Sex After Giving Birth: Bring Back the Love

When is it ok to have sex after giving birth? What if you’re not in the mood – are there ways to bring the excitement back into the bedroom? And is there anything to be avoided? We ask sex therapist Juliet Grayson…

Yesterday, sex and relationships therapist Juliet Grayson shared her advice for sex during pregnancy (whether or not to have kinky sex, how each partner may feel and alternatives to penetrative sex). Today, Juliet delves into sex after giving birth: what’s safe, when does it become normal, how can it be made more exciting…

Sex after giving birth

“Most people leave four-six weeks before getting back into sex. But it can take a lot longer to adjust – even a year on, a couple’s sex life may be impacted by the birth.

Breasts that have been a source of sexual pleasure may now belong to the baby – so they’re no longer in the sexual realm… Food not fun. They may also be sore. Allow for those changes and be open; no one knows how they’re going to react.

A c-section or episiotomy scars/wounds (that affect 80% of new mothers) will impact how you feel about having sex. Using a lubricant is really important. Also, remember the myth that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding is a myth. So be careful with oil-based lubricants, as they melt condoms. Instead, use a water-based lube.

To get in the mood, the new mother needs time to pamper herself. She should leave the baby with someone she trusts and have a nice bath, or a massage – refocus from giving out to taking back in again. It may be that that her partner will want to massage her hands and feet. This is the start of sensually connecting so see what comes from that. But don’t rush anything.

Regarding sexual positions, it’s probably best to avoid deep penetration initially, so if the woman’s on top, she can decide how deep the penetration goes. Side by side, with no pressure on stitches, can also be good.

There should be lots of foreplay so she’s fully aroused before penetration starts. On average, a woman takes 20-40 minutes to get aroused. A man, however, takes two minutes. He thinks she’ll get aroused as quickly as him but she won’t. Particularly not just after giving birth.

Remember that many things are attractive to women. Some new mums say that her partner putting the rubbish out, or helping with laundry is a turn on. She might then feel grateful and want to give back/have sex. So men can try something completely unrelated to sex.

Most of us don’t feel like sex when we’re sleep deprived; it’s used as a form of torture. So be kind to each other – she needs to be open to the fact that nothing’s changed for him; he needs to accept everything’s changed for her.

If the guy watched the birth – that can put him off sex. Occasionally new dads feel traumatised, it’s supposed to be delightful but sometimes it can be too much for them. The best thing is for him to talk to his partner or friends so that it gets processed. Otherwise it gets stuck and can cause more problems.

Lastly, some parents want the baby to sleep with them, while others want them to sleep alone sooner – and this all has an impact on your sex life. In a conventional male/female relationship, there is him and her, and then the third thing: their relationship. The baby is also now a part of the family. Just like the baby needs feeding, so does the relationship and your sex life is part of that, and one way to do that.

Bringing the excitement back into the bedroom

There are two types of desire: spontaneous and responsive. Spontaneous desire is when you randomly feel turned on – when you’re walking down the street, for instance. Responsive desire is when you only feel horny if something triggers it – someone on TV, a picture of a flower that looks erotic, your partner bringing you a present.

If you have responsive desire, you need an external trigger. Some people, after having a baby, move from spontaneous to responsive. This may mean that where once they were the instigator of sex in the relationship, they no longer are. And if both partners are responsive, no one will instigate it, so you need to plan more.

For responsive couples, it might help to assign Saturday night (for example) as ‘sex night’. This way, you know when it’s going to happen so you can get warmed up and ready. Once you start, you’ll enjoy it but you just need to be more prepared. But remember to have fun, to go on dates.

For the mother, it’s important to be aware that her partner has become a father – or a mother, in a same-sex relationship – but hasn’t been through hormonal changes so their level of desire is unlikely to change significantly.

Couples have great results listening to erotic books being read aloud – online there are loads of audible erotic short stories. That can be helpful as a trigger. Most women seem more willing to accept that than visual pornography (though some like visual porn, too).

Sex toys can be fun, using a vibrator can be fun. Or there’s an exercise you can try where you have a bowl and two different coloured sheets of paper. On the white paper, let’s say, you write down all the vanilla things you know your partner will enjoy. On the pink paper, you write down all the things that will stretch your partner a bit more. You use one piece of paper for each idea (12 in total), fold them up and put them in the bowl. Then you take it in turns to pick one out (you have the right to throw it back in) and it can be a starting point for what you might fancy trying.”

Juliet Grayson is author of Landscapes of the Heart: The working world of the sex and relationship therapist, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, July 2016. She is also a practising sex and relationships therapist and has a network of therapists you can talk to if you need help through this stage. 

Follow Juliet Grayson on Twitter: @CounsellorsCPD

How did you find sex after giving birth? If you’d like to share any disasters or tips in the comment section below, we’d love to hear them…

Photo credit: both images from Designspiration