Did you recently give birth (or maybe not so recently) and you’re wondering why sex is just not happening? Or wondering when you should start having sex again? Has sex been painful? Are you feeling disconnected from your partner and maybe even from yourself?
Are you pregnant and wanting to keep your sex life healthy through this transition into parenthood?
I asked myself many of these questions in my first year after giving birth. On the day I reached 6 weeks postpartum I had sex with my partner because my doctor said I could. It felt extremely strange and somewhat painful, but I thought maybe I just needed to get used to it again. We tried again a week later and it was even more uncomfortable. I went to take a shower afterward and just cried. Months later, continuing to have sex, I was more confused, disappointed, and turned off than ever before. A year after giving birth, I avoided sex like it was the plague. I didn’t know if it was because of low libido from breastfeeding or if I needed more foreplay and candles or if I just couldn’t feel sexy as a mom. I felt so alone...
Until I finally found what I was missing.
I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see that it is possible not only to love my body and create my new identity as a sexy mom, but also that intimacy can be healing and sex can be more fulfilling after having a baby. Now everything makes sense, and I have created a road map to help you understand what’s actually going on.
NORMALIZE THE CHALLENGES
It’s a huge change going from pregnant to having a baby. We need to acknowledge what an important and difficult time it is. Things that may arise in postpartum include:
Confusion - can’t identify why you’re having a sexual block - still in love - feeling guilty
Painful sex - scar tissue, prolapse, just feels different - hoping it’s going to get better
No sex - Tried it once or twice and so uncomfortable afraid to try again - partner becomes apprehensive because they don’t want to hurt you - nobody initiates
Hormones - prolactin (breastfeeding hormone) reduces sexual desire
Fatigue - Um, hello it’s exhausting caring for a baby!
Focus - So much of our focus is on baby, there’s less on each other
Birth trauma - Maybe traumatic birth experience, didn’t feel supported or protected, or shift in partner dynamic
Internal changes - becoming a parent - right of passage - transition - maiden to mother - boy to man
Anxiety or Depression - We don’t have a tribe to help us understand what’s going on and solve problems
Pressure - We feel like we have to fulfill our partner’s needs - feel like we’re expected to reach climax
Body image - Haven’t accepted how our bodies have changed
Body parts - Breasts used to be a sexual object
EMOTIONS, IDENTITY, AND BECOMING PARENTS
We know who we are as individuals, as a girlfriend or boyfriend, maybe as a wife or husband. But discovering who we are as parents is a whole new territory. You might find yourself asking, “Who am I as a mother/father? And where does being a partner fit into that?” There is no instruction manual for your new identity as a parent. Suddenly all eyes are on Baby. And in this sensitive time when hormones are changing, sleep is sporadic, having gone through the intense experience of bringing a life into the world; we can get kind of lost.
OUR BABY NEEDS US
There were times in the first year postpartum when my sexual desire was so non-existent that I actually thought I’d be happy if we never have sex again. But I knew deep down that eventually our relationship would crumble without that connection. The pillar of a child’s health is the relationship of their parents. In most cases, that child was born out of that union. Family life depends on connection between the parents. Making life all about Baby will not lead in a healthy direction for anyone. Children feel when we are really bonded. Being connected is not just important for us as partners, but for the family unit as a whole.
CHILDBIRTH LIFTS HUGE VEILS
When people have babies, everything unresolved rises to the surface. Shadow parts of the relationship, which there always are, tend to come to the surface. Birth is a maturing process, and as we mature, who we are emotionally, physically, spiritually, and sexually - evolves. The problem is that our cultural conversation around sex doesn’t really include that evolution. If you’ll be really honest with yourself, you might find this rings true for you…
“I do want sex, I just don’t want the sex that’s being offered to me. I realize now that we only had one kind of sex before; same warm up, same position, same ending. I thought I liked that, but looking back on it, I was tolerating it. I was performing sex, I wasn’t being in my sex. And it doesn’t work for me anymore. I want things to be different and yet this is a time when it’s so hard to articulate that.”
WHAT IS SEX, REALLY?
What we know as sex is generally considered to be penetration. It is mostly driven by porn, even if we don’t watch porn. It determines what we think about pubic hair, how genitals are supposed to look, how orgasm and climax happens, what’s acceptable and not acceptable, what we’re supposed to want, and what sex even IS. Porn is indirect sex education. And it’s designed for men. There is a way to be sexual and connect sexually that can be satisfying to both people - that doesn’t have to be the sex that you had before - that doesn’t have to be hard/fast penetrative sex. Any type of sex is available to you, but it can be a choice, not a default mechanism.
GIVING, GIVING, GIVING
Let’s get responsible for our martyr tendencies. If you don’t want to be having penetrative sex and you’re doing it anyway, it’s not benefitting anyone. Your partner doesn’t really want a sexual favor from you just because you feel like you have to. It might feel physically good but it’s not satisfying. We want it from someone who’s turned on by it also and who wants to connect. So stop being a martyr. Give love to yourself, and you shall receive.
CHANGING THE CONTEXT
What if we stop asking what’s wrong with us? What if we stop trying to fit ourselves into the old context? What, as a woman, do WE get to RECEIVE out of sex?
A NEW CONTEXT
This is the time to start naming our desires. Sexual connection is a place where we should receive energy, not exhaust it. We are exhausting our energy by nourishing a new life. This is where we’re at, and from this place, what sounds good? What feels good to you right now? A massage? Kissing? Holding hands? Breathing together? Whatever it is, name your desire and ask for it. By the way, that’s not foreplay or a lead in. That’s connection.
THE MYTH ABOUT FOREPLAY
The problem with foreplay is that we think and act like it’s leading up to something. Society is so focused on penis vagina sex that we feel like we’re failing if we don’t connect via penetration. The postpartum time is about slowing down. This can actually be an exploratory time of pleasure! In our physiology as women, it takes 35-45 minutes to get full arousal and engorgement. Most of us don’t even have a reference for what fully aroused sex feels like! This time of exploration allows us to elaborate our pallet of sensation and access to pleasure. When we develop our range of pleasure sensations, our sex will naturally blossom and grow in different directions, possibly making it more fulfilling than ever before.
Whether you gave birth vaginally or by cesarean section, with or without complications, physically things just feel different after having a baby. Here are some common physical challenges we might run into…
Scar tissue is very dense connective tissue that forms where the body and energy field has been disrupted. A scar can be passive (contained) or active. When it’s active, it can grow, gather, and adhere surrounding tissue, causing discomfort or pain. It can affect all other pelvic floor issues including prolapse, incontinence, and diastases. The body holds memories and scar tissue brings them to the surface so the trauma can be fully experienced, integrated, and released.
Scar tissue can occur before we even get pregnant from things such as inserting dry tampons, rough sex, abortions, medical procedures, rape, etc. If not discovered and healed before birth, it can prevent the cervix from fully dilating. Seeing a sexological body worker before or during pregnancy can resolve this issue.
Belly Birth (Cesarean)
Sex can even be painful when you’ve given birth through your belly instead of your vagina. If a c-section scar is active, it can adhere to the cervix, which then cannot move up and out of the way during sex. Because the body did not complete a vaginal birth, the vagina is confused and muscles can become really tight. The body needs to complete the experience. It may take simultaneous internal and external work with a specialist to heal this issue.
The Perineum & Tearing
The perineum is the area between the anus and the vulva or scrotum. The perineum is the foundation of our energy system. It is how we mobilize ourselves in the world. Why we may feel so ungrounded and dispersed after having a baby is because literally our pelvic floor is full of scar tissue and it’s not allowing full sensation or presence. Some people experience trauma in birth like episiotomy, tearing of the perineum or labia, or other disruptions that may not be clearly visible. How the muscles are intertwined and related when we heal after birth can cause pain. *add protecting your perineum podcast
Healing Scar Tissue
With the right manual manipulation, presence and witnessing skills, scar tissue can dissolve. A specialist might use castor oil, heat packs, and manual pressure while also helping you to move through the emotions that were present when the trauma occurred. Once scar tissue is dissolved, it is a contained scar. It can become active again if there is more emotion to work through or if the body experiences more trauma, inflammation or shifts in biomechanics. You can learn more at scartissueremediation.com.
Prolapse is when the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, or rectum) descend into the vaginal area. You may feel like something’s just not quite right, a bulge, or more pressure than usual. The key to healing naturally is catching it early. Get an individualized diagnosis from your care provider so you know if you have prolapse, how advanced it is, and what your options are for treating it. It can always help to get a second opinion, and the best person to see is a pelvic floor specialist. You may be able to heal prolapse with specific exercises and if it’s more advanced, further treatment may be necessary.
Your alignment has to be spot on for your pelvic and core muscles to fire appropriately and support your pelvic organs. These muscles will be weak if your posture is slumped because there is more downward pressure on the pelvic organs.
Most of us don’t know how to do them correctly. Kegels must be done correctly and in moderation for them to be helpful. If you’re doing them too often or incorrectly, it can cause more damage than benefits. Watch the video in the link above to learn the correct way to do this exercise.
It’s considered normal to pee yourself for the rest of your life altering having a baby. How sexy is that?! Yes, things change after birth, but this does NOT have to be the new normal. With proper posture, alignment and awareness of our pelvic muscles, we do not have to be burdened with incontinence.
VAGINAL & PELVIC REHABILITATION
It is so important to find out if there’s physical trauma that’s preventing you from having a smooth birth or enjoying sex after birth. Before and after birth, it’s so important to see a pelvic floor therapist or someone who specializes in sexological body work. They can feel if something is off and help create the perfect individualized healing for you. Vaginal mapping to explore the layout of your pelvic area can also be very healing as you can experience your own anatomy outside of a medical or sexual context.
A PATHWAY TO CONNECTION
There is no wrong way, right way, or formula for saving your sex life after having a baby. But there are tools and practices you can bring into your life that will make a difference in this big transition. While this time can be challenging, it’s also a huge opportunity. I hope, through this guide, you will discover that sex can be your biggest source of energy and that it’s possible to have a more enriched, deeper connection than ever before.
Acknowledge, normalize, and accept this challenging transformational time.
Communicate; be transparent.
“I really want intimate connection with you. And I’m having a really challenging time finding my way there. What can we do?”
How are you doing as a person?
How are you doing as a mom/dad?
How are you doing as a partner?
How are we doing? (separate from this parenting project that we’re doing)
Make an appointment and visit a pelvic floor therapist.
This will be a healing game-changer.
Play the 3 minute game; practice naming what you want and getting it.
Get a timer
One person names a desire and the other person fulfills it for 3 minutes
Then you switch
Keep genitals off the table unless you feel ready for that
Suggestions: massage, breathing together, holding hands, feather-stroking arms
Feminization of sex; this is how we naturally soften and open.
Feeling well taken care of and supported
Beauty in our environment
Attention to sensuality
Not all about penetration
Bonus Opportunity / Resources
Read books and listen to podcasts…
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson
Birthful Podcast Episode 92 - Vaginal Rehab
Healthy Birth Happy Babies Podcast Episode 47 - Is Scar Tissue Limiting Your Postpartum Recovery?
Vaginal Kung Fu Online Course with Kim Anami
Coming Together Online Course with Kim Anami