Changes in sexuality after childbirth are common, but few women discuss them, and many have questions about when they should have sex, why they want or don’t want to have it, and why they experience sex differently after giving birth.
For about a year after giving birth, women experience lower libido compared to before pregnancy, especially in the first 4-6 weeks. There is no “normal” or “correct” time to return to sexual activity—it depends entirely on how you and your partner feel.
During the first 4-6 weeks, most women are tired, emotional and in pain. The levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop significantly, and as a result, the vagina produces less of its natural lubrication. Because of this, many women experience less sexual desire and experience pain during intercourse. On average, women also report being less satisfied with sex.
The hormones of lactating women are affected by the period of their feeding. In non-breastfeeding women, hormone levels stabilize 4-6 weeks after delivery.
Even after hormone levels have returned to normal, most women still report that their sex drive is lower than before pregnancy due to emotional issues. Many feel tired, take time to adjust to being a mother, feel dissatisfied with their relationships or feel uncomfortable about changes in their bodies, and/or suffer from postpartum depression. These emotions tend to reduce a woman’s libido.
The Importance of Communication
Whatever you and your partner feel, it’s important that you talk about it. Talk to your partner about physical changes, any problems you may have with resuming sexual activity. It may be uncomfortable at first, but if you haven’t discussed these things, your partner probably wants to talk about it as well. If you feel comfortable, talk to friends or family members who have children (whether men or women, chances are their sexuality has changed after giving birth) and be sure to talk to a doctor or other professional if you have concerns.
Tips for returning to sexual activity:
1. Don’t force yourself to have sex too soon. If you or your partner don’t like it, you should wait.
2. Be close. Spend time kissing and hugging, or just being around each other, and you’re much more 3 likely to turn on.
3. Spend time with your child, but it’s also important that you spend time with and without him.
4. Experiment with different sexual positions. A woman may prefer to start at the top to control the intensity of penetration. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s comfortable and remember that you can stop.
5. Make sure you have a water-based lubricant on hand.
6. Make sure you have the time and privacy to focus on sex. You are unlikely to want sex if your child is screaming in the background.
7. When you’re ready, have sex! But remember that you can get pregnant (even if you’re breastfeeding) and contract sexually transmitted infections, so be careful.
8. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Be sure to talk to your partner about how you felt while having sex.