When to start having sex again after delivery is a hot topic (!), but the arrival of a baby can act like a relationship earthquake – your world is shifting, you don’t quite know where you stand, and it can take a long time for the dust to settle. Lack of sleep, breastfeeding, hormonal changes, issues with body image or postnatal depression – all of these can have a significant negative impact on libido, transferring intimacy to the backburner (or off the stove altogether!). So how can you rekindle those feelings of closeness and trust with your partner? And when is too soon (or too long) to be heading to bed (for anything but sleep)?
Some things to know about postpartum sex
- The six-week post-natal check is often viewed as the ‘green light’ for resuming sexual activity, but this length of time is arbitrary. What is important is that you’ve stopped bleeding, you don’t feel pain and you feel like being intimate. This could be as early as two weeks postpartum or may be many months after the birth.
- You can get pregnant again three weeks after you’ve given birth. Yes – even if you’re breastfeeding and your periods haven’t started again. Now is not the time to forgo contraception!
- A decrease in sexual desire is common – regardless of the type of delivery. This can be caused by lower levels of estrogen, increased levels of prolactin (if breastfeeding), concerns about body changes, anxiety about pain during intercourse, exhaustion and possible depression.
Rekindling sexual intimacy after birth
Maintaining a healthy relationship after having a baby comes down to communication, and this is just as true for rekindling your postpartum sex life. Some things to consider:
- Most couples – around 90% – have returned to some level of intimacy by 12 months after the birth. Many may be ready earlier and some may take longer – this is not a competition or a race.
- Your thoughts surrounding sex and intimacy postpartum are likely to be new and complex – and may turn your old feelings about sex on their head. It may take time for desire to emerge again. Be patient with yourself!
- Avoid misunderstandings or feelings of rejection by talking and listening with your partner about your feelings, anxieties and desires. You’re more likely to feel mentally and emotionally ready to have sex again if you can respectfully communicate how you’re feeling, and discover how your partner is feeling too.
- One way to approach postpartum intimacy is to reset expectations. Do you assume sex is penetrative? Or can it be all of the other ways to be intimate, from cuddling and kissing to mutual masturbation?
- A sense of humour will come in handy – different positions may now be more comfortable, even if you’re not used to them. Lubricant is likely to be your best friend, and lactating mothers may find themselves leaking at inopportune times. Be patient and prepared to switch things up to discover what feels best.
- Your postpartum body may not be what you expected it to be. Be kind to yourself and look after yourself – try to eat healthily and aim for regular exercise and adequate sleep. After all, it’s hard to be interested in sex if you’re tired or unwell.
Talk to a Geelong psychologist about sex after pregnancy
Sometimes all you need to get your sex life back on track is time (and a little sleep!), but if you feel as though a return to intimacy is becoming an insurmountable hurdle, it may be time to seek help. Speak with your doctor to ensure your physical healing is on track, but also remember that intimacy and sex are just as bound to the mind as the body. Talking with a qualified Geelong psychologist can help you unpack concerns and anxieties that may be causing sexual difficulties.
At Happy Minds Psychology, our caring and non-judgmental therapists can provide the support and empowerment to assist you in strengthening your relationship and moving towards greater intimacy with your partner. Counselling sessions are available face-to-face in our newly renovated Ocean Grove offices or via Telehealth across Australia. Call us on 03 5292 8833, email [email protected] or reach out through our online contact form.