Marisa Etting, MA, LCMHC
Clinical Director at ME Psychotherapy, LLC
Most new mothers are barely thinking about sex and intimacy in the few weeks after birth. Your body is battered, the recovery can last for weeks, and there is always a needy baby all over your body. The last thing on your mind is pleasure and closeness with your partner. In fact, most doctors tell women not to even have sex for the first six weeks-phew! You’re in the clear. However, right around that postpartum checkup, many partners begin asking that dreaded question….”when can we have sex again babe?”
Once you get the clear from your doctor at your postpartum visit, you may be physically ready for sex but that is just a minor part. Maybe you had a traumatic birth or a C-section and things still don’t feel right. Often, you might not be able to create the time for intimacy or even want to be touched by someone at all. You may not want to cuddle or even kiss your partner. This is normal! Many times, when women become mothers, that role is all consuming and it takes time to find your other identities again. Add in lack of sleep, lack of consistent hygiene, and ongoing demands of the family and it can be a recipe for disaster!
Here are some tips to ease back into a regular sense of intimacy and connectedness with your partner:
- Intimacy does not have to mean sex.It’s ok to tell your partner that you want to be close but don’t feel like sex tonight-maybe you just want to lay next to each other and watch TV, get/give a foot rub, cuddle, hold hands.
- If you continue to struggle with pain or other physical issues during sex, don’t be afraid to discuss this with your doctor or midwife.Postpartum pain shouldn’t really last more than a couple months and sometimes there are larger issues at hand, for example, a badly healed episiotomy/tear, scar tissue pain, or hormonal issues causing dryness. If something feels truly wrong, it may be and is worth a closer look. Some women have had luck seeing a female physical therapist to work on these issues.
- Try to plan for some time out of the house, even just an hour or so.Grab a coffee with a friend, get your nails done, run to Target after the baby is in bed at night-the goal is to do some typical things so you remember you’re a normal woman still. A break from the monotony of early parenting could be enough to shift things and spark an intimate mood.
- Schedule sex. Yes this may seem desperate and boring but the new mom phase is a unique period in life that requires a little shift of the rules. While it might seem official and stilted, at the end you will have made time for your partner and this little bit of prioritizing will go a long way. Once or twice a month in the beginning may be sufficient, discuss this with your partner though to find out what you both expect.
- Talk to your friends.Find out how they dealt with sex and intimacy in the postpartum period-they might have some tips.
- Try to do things that might put you in the mood. If you have the time (haha) – take a bath, watch a sexy movie or read an erotic story, think about fantasies you may have or had in the past, get creative. This may be a tall order but sometimes you have to pull out all the old tricks.
The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.