Sex After The Birth

In the first few days after giving birth, sex is usually the last thing on your mind.  If it’s not the bruised feeling down below then it’s the endless sleepless nights. Combine that with the baby blues & the hormonal effects of breastfeeding, and you may wonder if you’ll ever have sex again. As the days or weeks go by, you will soon begin to feel human again and eventually you’ll want to resume being intimate with your partner.

Most women feel a little anxious about having sex for the first time after having a baby and it is quite normal not to feel particularly sexy at this time in your life.  Overwhelming tiredness and the fact that it is difficult to find time to be alone together (when you are both awake!) can all make it difficult to get the ball rolling again.

Some women prefer to wait until after their 6 week check before having sex whereas some couples like to try it sooner. For some people, waiting a few months is better. The important thing is to talk to your partner and not to rush into anything too soon. If your partner wants to have sex earlier than you do, make sure you tell him why you want to wait. He will need reassurance that you still care for him!

Begin with just cuddling and kissing and being affectionate. It is easy to neglect this aspect of your relationship when you are so focused on your new baby but it is important to invest some time in your partner too. Your partner may feel rejected if he only sees you being affectionate to your baby.

At this stage, many women also worry about what they look like down below, particularly if they’ve had stitches or a tear. Even if you have had a tear, most of the stitches are inside you and from the outside, things will look absolutely fine. The opening to the vagina may look a little more open and may be a slightly different shape but this is all perfectly normal.

When you decide to be more intimate, try not to rush into things and begin with lots of foreplay. It helps to avoid penetrative intercourse for the first few times to enable you to get used to just feeling sexual again. It is really important that you are fully aroused before you have intercourse. Most discomfort that women may feel during sex is actually due to them not being turned on enough. When a woman becomes aroused, her vagina and vulva become lubricated and the vagina softens and opens up at the top. This all helps to make discomfort far less likely. Feeling anxious or rushing things will interfere with you becoming aroused.  Talk to your partner about making sure he touches you a lot first so that you will be completely ready for sex when you try.

The best position to start with is with you on top. This means you can control the rate and depth of penetration. It is easier for your partner to touch you at the same time which will ensure you stay wet and your tissues remain soft.

If you do try to have sex and it is painful, make an appointment to see your GP.  Once your GP has checked you over, they can refer you to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. She can assess you and see if there is any scar tissue that needs a little attention. She can also check that your pelvic floor muscles are working properly. Sometimes these muscles can actually be working too hard after a tear is repaired or after a caesarian section, in which case you will need to learn to relax them prior to having sex. The Peritone can be used to help show you when your muscles are tightening and when they are relaxing. Your Physiotherapist can show you how to use this in clinic and then you can take the machine away to use every day at home.

By Alison Bourne MA (Cantab) BSc MCSP ACPWH

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