After baby, there are several factors that may inhibit a thriving postpartum sex life:
- hormone fluctuations
- physical healing
- sensory overload
- complex emotions
Having a baby transforms a woman chemically, not just physically, and as such her threshold for excitement, satisfaction, and desire shifts. This change will alter the dynamics within the partnership and in order to navigate the growing pains of life with baby, it’s vital that intimacy take center stage.
To keep on top of the innumerable changes that baby brings to an intimate relationship, each person must acknowledge their individual experience and feelings associated with the experience. In her book, Sex That Works, Wendy Strgar writes, “The only way to true presence in our lives is through our bodies. This is the lesson I’ve learned. When we reach that place of true presence, everything, including sex, becomes vivid and interesting. But being truly present also means we continually risk feeling pain. . . . How you habitually relate to your feelings impacts how deeply you experience your body and your sex life.”
First is self-care.
For many couples, a scheduled date night is a non-negotiable anchor for their relationship. You must now add some non-negotiable alone time to the mix. The profound physical overhaul of birth is the first challenge to address in recreating your sex life post-baby. Maybe you don’t feel sexy. This could be for a variety of reasons–weight gain, limited mobility, low energy, injury, and even the sensory overwhelm of breastfeeding. Any and all perceptions of self are normal in the recovery period.
Reclaiming your body as YOURS may take a while. Consider what makes you feel at ease and connected to your senses in a pleasurable way — baths? music? aromatherapy? being outside? It is vital that you reconnect to your senses in a pleasurable way to nourish your nervous system and feel a sense of belonging to your body post-baby. You may also need to dedicate more time to masturbation. I highly recommend using non-vibrating toys, or your hand, because the clitoris responds very differently. Re-learning your landscape is step #1 to feeling safe with your partner again.
Talk to each other.
In most cases, as humans, our tendency is to fear change and react emotionally when we, ourselves, lose satisfaction in something that had previously worked. Communicating needs is incredibly challenging, but there are several excellent tools to facilitate this rewiring of your sexual relationship.
Come back to intimacy — what do you share? Postpartum recovery can be isolating for a couple because the experiences are vastly different. Empathy is the bridge back to each other when feeling disconnected postpartum, but to cultivate empathy within ourselves and in relationships we have to first acknowledge our own feelings and needs and second communicate them with respect for the other person.
The Five Love Languages is a fantastic tool for not only understanding your needs and learning to ask for them but also for understanding those of your partner. Together, you work out how best to love each other. When our emotional needs are met, a huge boundary to physical intimacy is removed. It becomes something we share, not something we get. This may be a huge shift in your sexual relationship, and, like anything new, there may be a learning curve. This leads us to the final point . . .
Slow it down.
If pregnancy teaches us anything, it’s this: wait. You have to be patient. Things are not the same with a baby in the mix, and after you’ve acknowledged the challenging feelings associated with this change, it’s time to turn up your patience and take care of one another. This may look like committing to hugging for a full three minutes in the morning and at night. Oxytocin, after all, is a wonder drug when it comes to intimacy AND healing. Not only does oxytocin facilitate feelings of well-being, but it is easily induced by touch and warmth. Dedicating time to conscious touch and supporting one another in feeling held during this time when all of your attention seems to be consumed by baby is essential.
Remember that intercourse is the final leg of the race.
First, you have to feel some sense of excitement in your body, which is not supported by stress or pressure to perform. Simplifying your physical contact routine to consciously touching yourself or longer hugs with your partner can initiate the relaxation response. When we’re relaxed when we have a sense of taking our time, more intimate interaction arises naturally.
Give yourselves thirty minutes to make out. Not only is this less exhausting than full-blown sex, but it’s sweet, and sweetness lays a powerful foundation for strong intimacy that can withstand the stress of midnight feedings, inconsolable babies, and finding your footing as a couple with a baby.
Remember, your baby is listening, watching, and feeling already. There will be a time when all the wildness of your early relationship plays out again, and remember that you’re growing and changing as people. The potency of your sexuality rests on intimacy — within yourself first and then in partnership. Intimacy means “familiar,” like family. It means trust and respect and comfort.
As you meet the challenges of parenthood in finding time for yourself and finding time for your partner and finding time for your friendships, let alone keeping your baby thriving, be patient. Cultivate intimacy by slowing down, turning inward, and being sweet.
The following are suggested tools for enhancing self-pleasure, pelvic floor rehab and communication:
Five Love Languages
Wild Feminine – Tammy Kent
Yoni Eggs – The Woman Whole (six-week rule applies – nothing in the vagina for six weeks after delivery. These can be used safely after your doctor has given clearance.)