I’m no sex therapist, but I’ve had 4 kids which means: I’ve had some sex and I’ve had postpartum sex a few times.
I’ve known people who jump right back in within weeks of birth and some who slowly wade into it months later. Just like every birth and recovery is different, so is every relationship.
Now, my nurse brain wants to tell you all the physiological changes your postpartum body is going through.
My doula brain wants me to tell you that whatever sex timeline you choose is the right decision for you.
But it’s my mom-brain that needs to have this chat with you, because in my experience postpartum sex comes down to two things: your mind and your body.
This isn't rocket science: most women need to feel emotionally turned-on before the physical stuff can happen. It's exactly why we all love it when our partner does the dishes or vacuums the house. So let's chat about the mind-body connection and how postpartum can affect it!
A mom's brain is jammed and crammed with thoughts and worries. A new mom is thinking about everything as she does it because it hasn't become second-nature just yet. A great example of this is breastfeeding: in the beginning, you may have to talk yourself through a bunch of steps just to get the baby latched on.
If you're planning to breastfeed and you're not sure where to start, this is our most popular download:
You may find that even the simplest of tasks, like changing poopy diapers and buttoning up a sleeper requires extra thought at a time when you're foggy from broken sleep. These activities will get easier as time goes on and you do them over and over again, I promise. But you need to have a lot of patience with yourself as you learn and grow into your new role as a Mama!
So, on top of the learning curve what else can bog your postpartum brain down to make you feel less than a sexpot?
Many women feel anxious when their newborn comes home. Whether it's just feeling nervous or full-blown panic, it can affect your ability to relax and get 'in the mood'.
If your anxiety is getting in the way of carrying out daily tasks, it's time to see the doctor.
In every online course that we create, there's a section that includes a 10-question self-test for postpartum mood disorders- it's that important!
Mixed Feelings About Your Birth
It's not unusual to feel a range of emotions about the way your birth panned out. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile the way you pictured it and the way it actually happened. Even the best birth experiences can leave women feeling shocked and it may take some time just recounting it all to get it straight in their minds!
If you feel your birth was a traumatic experience, you're gonna need extra time to process it. Write it down, draw pictures, talk to a friend or a therapist and deal with your feelings as soon as possible.
Finding a supportive community can help a lot with coming to terms with your birth. Have you checked out MamaSoup yet? Our social media platform is strictly for moms and it's anonymous, so it's a safe space.
Feeling Like a 'Utility' Rather Than a Person
Man, do I remember this one! Breastfeeding mamas may feel this extra deep because sometimes you feel like nothing but a source of food for your baby.
It's perfectly normal- you've just done the massive work of childbirth and now you're dealing with keeping that baby alive while you recover. Your body is performing job after job for you right now, so you may get pissy about it sometimes!
Body Image Issues
Speaking of your body... you may not feel very sexy when you look down at yourself and see a body that you don't recognize.
Look, it took 10 months to grow and carry your baby all the way to the finish line so you need to give her some time to heal and recover.
If your newborn is fairly settled, you may not experience this phenomenon until they're older.
But if your baby is colicky or if you have other kids, you'll probably have moments where you feel fucking touched-out. Like, so done with being close to another human that the thought of your partner needing to be touched is too much.
It's okay- this, like most parts of postpartum, is a phase and it will pass. I think the most important thing to do is communicate with your partner so they don't take it personally.
Not Wanting 'Another Job'
I'll never forget the night I let this sentence slip out. It was one of those times when my outside voice took over and I said what was on my mind and my husband wasn't thrilled about being called 'a job'.
The truth is, I probably wasn't in a good space for sex that night but I didn't want to hurt his feelings. But in the end, I hurt his feelings more than I would have had I just said 'not tonight, Babe'.
Looking back, I wish we'd talked about postpartum sex and our relationship a lot more before the baby came along. That's exactly why I created a Postpartum Planning Guide that helps you start some of those difficult conversations BEFORE the baby comes along.
Physically, your body is dealing with a lot after birth. I think the biggest mistake that women make is assuming that after the 6-week checkup with the doctor, they're supposed to be all 'normal' again. Most of the time, they have a hard time reconciling how they feel with what the doctor tells them. I see it all the time when I hear things like,
The doctor says I'm all clear to exercise and resume sex, but I'm still so tired and sore. I guess I'll start feeling more like myself the faster I get back to my old lifestyle.
No. Just, no.
When the doctor or midwife tells you you're 'all clear', just remember that they're providing you with a guideline. As far as your uterus, stitches and bleeding you may be good to go- but you shouldn't go anywhere until you decide it's time. Your body will let you know and it may take a lot longer than you thought.
I'm not gonna get all technical with you here, but your body is run by hormones. The tiniest amount of hormones are released in your body to keep it functioning and if they are the slightest bit off, it can wreak havoc on you.
The human body is so cool- your hormones adjust for you to become pregnant, grow a baby, give birth and then recover to pre-pregnancy levels.
The thing is, it takes time for your hormones to find their balance after birth.
(BTW- there's not much you can do about it but support your body by eating organic whenever possible, using hair and body products free of parabens and clean your house with 'clean' products that don't contain chemicals.)
Hormones can cause issues like hot flashes and night sweats as your body works to rebalance estrogen levels. And there ain't nothing sexy about waking up in sweaty sheets when you didn't get physical first!
I'm gonna tell you a little something personal here: I've had two episiotimies and that has made some stuff down there uncomfortable. Having stitches in your perineum is painful, even after they dissolve. Certain positions may put more of a strain on these areas and make sex painful for a long time. It's important to find positions that enjoyable!
You may have a sore pelvis or back from your pregnancy or birth that lasts for months. Again, be open to discovering ways to have sex as you deal with these discomforts.
Finally, if you had a c-section your scar may be painful for a lot longer than you expect. Especially if your scar tissue is placing tension on the tissues inside. This is why I also included Scar Tissue Massage in the Belly Birth Plan Postpartum Guide!
Sore Leaky Breasts
Alright- if you're not breastfeeding, your sore leaking breasts will probably only last a week or so. But if you've decided to breastfeed your baby, this can last a lot longer.
Some women find it difficult to see their breasts as both a receptacle for feeding and objects of sexual pleasure. This is normal and can be worked through. Depending on your situation, you may find it helpful to wear a bra during sex or to do it right after a feeding in the early months. Some couples have a hands-off policy when it comes to milky breasts. Some partners are turned off by the smell or the leaking. Some couples have no issues at all.
The point here is to talk about it openly and respect each other's feelings so sex is still an important part of your relationship.
Broken sleep from night feedings is hard to explain. I know that when you're pregnant you may have troubles sleeping. Postpartum exhaustion is feeling super-tired but not ever recovering because you have a baby to look after now.
Feeling exhausted is not the best lead-up to a romantic time. And the biggest hurdle for some is that it hangs on for quite some time. There's actually something called Postpartum Fatigue and it affects up to 52% of new moms, yet we don't talk about it!
So, when it comes to postpartum sex you could say that 'it's complicated'. A regular conversation about the changes you're both experiencing can help you both feel heard and acknowledged on this new journey.
Stay honest, be patient and flow with the changes, Mama.