It usually starts with,”Can I ask you a personal question?”I must admit, I don’t mind. There’s not much I haven’t shared already. So she continues,”How are things, you know, down there, since your natural birth?”
It’s a question I really don’t mind answering. It’s a legitimate fear. And it’s a question I’ve had in person and by email countless times too. Generally, people want to know specific things:
- Have there been physical changes in your body?
- How has your sex life changed?
- Isn’t your vagina really stretched now? The best boric acid suppositories can be used to treat certain vaginal yeast infections that keep coming back or don’t respond to other treatments.
- How do you have sex and co-sleep?
As to the physical changes, there’s an interesting article on Baby Centre about Sex: After the baby, definitely worth a read.
Of course, I’m only one person, so I’ve asked a few friends to share their views too:
I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories of this one or that one who were back in the saddle less than a week after birth – I knew a girl who fell pregnant the same month her daughter was born! But of course, this is not ideal. The advice is generally to wait until you’re ready, but at least six weeks to allow for the uterus, cervix and if required, the perineum to heal. (Midwives and doctors will tell you the risk of infection is greater in the first six weeks.)
There are massive physical changes in the body during pregnancy and childbirth and it takes a few weeks for the organs to move back into their ‘correct’ places and for things to heal up again. That said, after natural child birth, the vagina and perineum start to heal up really soon again – for me the sting during urination, caused by the grazing when my daughter shot out in one go after 48 hours of labor, lasted about three days.
The whole area felt a little swollen, and it was only during urination for those first few days that it hurt. Not helped by the fact that I didn’t drink my usual amount of water during those 48 hours, so the urine was a lot more acidic than usual too. ‘They’ recommend, and I second, a squirty bottle of water kept by the toilet so that you can ‘dilute’ what hits the area. I also strongly recommend a sitz bath and I kept the sitz solution on hand to cleanse with after each trip to the loo.
Dionna, from Code Name Mama, says “We tried the first time at four weeks postpartum. That was a bad idea, but I really wanted to show Tom some of the affection he’d been giving me by supporting me through those first difficult weeks of breastfeeding. We quickly abandoned that first attempt. I think the first time we successfully had sex (successfully for him, still pretty painful for me) was at six weeks postpartum. It really didn’t start feeling good to me until at least 12 weeks postpartum, if not later. Mind you, I had a cracked tailbone and substantial bruising.”
Lauren from Hobo Mama had a more difficult time resuming their sex life: “Our midwives and various other sources told us we could resume intercourse at six weeks postpartum, and for me, that was far too optimistic. Even after an uncomplicated vaginal birth, everything down there still hurt way too much at six weeks. I think we resumed some sort of sexual relations about 4 months in.”
We had our first experience about six weeks after, and I remember feeling pretty much nothing. I was too scared to even say anything about it to my husband, as the thought of never having any sensation again was terrifying. Lauren shares a similar experience:
“For a while after that, it still was uncomfortable for me, and then it became just nothing. I didn’t feel any real arousal, and I was so scared that’s how it would be for all time. I didn’t even tell my husband that was how I felt, because it was so depressing for me to think about. Finally, around 9 months, I felt the first glimmer of returning libido, and I was so relieved!”
Dionna explains that her low libido is probably due to tiredness more than anything else. “I have had a noticeably smaller sex drive since having a baby. In the first year, that might have been partially due to breastfeeding hormones, but even with Kieran not nursing as much, my sex drive is still smaller. It’s probably more because of exhaustion at the end of the day. I’d recommend that couples who are too tired to make love find a different time of the day – early in the morning or at lunch time.”
Another mother, Louise, who also has a one year old old daughter, shares that she also has a very low sex drive, and also attributes it to breastfeeding hormones, but on the up side, she says that when they have sex “once or twice a month” it is a much more powerful experience than it was before. Louise always enjoyed sex anyway, but now her orgasms are much stronger and last longer.
This has also been my experience: lower sex drive, but so much better than ever before when it does happen.
Deena, also a mum of one, says that she has never had an orgasm during sex, but feels that it is getting closer and closer.
It’s not the case for everyone though. Celina, a mum of two, and her fiance have an enviable sex life anyway, and having a baby didn’t stand in the way of that. With her first born, they waited three weeks because of her episiotomy, and after her second, she says “let’s just say I was very busy, so oral sex became our primary satisfaction for about four weeks.
As far as changes to my body I’ve actually become even more aware of my beauty after becoming a mother. I feel so beautiful when I breastfeed and that confidence transfers very well to the bedroom.
Dionna agrees. On the positive side, I feel like I’m more in touch with my body since having Kieran, she says.
And I agree here too. Since Ameli’s birth, I can look at my body, with it’s spots, wrinkles and cellulite, and for possibly the first time ever, not loathe seeing myself in the mirror, because I have found a strength and awesomeness within myself and my ability to birth a child naturally. What this hunk of flesh is capable of creating and going through, blows my mind and surpasses what I used to see, looking at the physical form in the mirror. There was also a lot of sexual healing for me, following a very peaceful water birth.
For most of us, a major contributing factor to lessened sexual activity could be the fact that we co-sleep.
For Celina, the only thing that’s really changed in their sex life is the spontaneity.
“We make love at night or in the early morning. The only time it’s spontaneous is when both girls happen to be asleep, then we run to each other. The baby now sleeps in her own bed in our room. But during the first months of her life we would have to leave the room and she would usually wake up half way through. It’s been tough. But, I feel it isn’t a lack of desire on our part just the inability to find the time.”
Dionna followed the same pattern as us: when the babies were very young, we were just very quiet.
Says Dionna: We have a Cal King bed, so there can be 3 feet between us and him, plus the memory foam absorbs the movement. If we had a different bed, that probably wouldn’t be an option. We are also creative – living room, guest bed, etc.
And yes, creativity is probably the co-sleepers best friend.
In the end, sex goes through phases, just like every other aspect of a relationship. Sometimes you’re too busy, sometimes you’re not ready, and sometimes you’re too tired. The key to a good sex life after a natural birth, is the same as before: communication. And from a physical perspective, it really is different from woman to woman all you can do is listen to your body, and do what feels right for you and your partner. Why not read this article entitled what does porneia mean?
As Lauren, who is pregnant with her second child puts it, After the next birth, I’ll know just to take it easy and give my body and psyche the recovery time they need.
Natural Childbirth: Changes In Sex Life
I love the different perspectives – and the honest answers. Lovely post. 🙂
Thankyou for honestly addressing this! I echo the experiences above following my first and third births, but my second was a different story. The birth was four hours from waters breaking to placenta birthing, and ecstatic. I felt so normal, I went into town the next day. I was on a high for weeks. Lochia ended on day seven. I never lost a day of libido to breastfeeding (and she is the one who just weaned at age four).
Our sex life resumed fully on day ten.
Let’s just say it may have lulled me into a false sense of security for birth number three (though not noticeably less wonderful a birthing lol).
@Sarah, Thanks Sarah! That is TRULY fascinating – so it doesn’t even depend on the woman, but rather on the baby. By ‘ecstatic’ do you mean orgasmic birth?
Thanks so much for sharing!
@Luschka, all except my first birthing have been pain free (uncomfortable at times, and also at times tremendously hard work and emotionally difficult) but my middle daughter’s birth was certainly close to orgasmic.
I have often wondered why my youngest’s birth was harder, and I actually think it probably is more about my emotional work than about her being a physically different person IYKWIM? When I birthed her, we had a very negative midwife present, AND my most recent experience of birth was the unassisted birth of my late miscarriage baby. Birthing Rowan was still amazing, but it felt much more difficult to me even though my husband says he thought it was the most peaceful of our childrens’ arrivals! It certainly took longer to recover than I expected.
@Sarah, That’s incredibly powerful Sarah. I am in awe of not only your experiences, but also your strength. I can well imagine that the birthing of the youngest carried a lot of emotional wounds with it.
If you don’t mind my asking – did you find the last birth, even in retrospect, healing?
@Luschka, yes, in time. Right afterwards, I think it brought things back a lot more than I expected. I spent a lot of the early days feeling that black cloud – convinced that she wouldn’t stay with me, that something would happen to her too… I think the feeling of my body being broken has healed fully – and her birthing and her vitality have accomplished so much of that.
Time and love are great healers. And birth is like a heavy rock around which your experience of motherhood flows and shapes itself. Even my worst birthing experiences are treasured for the gifts they brought.
Fascinating post. I guess from the other side of the childbirth ‘divide’…after 2 sections, there are still multiple issues you face in the bedroom. In fact, you’ve inspired me to write a post about it. Will give you a shout out when I do!
@Babes about Town, Please do! Reading the stories I half wonder why anyone would WANT to give birth naturally! So I’m very curious to know what you have to say!
I was speaking to an African lady recently who told me that in their custom, the husband doesn’t even think to expect sex for two years after the birth of the baby – probably easier in polygamous cultures – which makes a ton of sense if we’re supposed to breastfeed till two years too!
I can totally tell my libido is related to breastfeeding hormones. The first three months, when breastfeeding was going badly (due to a nipple shield) and my supply was dwindling, I was WAY in the mood! As in, begging my husband the second the baby went down, and enjoying it a lot! Once we ditched the shield, my supply shot up and my libido shot down. Sadly, it’s more of a chore than anything else nowadays. I guess that’s one thing I can look forward to as the baby cuts down on his nursing.
@Sheila, That’s really interesting, isn’t it, since nursing releases the “love hormone” which should technically then increase desire. I wonder if tiredness and stimulation – or lack thereof- as the baby gets older has anything to do with it?
@Luschka, Well, oxytocin may be the “love hormone,” but prolactin is more of a nurturing hormone. It makes me feel loving, patient, and cuddly, but hardly sexy. I’m actually not a bit tired these days, as I’ve been taking daily naps, and I don’t think I’m touched-out either — at the end of the day I’m all about the snuggles, especially now that the baby’s cruising and not very snuggly. But sex is just blah. Even when I’m mildly in the mood for it, it just doesn’t feel good.
After giving what I said some thought (this part: “It really didnâ€™t start feeling good to me until at least 12 weeks postpartum, if not later.”), I think I underestimated that 12 week figure. I bet it was 6-8 months before it started feeling good at all.
I love the new site design!!
@Dionna @ Code Name: Mama, Thanks Dionna, and thanks for adding that – I am really fascinated by the physical versus emotional changes. It’s really been interesting reading people’s stories.
I never realized that a lot of women lose their sex drive after birth. This was very informative and honest. Thank you for addressing this issue in your blog:)
@Celina, Pleasure! Thanks so much for sharing your experience too!
Erm… I think I’ve answered only half of the question uh?
right… here goes the rest… about how I felt about waiting… ummm…
I think I was so exhausted looking after the kids and her as well that the last thing that actually came to mind was sex…
with exception of the first time I think… but that was her impatience and not mine… I simply don’t know how to say no… hehehehe… typical guy.
does that make sense????
@urbanvox, Absolutely, and it’s really nice to hear a dad say that! It’s hard sometimes to not feel like you’re just the stick in the mud.
I read somewhere that one of the most common times for a couple to divorce is just after the baby’s first birthday. I find that really sad, because I can totally see why – especially if daddy’s work life continues, and mummy now stays at home.
Thanks so much for answering!
Tricky… we had 2 sons when I was married with Vic… the 2 of them were completely different situations…
Sex resumed pretty quick after TB… to the point where well… we burst a stitch… after the 1st time…
The second time we were older and wiser… and it took quite a while longer…
The next… well who knows… different mummy… different rules… Not that it will happen any time soon anyway… heheheh 😉
Love the new design (I read everything in feed-reading software, so you might have put it up ages ago).
It took us (well, me, basically) almost a year first time round. A couple of months second time, but I had some big problems with my episiotimy which meant it was put off again for at least a month. And I still have plenty issues – the two big ones being that I can’t have my breasts treated sexually while I’m breastfeeding (I mean the duration of the months/years that I’m breastfeeding) and the second being that I have a huge issue about having sex with children in the close vicinity. I’m working on these issues as they definitely have a negative effect on our relationship, though luckily my husband is very understanding.
And there’s also the tiredness and just plain difficulty in timing it right.
@Tasha Goddard, Thanks Tasha – it’s only been around a couple of weeks, so no problem! I’m glad you like it!
I absolutely ‘get’ the tiredness and timing issue – it seems to be rather global. I can also totally relate to what you said about having children around. I really thought that would put me off too, but in the end it didn’t – which I’m grateful for as Kyra spends 99% of her life around me!
Thanks so much for your honest comment!