To say that having your first baby changes a few things may be just a bit of an understatement. Beyond the many obvious ways that the introduction of a new family member into the world affects your day-to-day life, going through a pregnancy literally changes the structure of your body. It’s not uncommon for new mothers to notice some differences after giving birth. Many need time to recover physically from postpartum soreness or weakness before having sex. However, childbirth does not mean the end of your sex life, and you should be able to return to normal intercourse after having your baby. If you find that your postpartum sex life is impeded by pain or other physical issues, there are solutions available.
Everybody is different and so is every pregnancy, so there is not any hard-and-fast timeline to how long after giving birth you should be able to start having sex again. Usually, your doctor will clear you to begin having sex again about 4-6 weeks after childbirth. Sex earlier than this may not feel good, not only due to trauma caused to the birth canal during birth but also because the body may be depleted of estrogen during these stages.
There are a number of very normal factors that may decrease your desire to have sex in the immediate wake of childbirth. Insomnia, fatigue, or sleep deprivation is another common experience for new mothers that may make sex less likely or appealing. The new responsibilities of parenthood can also limit the time and energy that you’re able to spend on your sex life. It is also perfectly normal for the mother of a newborn who is clinging to her all day to have some aversion to being touched in other ways, particularly if she is breastfeeding the infant.
Postpartum anorgasmia describes a condition that is common in women who have recently given birth which involves difficulty becoming sexually aroused or achieving orgasm. This can have a variety of causes which range from lowered estrogen levels, fatigue, depression and postpartum pelvic floor muscle and nerve dysfunction. Self-image issues are also very common for new mothers who may find that the baby bump doesn’t just vanish right away after you give birth.
Some pain after giving birth is perfectly normal, but some cases are worse than others. Particularly difficult childbirths which require stitches or surgery can also result in a longer physical recovery time and more anxiety around having sex.
It’s important to listen to your body and set your own timeline based on what you’re comfortable with. Lubrication may help with reducing pain but try not to force it. If you are having difficulty getting aroused, longer foreplay may give your body time to get there. Other treatment options include a comprehensive pelvic floor rehabilitation program lead by a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. In addition, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help with overcoming postpartum depression and any anxiety which may be surrounding intimacy.
Overall it’s very important to know that even if you are struggling with sexual dysfunction following giving birth, there is help out there. Talking about intimacy issues, particularly after a pregnancy, can be frightening or embarrassing, but these problems are common and should be openly discussed. You know if something’s wrong – don’t be afraid to talk about it and seek help. Pregnancy and delivery can be taxing on a person’s body and it is important to rehabilitate the muscles and nerves postpartum to regain your sex life.