What to Know About Postpartum Sex

Your Body, Your Baby, Your Libido

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When you welcomed your bundle-of-joy into the world, you were expecting the accompanying bundles of dirty diapers, laundry, and love. But you may not have predicted your plummeting postpartum libido. Regardless of the level of your lustiness pre-baby, a screaming infant and sleep deprivation aren’t exactly aphrodisiacs.

Chances are, you probably feel fearful or disinterested in sex after giving birth—whether it’s your first child or third. In fact, mothers caring for additional children often feel that any spare moment spent doing anything other than sleeping is a waste. In this stressed-out and sleep-deprived state, sex is typically the last thing on your mind.

Physically, your body feels unfamiliar after the dramatic changes of pregnancy, your postpartum self and the trauma that is childbirth. Like a lot of women who recently gave birth, you likely have no idea when (or if) you’ll feel normal again, let alone ready for sex or intimacy with your partner.

These feelings are all natural, normal and totally okay! But it IS possible to get back in the mood again. For a smooth transition into using your bed for something other than sleeping, here’s the when, why and how of postpartum sex.


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Take Your Time

Though the doctor will give the official go-ahead when it’s safe to have sex again, wait until you personally feel ready. Four to six weeks is what’s generally recommended to allow the cervix to close, for postpartum bleeding to stop and tears to heal, but some women may need to wait up to three months. Only 26 percent of new mothers felt ready to have sex after six weeks, according to one study, while 85 percent were good-to-go after three months.

While months may seem like a long time for a partner to wait, it’s important to make the decision that for you. Having sex before you’re physically ready could lead to physical complications (like infections), so don’t jump to fulfill your partner’s needs just to make them happy.

It’s All In the Hormones

Thanks to your pregnancy, you’re familiar with the roller coaster of fluctuating hormones, but the ride doesn’t stop once the baby is here. Postpartum hormones can take much longer to stabilize, so even if you have the thumbs-up from your doctor, you may still not feel like your old sexual self.

Physically, low levels of estrogen prevent natural lubrication and thinner vaginal tissue, which can lead to tearing and a less pleasurable sexual experience. The ups and downs with your moods may result in low sexual desire for some and may lead to postpartum depression for others. Exercise, eating healthy and establishing routines can help the adjustment to life as a new mom, but it’s important to communicate changes in mood to your doctor, especially if they continue. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


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Intimacy vs. Intercourse

Physical intimacy is, of course, hugely important in relationships. Just because your body may not feel ready for penetrative sex doesn’t mean you should let intimacy fall by the wayside. Communicating clearly and compassionately through each phase allows for you both to reestablish intimacy in your own way. Simply touching, kissing and hand-holding can bring you closer together. Take this time as an opportunity to cash in on all those back and foot massages your partner promised. If you find yourself feeling a spark of desire, oral and manual stimulation are great ways to satisfy each other.

And there are—ahem—other ways to physically connect. One study found that 40 percent of new mothers masturbated in the first few weeks after giving birth. This is a great way to not only reignite sexual desire, but it also helps remind you of what feels good for your body.

Learn to Love Your New Body

Your body has just performed an incredible feat: delivering a tiny human into the world! As common as it may be to see celebrity moms on the cover of magazines looking svelte and sexy just minutes after giving birth, this is not a realistic expectation for us mere mortals. First of all, they have a team of stylists, trainers, dietitians and chefs whose only job is to get the famous mommy looking fabulous. Second, they’re able to focus on their appearance because they have a whole team of assistants, nannies and nurses serving their needs around the clock. You, on the other hand, are doing it on your own! Let go of the expectation of washboard abs just six weeks after baby and embrace the body that you have. Yes, your body has changed, but you’ve witnessed the miracle that changed it.

So yes, it’s possible for you to feel confident again. Wait for your doctor to give you the OK for exercise (and take it slow), but more important—be gentle with yourself.


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What to Expect Between the Sheets

Sex WILL be a little different now, there’s no denying it, especially if you feel ready to resume sooner rather than later. Your breasts will be sensitive, so try wearing a nursing bra or tank top to avoid direct contact with sore nipples. As for down there, you may experience dryness and feel less-than-tight (if you had a vaginal birth). Loading up on lubricant will help keep things smooth, and Kegel exercises will help return your vaginal muscles to pre-baby firmness.

In the meantime, there are some positions that may feel more comfortable for you and your partner. Pain is a common concern among new mothers, so choose positions that allow you to control the depth and intensity of penetration. I recommend a position where the woman is on top or spooning to start, as both put less pressure on sensitive spots and remaining stitches.

Everyone is different and comfort levels change as you heal. Make sure to speak up if you feel pain—you’re the only one who knows what feels good for you! On that note, if something feels good, don’t be shy about asking for more.

What Dad Can Do

New moms experience fluctuating hormones, emotional and psychological changes—not to mention the physical trauma of childbirth—for the better part of an entire year, so hopping back on the sex train may take a minute. It’s important to be sensitive to all the changes she has undergone and to be supportive of the new experiences and challenges she’s experiencing. Though it may seem like a scary, distant future, she will return to her sexy, sensual self given time and adequate support.

You both need a chance to establish the new normal with your new addition, so patience is key. It’s important that she lead the way in terms of pace and intensity, but anything you can do to make her feel comfortable, relaxed and sexy will pave the way to passion. You need to show her that she is loved, desired and supported—so really build up the romance (and foreplay). If you build it, she just might come.​​​

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