Congrats! You’ve just had a baby. Whether it’s your first or fourth (or more!), you’re head over heels in love with your little one. What’s even better is watching your husband bond with your little one. Thought you loved him on your wedding day? Every time you catch a glimpse of him changing a diaper, burping your sweet baby after a feeding, or passed out asleep on the couch with your bundle on his chest (my favorite!), you feel yourself fall more in love with him. But you’ve just had a baby and you know you can’t take him to bed and show him just how much you love him.
Postpartum intimacy: the good
1. It creates avenues for conversation
This season of life calls for sexually intimacy to both protect your marriage and provide mutual pleasure. Your sexual intimacy needs may not be able to be met through intercourse but you can share what your needs are even if you know up front your typical go-to option is not available.
Being willing to explore other options – for both you and your husband – requires humility and vulnerability in what and how you talk to each other.
Your husband might need you to initiate conversations about creative forms of intimacy or you might need to ask your husband to make suggestions as to how to reach sexual pleasure together. On the other hand, you might need to hear affirming words from your husband about how good of a job you’re doing mothering your child or how much he loves the way you look and feel. Make sure to ask for what you need rather than force him to guess or figure it out on his own.
2. You’re forced to find alternate forms of intimate touch
Most OBs and midwives tell you to refrain from sexual intercourse for at least 6 weeks. Your body needs time to heal even if you had a c-section* but while this is wise advice, 6 weeks (or more if you had to stop having sex during your 3rd trimester went) is quite a long time to not be intimate with your husband. Too many Christian married couples view sex as only for procreation; if you’re among those who haven’t experimented with other forms of physical intimacy, this is your chance to start (at least open the conversation!).
While you can continue to be spiritually, emotionally, and relationally intimate with your husband, this is an opportunity to explore other forms of physical touch: massage, breast stimulation, or genital stimulation. Once you are able to have sex again, you’ll find that continuing to do these things will only further enhance your sexual intimacy and pleasure when coupled with intercourse rather than take away from it.
3. You have the tools to get to know your body better
In the lead up to childbirth, your OB or midwife probably suggested you work on your pelvic floor. If you hadn’t done so before, you learned a lot about how to target these areas. Relaxing and tightening these muscles, including the musculature that makes up the walls of your vagina, is not as simple as flexing your biceps or doing a sit-up. Now that you’ve spent time focusing on how to relax and tighten the muscles directly involved with your genitals, you will [most likely] also have heightened sensation as well. When you are able to have sex again, you will get to use these same muscles to enhance penetrative intercourse with your husband.
Another plus is that you might be able to have intercourse in different positions that had been able to before (after getting the green light from your OB or midwife to have sex again, that is). Learning how to signal your pelvic floor and vaginal muscles to relax coupled with pleasurable non-penetrative sexual touch leads to heightened arousal. Having your body ready itself for sex gives you the chance to try a different position or even location for sex (now’s your chance to do it in the kitchen once the kids are in bed!).
Postpartum intimacy: the bad
1. You can’t do everything you (or your husband) wants to do
Take a moment and reflect back on the good elements of postpartum intimacy (besides the way your heart leaps when your husband loves on that adorable baby!). While you may not be able to have sex again yet, you’ve increased your communication about sex, found other ways to be sexually intimate, and perhaps have even found that you can do things you weren’t able to do before. Be patient with yourself and give yourself (and your husband!) grace in this season.
2. Hormonal changes affect your natural lubrication
A marked drop in estrogen after childbirth, especially if you’re breastfeeding, increases vaginal dryness. In order to enjoy sexual touch with your husband, and later, intercourse, you’ll need to invest in quality lubricant (if you haven’t needed to before).** There are many types available depending on your preference. Fractionated coconut oil is a great option since it doesn’t leave a greasy film. You could also use evening primrose oil if you have some of that leftover from ripening your cervix in preparation for labor (capsules – which you can pierce with a safety pin – or liquid).
3. It’s logistically difficult to be intimate [right] after having a baby
Sleepless nights, ’round the clock feedings (bottle or breast!), and taking care of daily life makes you one tired mama. Your husband is tired too; he’s upping his efforts around the house or is already back at work (or both). If you’re co-sleeping or have baby in the room in a bassinet, it is even harder to sexually connect with your spouse even if you have the time.
Do what you can to make the most of brief windows of time. You can stimulate each other in the shower, enjoy some cuddling before you go to sleep, or line up a babysitter to take your baby for a walk so you can be at home alone together for even half an hour (farm out the rest of the kiddos too!).
Postpartum intimacy: the ugly
1. You don’t like the way you look
Your body just went through World War III, vaginal delivery OR c-section. Extra pounds, things stretched how you’re not used to seeing them, jiggles where you’re used to being firm…you probably don’t feel very beautiful.
Mama, this is a great opportunity to experience sexual pleasure NOT based on how you feel about your outward beauty. Your husband married you for the whole you, not just what you looked like.
Honestly, he’s probably holding himself back from ravishing you now that you have extra curves and larger breasts! Your body has an incredible capacity to experience pleasure within your marital relationship; let your husband’s words of affirmation sink in and enjoy his company emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, and sexually.
2. It might feel like your first time all over again
You may find you’re figuring everything out all over again when it comes to sex. Whether it’s how you feel about yourself, worry about how much it will hurt, or you are rushed for time, sex after baby is a touchy subject for many couples. You are not the first couple to go through this and you will not be the last. After the birth of each of your children, you’ll need to re-navigate these waters…and that’s okay. You just have to be patient rather than let it get ugly between you and your husband. Take it slow, talk a lot, make light of the fact that you’re probably milking all over yourself (and him!), and remind each other of the love that led to the baby that is putting you in this state of postpartum intimacy. You’ll be back riding that bike sooner than you thought.
3. Satan loves to attack this part of marriage
There’s a reason the porn industry is such a huge business; Satan loves to attack marriage how God designed it. Another way he attacks marriage is by letting sex become an issue between couples, especially in the sleep-deprived and overworked days and months after having a baby. Keeping communication lines clear by sharing your expectations and difficulties, being intentional about being intimate on a regular yet realistic basis, and staying in prayer for one another especially in this area of marriage are all keys to keeping Satan’s attacks from holding any ground.
If you want some concrete challenges, the suggestions below are a place to start.
Be intimate with each other at least twice a week. Put it on the calendar (in code) if that helps!
Send your husband a text message inviting him to a time of creative intimacy when he gets home from work (and if you’re the up-front type, tell him you can’t wait to give him a handjob in the shower).
Find a couple who is willing to hold you accountable for your intimate time; not to divulge all your details, but to hold you accountable for taking time to be intimate with each other.
Baby in your room? Do what you would have done even with them there. The challenge of having to stay quiet and communicate with your eyes and bodies what you would have said with your words will make it new and exciting.
I know you have ideas that have worked for you. Won’t you please share them in the comments below?
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*The 6 week window is prescribed by birth providers for women who deliver either vaginally or via c-section for several reasons. It gives ample time for post-delivery bleeding to stop as well as for their cervix to close. Tears to the perineum, episiotomy stitches, or a c-section incision are also factors for women depending on how they delivered.
**If you use condoms for pregnancy prevention, don’t use oil- or silicone-based lubricants because this weakens the material. Only use water-based lubricants to prevent condoms from breaking.