent future pregnancies while the current infant is still very vulnerable. This hormone not only prevents or lowers drive, but also renders a woman with minimal vaginal lubrication, even if she is “in the mood.”
In addition, oxytocin, the hormone that causes the let-down of milk, also plays a strong role in creating feelings of attachment. The new mother becomes extremely bonded with her new infant as a result of the oxytocin released with frequent feedings. Between this intense bond, the demands of caring for her newborn and sleep deprivation, she is left with little energy or desire to seek further attachments with her partner. Lastly, sometimes a partner may be traumatized by viewing the birth. It is not uncommon for a partner’s concern of hurting his partner to be a drive killer for him also.
Sex is NOT mere penis/vagina intercourse
When the question about resuming “sex” is presented, it is important to remember that sex is NOT mere penis/vagina intercourse. Sex is, and therefore should be, about pleasure – the experience of giving and receiving erotic and sensual pleasure between partners. These activities include all the goodies that are typically categorized as “foreplay” and include, but are not limited to, eye gazing, kissing, dirty talk, fondling, massage, oral and manual stimulation, and experimenting with sex toys. In viewing sex in this more expanded way, the couple can enhance their sensuality by removing the focus on intercourse and concentrate on other ways to intimately interact. The couple can heighten their sensuality quotient, all the while improving communication, connection and teamwork.
Until a woman is ready to have sex again, I first recommend practicing open and clear communication with your partner to get the conversation started about hopes and fears that surround reinstating sexuality into your routine. Next, slowly start with gentle ways of physical connection such as eye gazing, cuddling, kissing and massage. These activities also produce oxytocin and help the couple to bond to each other once again. At this time, the addition of daily kegel exercises is of paramount importance to the postpartum woman in order to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. This will not only prevent urine leakage, but also increase intensity of future orgasms.
Self- pleasuring is a great activity throughout life, but can be critically important at this time of recovery. Obviously, for her partner, masturbation will help scratch the itch that was part of the partner routine. Men may want to add masturbation sleeves for variety. For the postpartum woman, masturbation provides the feedback needed to discern whether the experience is pleasurable verses painful, and can give her the confidence to know when she is ready to move towards coupled activities. Vulva and clitoral stimulation can help prime her genitlia by increasing blood flow, and orgasm will flood her system with feel-good hormones such as endorphins. Testing the waters with a small dildo can inform when penetration is pain free.
At this stage of your life, arousal more frequently happens after stimulation instead of before.
When you both desire and are ready to reinstate penetration in your pleasuring routine, here are some points to remember. First, schedule time for sex with your partner. Don’t wait until you are in the mood for sex. At this stage of your life, arousal more frequently happens after stimulation instead of before. Second, be prepared with birth control; worry about future pregnancies will not enhance libido. Next, remember to GO SLOW and use plenty of lube. Finally, be mindful that either partner can say NO anywhere in the process – just because they started something does not mean they have to continue.
It may take time to feel sexual again, and this is a natural occurrence after childbirth. Keeping intimacy alive by connecting with your partner will help insure that when the desire-killing hormone cocktail leaves the new mom’s system, she will be ready and willing to move forward with new sexual adventures.