If your sex life isn't bouncing back as fast as you'd hoped, we're here to help
There are likely thousands of men counting down at this very moment to the six-week mark—the day that doc clears their wife to get busy again after baby. But not all new moms are so eager to jump back in the sack: One in ten women wait more than six months to resume sex after childbirth, according to a new British Pregnancy Advisory Service survey. “Six weeks isn’t a magic number,” says Cynthia Brincat, M.D., director of the Mother’s Pelvic Wellness Program at Loyola University. “It’s a number that the medical community has come up with.”
And it’s not simply a matter of physically healing (which, by the way, doesn’t always happen as fast as expected). New moms often struggle with exhaustion, a lack of lubrication, or lactation during lovemaking. “We have to change pretty much everything that we are when we become mothers,” says Amanda Edwards, a licensed psychotherapist and author of The Mother’s Guide to Sex After Babies. “Understanding and embracing our sexuality as a mother can be very challenging.” The good news: There are easy ways to overcome the most common post-baby sex saboteurs. Read on to find how.
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When you’re up all night with a crying baby, the last thing you want to do is meet the needs of another person. “It’s really hard not to just say you’re tired and roll over—to get every minute of sleep that you can,” says Edwards. In fact, exhaustion was one of the primary barriers to sex after childbirth in the new British Pregnancy Advisory Service survey. “That sleep deprivation can last anywhere from the first couple of months to the first couple of years, depending on how well your child sleeps through the night,” says Edwards.
Save your sex life: How long does sex really take—maybe 15 minutes, max? “Investing that time in your relationship and your own physical pleasure is worth sacrificing that sleep time,” says Edwards. Forget right-before-bed sex, and aim for morning or naptime hookups, suggests Linda Brubaker, M.D., an ob-gyn and female pelvic medicine specialist at Loyola University. Even better: Make a sex date on Saturday mornings before your little one starts stirring. “People resist sex scheduling, because it doesn’t feel spontaneous,” says Edwards. “But when you have that date you can both look forward to, it’s a game changer for your relationship.”
Chances are you came home from the hospital with a brand-new baby and a brand-new body. According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service survey, a lack of post-baby body confidence is a serious barrier to getting busy for 45 percent of women. “Women look down and say, ‘That’s not me. Things aren’t right,’” says Brincat. But women are also expected to just keep going—as it appears celebrity moms (who seem to bounce back overnight) do. “We’re stuck with this body that we see as inferior—and that causes inhibition in the bedroom,” says Edwards.
Save your sex life: Stop thinking of your stretch marks as flaws. Instead, think of them as badges of honor. “Having a child is a phenomenal accomplishment,” says Brubaker. “Women should feel pride.” And voice your insecurities to your partner in as non-judgmental a way as possible. “Don’t frame it as, ‘I can’t believe how ugly I look. Look at this roll,’” says Edwards. “Voice that this part of me has changed, and I’m working on accepting it.” You’ll be surprised to learn that your partner is totally turned on by your new physique (those voluptuous breasts are freaking amazing!). “Men are appreciative that you’re just naked with them,” she says. “They’re not looking at all those flaws that we see.”
When you’ve been on a sexual hiatus for six weeks (maybe more), you may feel a little tight down there—and if you experienced tearing during childbirth, that may be accompanied by more intense discomfort. (Plus, there's some evidence that the estrogen drop you experience during breastfeeding can lead to a lack of natural lubrication.) What to Expect When You’re Expecting speaks very little about post-partum sex,” says Brincat. “Basically, they say it’s going to hurt a little bit. That’s not really helpful. This is something that should be taken seriously.”
Save your sex life: “What worked before might not work now,” says Edwards. If you’re recovering from a C-section, she suggests spooning sex, which won’t put a lot of pressure on your incision site. Another smart start: woman on top. “You can control the pace,” says Brincat. And regardless, use plenty of lube—and consider a glass of wine to loosen you up beforehand, adds Edwards.
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Sure, your guy is totally in love with your new, ample chest—but squirting milk during sexy time isn’t exactly sexy (at least to you). Touching your breasts during sex can trigger letdown—and even if he leaves the girls alone, your nipples will probably leak while you’re doing the deed, whether or not you’re breastfeeding, says Edwards.
Save your sex life: You could wear your bra during sex, but what fun is that? Spooning sex can help. When you’re both lying on your sides, your breasts won’t jiggle as much, so you may be less likely to experience letdown, says Edwards. And most important, bring a sense of humor to the bedroom. “This is just value added—he’s getting more for his money,” says Brubaker. “It just shows how well your body is functioning.”