Postpartum

Sex After Birth: When & How to Approach Postpartum Sex

How do you know when you’re ready to have sex after birth?

husband wants to have sex but i just had a baby and i’m not sure if i’m ready

Do you need to be ready to have sex again 6 weeks after giving birth? If you get an “all clear” from your doctor or midwife at your checkup, does that mean you should feel ready for sex again?

A lot of women find themselves confused and feeling isolated when it comes to the conversation of sex after baby. Who can you talk to about sex when you’re a new mom? Can you bring it up at playgroup or with your friends? Women feel like they should be ready, even if they aren’t. This leaves new moms wondering if they’ve done something wrong, if their body is “broken” or if they are disappointing their partner.

The pressure to be ready for sex after birth can come from many places.

  1. Many providers mark the 6-week check up with an “all clear” to return to sex and exercise.

    While some providers take time to discuss all the changes a woman has experienced after having a baby, many women have felt rushed in these appointments and deduced to being sexual and fit again. This conversation of “your vagina is healed, you can have sex and exercise” creates a layer of pressure for a mom to be ready for intercourse.

  2. Pressure can come from a society that prioritizes sex in many ways

    There is an underlying assumption that a new mom “owes” sex to her partner because the partner has waited until mom is physically able again.

  3. Some women feel pressure from partners who don’t understand all the changes of new motherhood.

    A partner may feel like an “all clear” from a doctor is the green light everyone needs. When women are taught so little about their natural changes in postpartum, partners have even less understanding. This can be confusing and cause resentment in couples.

RELATED: Is this Weird for Everybody? Postpartum Sex

mom is not sure what to expect having sex after giving birth.

So What Does It Mean to be “Ready” for Sex Again?

A woman needs more than healed stitches to be ready for sex. It is a mental, emotional AND physical experience and transition. Some women are ready to get “back in the sack” right away, but for many women this is complicated and takes more time than the prescribed “all clear.”

Physically Ready

Being physically ready for sex includes healed birth sites- whether that is vaginal or cesarean (or both). This is usually what your medical provider is checking for you and giving an “all clear” for at a follow up appointment. Your pelvic floor undergoes a lot of changes and sometimes damage through birth and delivery. Many countries have pelvic floor physical therapy as standard care. In America, this is often something the new mom must seek-out. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be extremely beneficial if you’re struggling with incontinence, a “bearing down” weight on your pelvis and/or if sex is painful at any point. Many women (including myself) find sex to be significantly better after pelvic floor rehab. Breastfeeding can create a different feeling in your breast. If your breasts have been players in sexual experiences previously, you may need to address the change in sensation, feeling or even breast pain as you adapt to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can also cause more vaginal dryness meaning- lots of lube is needed!

RELATED: Do I need to Exercise My Pelvic Floor?

Mentally Ready

Motherhood, especially early motherhood, takes a lot from you mentally. Your day is filled with figuring out how to take care of baby, set new schedules, making appointments, figuring out naps and feedings, etc. On top of this, your hormones are continuing to shift and many women are met with some mental health struggles in postpartum.

It is just as important for a new mom to be mentally ready for sex as it is for her to be physically ready.

When you are thinking about engaging sex again, consider what mental roadblocks you are facing. Is it hard to find time to think about anything sexual and therefore, get in the mood? Are you facing anxiety, depression or another struggle impacting your libido and mood? Is your changed body creating self-talk that is impacting your confidence?

Once you are able to identify these mental roadblocks, they are important conversations to have with yourself, a trusted friend and your partner. Working through these things not only has a positive impact on your sex life, but your life and motherhood overall.

feel like i’m not ready for sex after birth but my husband really wants it

Emotionally Ready

If we feel depleted, it can be hard for us to connect. If we feel resentment or like our needs aren’t being met, we can shut down. Being emotionally prepared for sex can mean having our cup filled and feeling safe and accepted. This could be seeking self-acceptance, acceptance from our partner, etc.

If you are feeling depleted and/or disconnected, prioritize intimacy that is not necessarily sexual, but creates space for you to be seen and feel connected. This could be intentional conversations with your partner, foreplay, body acceptance practices and self-talk, etc.

RELATED: Postpartum Emotions

Words from the Postpartum Together Community

When I asked my online community what they would like to say to a mom who is thinking about sex again after baby, here is what they had to say. May these words help you remember you’re never alone, motherhood and relationships are messy, and there’s no one “right” way or timeline for you.

  • Listen to your body and take the time you need (before and during)

  • Talk to your spouse about your insecurities and what they can do to help

  • Use lots of lube

  • Stop if you’re in pain or uncomfortable

  • Start by taking a shower and appreciating this new you

  • It’s okay to not be ready. Your body is a priority.

  • Don’t feel bad if you need to stop

  • Don’t force anything

  • Sometimes your mind is your biggest enemy. If you feel ready, try. If it’s not comfortable, stop.

  • Lots of foreplay

  • It can be scary and overwhelming

  • Talk about it. A Lot. Take it slow. Try and relax.

  • You create your own timeline

  • Your husband doesn’t care that things are in different places- he loves all of you, not parts of you.

  • Go for it if you’re ready. It can help you return to parts of yourself that you have forgotten in motherhood.

  • Speak up about what feels good and what needs to be different

  • Decide to make it more about you and have fun

  • It’s okay if you don’t want to have intercourse but do find other ways to connect with your partner

  • You are still sexy

  • Just because there is societal pressure doesn’t mean you’re ready

  • Everyone’s experience is different and that is okay

Related: Setting Boundaries After Baby

Everyone’s experience is different. 

That is okay. Your experience is valid. 

There are ways to move into intimacy and sex, but there are not timelines or guidelines you need to abide by.

Having sex after birth is different for everyone, but there are a number of things you can evaluate to help you know if you are ready, what your needs are, and how to communicate that with your partner.

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