New parents have an incredible amount of planning ahead of them when a baby is on the way. Questions of medical care, at-home baby care and self-care all come into the mix as they prepare for their newborn baby’s arrival. Eventually, though, a perfectly legitimate question will come to the surface: how will this impact your sex life?
What Physical Changes Will New Mothers Experience?
The first thing to understand is that new mothers’ bodies will need some time off because there’s a lot of recovery to do! The typical recommendation is to wait four to six weeks after birth before resuming sexual activity. While this is a helpful number to keep in mind, the most important strategy is maintaining honest communication with your partner.
New mothers will experience significant hormone changes after birth, with various effects on the body. The vaginal tissue, for example, often becomes thinner and more sensitive. The size of the vagina, uterus and cervix will be altered by pregnancy, and they will need some time to return to their former size. In some cases, women must also recover from a perineal tear or an episiotomy, a surgical cut intended to widen the vaginal canal during birth.
Common Issues with Sex after Pregnancy
With all of these physical changes going on, it’s no surprise that post-pregnancy sex is a journey in itself. The good news is that the communication skills you’ve developed throughout the pregnancy will help maintain your sex life after your baby’s birth. Some obstacles include vaginal dryness, a loss of elasticity in vaginal tissue, loose muscles, fatigue and low libido. These are caused by hormonal factors and the physical process of delivering the baby but can be overcome with patience and communication.
It should be recognized that a cesarean delivery, commonly called a c-section, does not exempt new mothers from these changes. The hormone fluctuations experienced in vaginal delivery still occur in cesarean deliveries, often making vaginal tissue dry and thin. Low estrogen levels mean less blood is flowing throughout the body, exacerbating these effects. In addition to the incision sites and healing muscles that come with any abdominal surgery, these factors can lead to painful sexual intercourse.
Another factor to consider is pregnancy’s effect on the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles, which play significant roles in sexual activity and delivery, are at risk of being stretched or injured during birth. The good news is that you can engage in various exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, both before and after pregnancy. These exercises include bridges, pelvic tilts and Kegels.
How Can You Restore Your Sex Life?
Communication is the most important way to maintain intimacy after pregnancy. Making a habit of listening to your partner’s needs and expressing your own experience to them is the best way to avoid unnecessary pain in spite of the unusual physical and hormonal circumstances. Communication is also critical to making time for sex, which can be difficult with a newborn baby to take care of. Be intentional about scheduling time to spend together where physical intimacy is the focus.
The physical dimension of sex after pregnancy can also benefit from intentionality and patience. The effects of pregnancy and birth often result in unusually thin and dry vaginal tissue. Counteract this by using a combination of methods, such as water-based lubricants, increased foreplay before penetration and physical exercises such as Kegels. These exercises can be done by imagining you are sitting on a marble and then using your muscles to lift the marble up. Holding the muscles for three seconds and then releasing them for three seconds will, over time, make a big difference in the condition of your pelvic floor muscles.
A Parting Reminder
Pregnancy does not herald the end of your sex life! Communication between you and your partner, patience with yourself, and knowledge of your body are essential to maintaining postpartum intimacy.