First-time moms are given a lot of advice about what to expect during pregnancy, but many are left in the dark when it comes to what they may expect postpartum (after Baby arrives), especially when it comes to sex. When new moms are offered others’ views and opinions about sex after childbirth, unfortunately it’s often delivered with a negative slant that leads to dismal speculation rather than realistic expectations. Let’s dismantle these post-pregnancy sex myths, shall we?
Myth 1: You’ll be ready for sex 7 weeks postpartum.
Most new or soon-to-be mothers are told by their physician the standard comment, “You should be ready to resume intercourse in about six weeks.” This is because the cervix takes about six weeks to close and resume its natural state. Unless you have an unusually deep or large tear (third- and fourth-degree tears include the perineal skin and perineal muscles) to the anus, the usual stretching and tears that may have occurred during the birth should be healed by about three weeks postpartum. But just because your physical body is ready, does not necessarily mean your hormones and your psyche are in sync for sexy time.
If you’re “good to go” at six weeks, that’s great. If you feel you still need time, be patient with yourself. The fact is, post-baby sex will be best for mom when she is thoroughly ready to relax and receive pleasure without unnecessary pressure to perform.
Myth 2: Sex will be painful after childbirth.
The fact is, sex after childbirth does not have to be painful. If you have an episiotomy or tear naturally during the birth, you may receive stitches that can cause scar tissue. The scar tissue is less flexible and may be more sensitive than what you’re used to. Gentle perineal massage can be helpful in general with tightness and discomfort. Depending on the amount of stress and strain on your birth canal and surrounding areas, sex may feel pre-baby “normal-for-you” or it may be uncomfortable. Also, whether you have a vaginal or a C-section delivery, it is not uncommon to experience vaginal dryness while your body’s hormones are adjusting. When planning to have penetrative sex, adding extra lubrication may make intercourse more comfortable. Of course, if you have given your body time to heal but still experience pain (not discomfort or tightness), even when using lubrication, contact your doctor to schedule a pelvic exam to rule out keloid scarring or other medical concerns.
Myth 3: Having a baby destroys your sex drive.
Your sex drive will ebb and flow throughout your lifetime; this includes the time before and after childbirth while your hormones are still in a state of flux. Not only do hormones invariably affect our desire for sex, but practically any interruption to our normal routines, completely aside from having a new baby in the home, can cause variations in our desire for sex. Experiencing a dip in your libido after childbirth is common, but this doesn’t mean that you and your partner won’t still crave affection, compassion, and support from one another. You can be sensual and loving without sex. Some report actually experiencing an increased libido after having a baby. However, if you aren’t feeling particularly sexy with baby burp on your chest and a seemingly endless array of diaper changes on your growing to-do list, rest assured that with time and a little compassion for yourself, your energy and your libido will return.
Myth 4: You won’t enjoy cunnilingus after having a baby.
Some people worry that they won’t “feel as much anymore” when their partner kisses and tongue-caresses their labia and clitoris after they have had a baby. However, different bodies respond differently to stimulation whether that body has birthed a baby or not. While it’s true that the clitoris and labia may be slightly bruised, even after a fairly uneventful vaginal delivery, different bodies heal differently. Your clitoris may be less sensitive for a while; but it may be even more sensitive – in a good way! If not, that’s fine. Have your partner experiment with different tonguing techniques to see what your body most delightfully responds to. The good news is that as long as you’ve given your post-baby body sufficient time to heal, you may invite your partner to “go down” and get lost in the pleasure.
Myth 5: Your once narrow vagina will be “stretched out.”
Uhm, no. If you once took pride in having a narrow love tunnel, fear not. Practicing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and afterward can help strengthen your pelvic muscles. Just make sure to get your doctor’s okay before starting any new form of vaginal/pelvic strength training. If you experienced severe damage to your pelvic muscles during childbirth, you may want to consider speaking with a pelvic floor specialist. The vagina is designed to accommodate childbirth. Throughout a pregnancy, the release of estrogen increases the blood flow to the folds of the vagina so that the elastic, connective tissues are able to expand and stretch. Also, the pregnancy hormone relaxin helps relax and loosen the ligaments and joints in the pelvic area in order to expand, creating more room for the baby's birth. Because the vagina and hips are designed to proportionally stretch and make room to deliver a baby and after delivery, the tissue will usually shrink back down to its near pre-pregnancy state. In general, most people will not notice a significant change to the structure of theirs after they have a baby.
Myth 6: Your partner won’t want to have sex.
It’s unfortunate that this myth is even necessary to add to this list, but for a few people the thought of having sex with a “mom” – anybody’s mom – can be a bit unnerving. On the other hand, some partners (yes, even during the postpartum period) will see the incredibly alluring power embodied in their partner’s new position as a creator and sustainer of life. If your partner sired or encouraged the pregnancy, they may actually feel guilty for the labor and/or pain you recently experienced during childbirth and may project that fear into not wanting to potentially cause undue pain via sex (especially if they carry the weight of Myth 2 above).
Myth 7: Sex after Baby will never be as good.
If this were true, our species would likely have died out long ago. Will sex after Baby be different? It’s likely that it will be. But that does not equate with bad sex. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that sex will be less satisfying. Depending on a number of varying factors (such as amount of sleep, help with childcare, physical resilience, mental energy, and a host of others), you and your partner may want to get creative with different positions, try new techniques, and revisit your early days of learning to be good lovers for and with one another. With honest and compassionate communication, you both should be able to thoughtfully negotiate your way through the changes you’re both in all likelihood navigating.
The bottom line? Every person’s postpartum reality is different.
Giving birth to an entire human being is a significant and momentous process. It stands to reason that the healing process warrants patience. Keep in mind that your pregnant body went through nine to ten months’ worth of changes (hormonally and physically), and your new post-baby body will need a notable amount of time to heal and adjust as well. While it may be tempting to compare and contrast your healing time with those of others, trying to draw a correlation between what were likely very unique experiences isn’t helpful. Everyone’s sexual pleasures and preferences are highly individual and unique regardless of having a baby, so to be sure, they will be just as diverse after having a baby. Of course, sex should never be pressured, coerced, or taken for granted under any circumstances. Period. You will be ready for sex after Baby whenever you are ready.