Struggling to reconnect sexually with your partner after having a baby? While there are many factors when it comes to sex and intimacy, one of the biggest factors is body image. Body image is both the way you see yourself AND the way you think your partner (and others) sees you. Body image being in flux or in the negative can come out in a number of ways in your relationship. Below we will discuss the ways your postpartum body image can impact sex. I will give you ways to improve your body image after having a baby.
Society, Postpartum Body Image, and Sex
Society does us no favors when it comes to the messages around the body after baby. Along with that, the taboo nature of sexuality and motherhood makes us feel uncomfortable in our own skin and feelings.
“It’s almost as if women are expected to have babies… but then look like they didn’t. Women are expected to make babies and then act as if they aren’t sexual beings. Both of these narratives are harmful and honestly bullshit.”Chelsea Skaggs, Postpartum Together
When it comes to seeing postpartum bodies and sexuality in the media, we are limited to the “bounce back” narrative that plasters tabloids. Women who are exempt from the “moms cannot be sexual” messaging only have a pass because their bodies are entertainment. This tells us that if we want to embrace our sexuality as a mom, it needs to be for consumer entertainment purposes. This is not okay. *End rant but, who am I kidding, not really*
Undoing the Conditioning
On her Instagram account and website, Sarah Forbes, of “Mama Sex” normalizes motherhood and sexuality and the natural overlaps. It is not that we need to be ashamed of being sexual, changing, physical beings. However, we have a lot of conditioning to undo if we are going to fully embrace our changing bodies and experiences.
5 Ways Your Postpartum Body Image Impacts Sex After Baby
1. You project your inner critic onto your partner
When you have words and messages in your head, you are likely to assume others are thinking the same. Women who are struggling with body image can struggle to believe their partners love and accept them. They may struggle to accept kind words or compliments. If you are dealing with an inner critic, the messages compound and you believe it is true. Again, it is no surprise with societal messages that we struggle with this inner critic. You aren’t alone, but you do not have to stay here in this pattern.
2. You are less likely to communicate your desires and needs (and therefore get less satisfaction)
When you are lacking confidence, you are less likely to share what you want and need with your partner. When you do not share what you want or need, you probably are not going to enjoy your sexual experiences. If you find yourself “just getting it over with” or “letting it happen”, your voice is being silenced by you. When you are not present and enjoying sex, your partner can probably sense this too.
RELATED: Are you an internal or external communicator?
3. You are consumed in thoughts and anxiety during sexual encounters
There is nothing worse than being in the action but being unable to enjoy it because your thoughts are everywhere. If you are having “pop up” thoughts like “Is he noticing my bigger belly?” or “Does she hate how my thighs have changed?” then you are unable to relax and be present. Anxiety also causes you to stress and tense up. This can not only have a mental/emotional impact but a physical impact on your body as well.
RELATED: Postpartum Anxiety Story
4. You struggle to cue your body to be aroused
Sex is best when your body is geared up and ready. Arousal stimulates natural vaginal lubrication. It promotes muscle relaxation. It tells your body that an enjoyable, biological encounter is about to happen. When you are held back by body image struggles, you risk having more painful sex. Tight muscles and lack of lubrication can leave you struggling to enjoy sex.
RELATED: What impacts postpartum libido/sex drive?
5. You lack confidence to try positions or actions you may enjoy
Having a confident and trusting foundation is necessary to go outside of the box. Without this, you will not get creative with fun ways to interact with your partner. This may lead to more patterns of feeling disconnected and doubt your ability to connect and have fun.
Why (and How) to Heal Postpartum Body Image and Have Better Sex
You deserve good sex. Before baby, after baby, and everywhere in between. Sex is a connection. It is a stress release. Sex and orgasms are helpful in so many ways. And yes, even as a mom. Not only does sex represent a part of your connection with your partner, but also with yourself. Committing to increasing satisfaction is a form of self-care and relationship care.
Three Ways to Improve Your Postpartum Body Image
So you know your postpartum body image is causing struggles for you and in your relationship.
You are not broken.
You are not alone.
My friend, you are a woman who has been through a hell of a big transformation. All of this in the midst of a society hell-bent on telling you you’re not enough.
So being here, with a goal of growing and healing yourself, is a big celebration.
1. Learn About Your Body Changes (And not just the stupid “bounce back” narrative)
It is a shame that we are not usually taught about our own bodies thoroughly. In pregnancy and postpartum, so much of the talk is on the baby that many professionals are not adequately discussing MOM’S changes. A great place to start? Pelvic floor therapy. Also, a fitness trainer who is trained in pelvic floor recovery was a game-changer for me. Not from a losing weight standpoint, but from a place of understanding what had shifted and had trauma from birth. Also, do not be afraid to ask more questions of your medical providers. Even if they seem to be in a rush, you have the right to be informed.
2. Find Clothes That Fit Your Body NOW
“Goal clothes” can be the epitome of depressing. Whether or not you have goals for your postpartum body, it is important you have clothes that fit your body now. Find styles you can be confident in. Dress your body for the season it is in. Stop trying to make it change before you dress it beautifully!
RELATED: Favorite Postpartum Styles on Amazon
3. Communicate Honestly With Your Partner
Your partner should be your teammate and your biggest cheerleader. Let them know how you are experiencing changes. Communicate about your inner dialogue and give them room to share back with you. This also includes communicating about sex and intimacy. Let your partner know what is and is not working. Be a team in finding the ways you can connect and both be confident.
Guide to Healing Postpartum Body Image
If this has struck a cord and you want to take the first steps in healing your body image, here is a place to start.
This guide will help you begin with the questions to ask and things to consider so that you can have a healthier relationship with yourself and your body. Having that healthier body image will allow you to have a stronger connection and communication in your relationship. That confidence and trust with your body and your partner can be the key to better sexual satisfaction. And, we all can use more pleasure and satisfaction in our lives!