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When couples attempt to resume sex postpartum, the problems that may arise usually aren’t due to a loss of physical or emotional attraction. In fact, couples may be more in love than ever after the birth of a baby. However, between caring for the new baby and trying to deal with changes in your body and your relationship, it can be hard to know exactly when or how to get your sex life back on track. There’s also more than just exhaustion at play when it comes to reluctance to resume sex after giving birth: According to a study on postpartum sex habits completed by the University of Michigan under the direction of behavioral endocrinologist Sari van Anders, “The biggest driver of high sexual desire for women [after pregnancy] were their feelings of intimacy and closeness to their partners.” In other words, it’s not that women don’t want to engage in sex postpartum—it’s that couples need to work to rekindle their connection.
The best postpartum sex tips start with open communication. You need to be able to talk freely about the physical and emotional changes you’ve gone through. Once you and your partner understand the barriers holding you back, you can begin to get your sex life back on track. Many of the issues you may suffer from may be resolved by adding a few new toys and products to excite you and your partner and reinvigorate your libido—both in and out of the bedroom. First, though, you need to make sure you’re ready, physically and emotionally.
Getting Your Body Ready to Resume Sex Postpartum
It’s a fact of life that a woman’s body changes after she has a baby. Before resuming sex, talk with your doctor to see when you’ll be physically ready for vaginal intercourse. The timing can vary depending on the smoothness of labor and delivery, but often women are able to safely have sex about six weeks following the birth of their baby.
It’s not uncommon to worry about vaginal looseness after giving birth, but the vagina is surprisingly elastic. With time, it will retract to roughly its original size; how long that process takes depends on the strength of the muscles of your pelvic floor. Vaginal dryness is another common postpartum complaint. The following tactics may help you deal with these problems:
- Do Kegel exercises. Many women swear by Kegels to tighten their pelvic floor muscles. These exercises can also help you learn how to better control those muscles to experience deeper, more intense orgasms. Kegel exercises are simple to perform and may be done anywhere: You simply clench the muscles of your pelvic floor, as though you were trying to stop an imaginary urine stream, and release. Work up to clenching and releasing for ten seconds each, in repetitions of ten. You can do these up to three times a day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Use Ben Wa balls. Ben Wa balls are small, smooth balls that can be inserted into your vagina to increase stimulation or to add a bit of weighted resistance to your Kegels. To help build your pelvic floor strength while simultaneously giving yourself a very stimulating experience, you can also try inserting them and gently rocking back and forth.
- Pregame with warming lube. It might be hard to get wet postpartum, which is why your doctor has probably already recommended using a lubricant. However, you can take lube up a notch by using the type that heats you up—literally. Apply warming lube before sex to get all the blood rushing to your intimate parts to intensify the experience. One caveat: Always make sure to discuss all topical products like lube with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe to use while your body is still recovering from the effects of giving birth.
Keep in mind that your level of postpartum activity will depend on your personal labor and delivery experience. In some cases, especially if you required an episiotomy or suffered a fistula during birth, you may need to wait longer than typical to fully recover before resuming sexual activity. Determining when you’re physically ready to have sex should be a conversation between you and your doctor. However, getting the go-ahead from a medical professional doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be emotionally ready to jump back in.
Getting Emotionally Ready to Resume Sex Postpartum
For many people, the biggest issues concerning postpartum sex are emotional, not physical. Having a new baby in the house might not leave you with much spare time for lovemaking. On top of that, you may feel drained at the end of each day from the demands of caring for an infant, making you less likely to feel enthusiastic at the prospect of sex. Changes to your body may even make you feel less desirable than you did before the baby arrived, no matter how much your partner reassures you that they want you as much now as they ever did.
It’s important to realize you’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal to feel some or all of these emotions while recovering from having a baby. Those who are able to overcome these issues most easily are the ones who are able to share their feelings with a loving and responsive partner. Turn to your partner for reassurance and support. Ask them how they feel about resuming sex, and you may find they feel just as anxious and uncertain as you do. Remember that you’re both in this together; you shouldn’t have to feel isolated or misunderstood.
One thing you don’t want to do is approach sex as a chore. Sex isn’t something you have to do—it’s something you should eagerly anticipate. It’s okay if it takes a while for you to resolve your emotional uncertainties. Don’t feel pressured to jump back into your prepartum sex routines before you’re ready. Give yourself enough time to heal.
Whenever you’re finally ready, come up with some creative ways to rekindle desire with your partner. It might help to call a sitter and take a night off with your partner to get back into a romantic groove. A bit of time spent away from the baby, concentrating solely on your relationship, can help you rekindle your spark—and maybe even discover some new favorite techniques.
Breaking the Routine When Resuming Sex Postpartum
One mistake couples often make with postpartum sex is assuming their sex life should be exactly the same as it was before the baby arrived. It won’t be the same—but it can be even better! Keeping the fire alive after giving birth can mean exploring beyond vaginal intercourse and experimenting with exciting new bedroom activities. Here are a few possibilities to consider:
- Nipple play. Most women find that their nipples become more sensitive following pregnancy, so it’s best to start out with a soft touch. A feather tickler can be used to gently stimulate nipples and other parts. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to play around with adjustable nipple clips.
- Consider cock rings. The man in your life is probably just as excited to resume sex as you are—to the point where he might come to the party a bit early. Cock rings can be worn at the base of the penis to restrict blood flow, which leads to longer lasting erections and more intense orgasms.
- Try shower sex. Shower sex can be a great addition to your postpartum routine, as it lets you get dirty while getting clean! It’s especially good for new parents, who often don’t have as many opportunities as they’d like for private time together. The few minutes you can grab in the bathroom every morning might be all the time the two of you can manage, so make the most of it. A shower sex kit, complete with vibrating sponges and edible shower gel, can turn an ordinary shower into a tantalizing experience.
Adding accessories to your routine can help rekindle the erotic spark between you and your partner as you resume sex postpartum. In addition, exploring gentle and non-penetrative options like nipple play and oral sex can help you ease your way back in the groove, even if your doctor still hasn’t given you the go-ahead to resume vaginal intercourse.
Talk about your concerns with your partner, and you may find many of your worries about postpartum sex allayed. Try out some Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor and get the juices flowing again. Focus on the positive changes your body has gone through, like your newly-sensitive breasts and nipples, to reclaim your libido. Having a child can be good for your sex life, as it gives you a chance to get to know your body better—and to become even closer to your partner.