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Jan282012

Postpartum Sex: Enhancing Babyhood with Couplehood

by Ana Paula Markel

 

It is a common topic among new mothers. Sex: the lack of it or the joy of it.

The most popular belief is that having a baby will compromise a couple’s sex life. Did you know that it does not have to? 

Most books and medical providers will tell you that six weeks after giving birth, it is safe to resume sexual activity including intercourse. It takes the uterus about that long to go back to pre-pregnancy size. By this mark, bleeding should also be gone with any vaginal soreness caused by the birth. An interesting point about this timeline is that it is too generic. Many women may not be ready to resume intercourse by six weeks while others may not be able to wait that long. 

A woman’s interest and physical ability for sex depends on her body’s healing ability, on the birth experience and on how the general postpartum period is being approached. Sex, or lack of it, is generally a consequence of circumstances. In many cultures, regardless of how easy the birth was, women are treated like queens for the six weeks of recovery. There are meals prepared, household chores done and a lot of praises for the new mother which leads to a rested, happy and confident woman. In our society and modern culture, women not only do not have support but have to take care of normal life (chores, work, etc.) along with a new baby. It’s no wonder new mothers are not in the mood for romance! Exhaustion is one of the main reasons sex after baby becomes challenging. If the mother is nourished, the better the chance for romance.

Parenthood can be sexy. The language of romance changes with the arrival of a baby. Before baby, romance means a fancy dinner, flowers, chocolate or a sexy movie. After baby, romance means an empty dishwasher, folded laundry and something warm and nutritious to eat. Partners that step up and help with household chores get a lot more loving than the ones that choose to let the mother figure it out on her own. 

One of the most popular myths is that the vagina will not be the same after childbirth. While that can be the case in very rare circumstances, it is vital to remember that vaginas have more than one function. It is designed not only for baby making and pleasure but also for baby birthing. A woman with a healthy diet and strong kegel muscles will be able to stretch her healthy tissues to birth the baby and retract just like before the birth. Due to hormone levels, especially if breastfeeding, the vagina will be dry and lubrication will be welcome. 

New parents have to get a little more creative in carving out some time to connect sexually. While before baby you were able to be more spontaneous, with a family you may need to plan your rendezvous. Ask a family member to take your baby for a walk or to the park and stay home alone, just the two of you. You may also feel more in the mood for sex in the morning or during the day than before bed, as you may be too tired during the first few months.

As new parents when we are craving sex, we are ultimately craving a deep connection with our partners and intercourse is not the only way to achieve that. There are many different ways to be intimate: a bath together, a nice massage, spending a little time as a couple away from the baby, and don’t forget manual and oral stimulation. 

Please remember that for a lot of civilized and polite women, labor may be the first experience a woman disconnects her body from her brain. When a woman is in the throes of labor, her neocortex (the thinking brain) shuts down and she becomes primal, finding the best coping options for labor. Laboring women learn that labor is more manageable and even pleasurable when they don’t think but act freely in a primal fashion to birth the baby. Months after the experience of giving birth with a quiet neocortex, a woman can connect once again with this magic with her partner. For the partner, watching the laboring woman become so free and primal can be extremely inspiring to invite that primal behavior to the couples sex life later. This is a part of the stories often left out... sex can be better after childbirth! 

Whether it takes you four weeks or four months to get in the mood, communicate with your partner, especially if one of you wants sex and the other doesn’t. It is important to address the issue and to work towards a healthy sex life. A happy couple makes for happy parents. 

Ana Paula Markel is the mother of four children. Having experienced two cesarean births, a medicated vaginal birth and a natural birth (in that order), she discovered a passionate interest in the childbirth process. Her goal is to assist mothers and families to explore the many options available in childbirth and to take responsibility of their choices. Ana is also a doula trainer for DONA International and has been mentoring new doulas for the past six years. In 2008 Ana found BINI Birth, a center in Los Angeles dedicated to the childbirth education field, doula training and green pregnancy retail.

 

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