Like a virgin

Baby’s here, your body’s healed, and your partner has been oh-so-patient. Are you ready to get back in the sack?
By Abby Singer

It may seem like forever, but the usual doctor’s recommendation is a six-week sexual hiatus after childbirth. This gives you time to heal from a tear or episiotomy, quit bleeding and distance yourself from the physical trauma of delivery.

While some women take no issue with knocking boots just weeks after baby’s delivery, others face the rebirth of their sex lives with a degree of trepidation. Plenty of moms are less motivated by sex after baby is born. Others are self-conscious about their after-baby bodies. And most are concerned about the potential pain of postpartum intercourse. While all of these worries are valid, even the most hesitant mamas can regain their mojo in time. It helps to know what your body is going through and have realistic expectations regarding sex and intimacy. Let’s discuss the issues and come to grips with those sexual gripes.

couples-legs copyThe haps on the hormones
If sex doesn’t seem all that appealing in the weeks or months following childbirth, don’t panic. Besides the physical exhaustion of caring for a newborn, hormonal roadblocks can also lessen your libido. Your estrogen level will be lower after delivery, resulting in vaginal dryness and, likely, a decreased interest in sex. If you’re breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin, which encourages milk production, may inhibit sexual drive. When you’re finished breastfeeding, you should experience an increase in estro-gen, a decrease in prolactin and, as a result, the return of your desire for sex.

The hormone oxytocin is also at play here. This “love hormone” is released in response to skin-to-skin contact—think breastfeeding and foreplay. If you’ve had plenty of contact with your baby, oxytocin may convince you that you’re physically satisfied, whereas your partner may be feeling a hormonal lack on his end. Maintaining a physical relationship with your man even when baby leaves you feeling “touched out” will perpetuate the closeness that is needed to keep the love alive.

It’s important to be aware of what your hormones are up to. Oftentimes, they can explain behavior or emotions that might otherwise seem out of place. Talk to your partner about your hormonal health. He needs to know that what you’re experiencing is normal and (relatively) temporary.

Prioritize your partner
Motherhood may seem all-consuming now, but remember that you were once a lover too. At the end of the day, you may need to “switch roles” by taking a bath or changing clothes to mentally make the transition out of mommy mode. Then, you might find you’re more in the mood for a much needed date night—or at least some serious smooch-ing. Make time for your partner when baby is sleeping, or send your little one to grandma’s for an evening if your situation allows for it. Scheduling romance isn’t all that spontaneous, but if putting petting on the calendar makes it more likely to occur, then so be it.

Even if intercourse is the last thing on your mental to-do list, try to work in some physical affection for the deprived daddy. Maybe you’re not feeling very attractive, but he’s probably overlooking your postpartum imperfections and missing his place in your arms. Remind him that you still care by initiating foreplay throughout the day: hugs, touches, long looks and love notes go a long way. When there’s time, shower together, trade massages, and cuddle on the couch. Let him know that you love him and that, while you may not feel ready to resume your sex life in full swing, you do value your physical relationship. Eventually, you’ll be ready to round the bases again.

Easy does it
When you are ready to go all the way, set aside plenty of time—rushing may result in greater pain. First, relax with foreplay; manual and oral stimulation can ease any nervous tension. Then, when you’ve worked up to it, remind your partner that you need slow, gentle penetration while you’re testing the waters. (Some discomfort is normal, but too much pain could mean you’re not ready to resume your love affair.)

Experiment with positions to find a place that registers lower on the pain scale. For example, if you take the top, you will be able to control penetration and stop if you’re feeling the burn in a bad way. You may find that you feel liberated without a baby belly getting in the way; you can lie flat on your back again and get closer to your partner than you could during the latter half of your pregnancy. Keep in mind that you may not orgasm this first time back in the sack—or the next few times after that—but let yourself enjoy it anyway. Be patient with your recovery,and know that it will only get better!

Talk it out
There are some sensitive subjects surround-ing postpartum lovemaking, but the best way to deal with them is to talk with your partner. Maybe you’d like your leaky breasts to receive less attention. Perhaps you need to try a new lubricant to soothe an uncomfortably dry down there. Be honest and work through the issues together. Don’t put your own pain on a shelf in an effort to please your partner. You’ll likely end up feeling resentful, and he’ll have no idea where he went wrong.

If sex continues to be painful, or if your vagina doesn’t seem to be regaining its former size and shape, discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. While most issues are resolved naturally over time, some cases could call for medicinal or surgical attention.

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