One of the most challenging things for new parents is restarting their sexual lives after the birth of their child. Before your partner was pregnant, you probably made love 2-7 times a week. Maybe more. And, let’s be honest, maybe less!
But then, during pregnancy, she may have experienced morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum, an extreme form of nausea that can last the entire pregnancy. Maybe she narrowly missed this unfortunate fate, but suffered through exhaustion instead. Or maybe it was the aches and pains of growing an entire human in her abdomen. Maybe her growing belly sprouted stretch marks or her ankles became, well, cankles. Bottom line? She might not have been feeling too sexy, or even comfortable, during those months.
Or, maybe, your sex life was okay during pregnancy! Either way, the baby is here, and you might be wondering when you can jump into the sack again. Once your partner has been cleared for sex, usually after 4 to 6 weeks, it’s time to start having fun!
Slow down, fella! Not so fast. There’s a reason postpartum recovery takes 6 weeks. Your wife will have physical needs that supersede yours. We understand that your desires feel like a ticking time bomb, and it is definitely hard to understand why she may not be ready for sex yet. In your mind, you and your wife have created the most adorable little human, and you feel this incredible love towards her. How else to express your love for her than with physical intimacy?
You can tell yourself this every time you’re ready for sex, but she isn’t.
Almost every couple goes through this. It’s normal. And you can tell yourself this every time you’re ready for sex, but she isn’t.
Why She Needs To Wait
If your partner has given birth to a baby vaginally, she needs time to see this part of her body as anything more than giving life. She may have had a normal birth that involved an episiotomy, or her perineum may have torn. And depending on how fast her birth may have been or how large your baby was, she might also have incurred “skid marks” or vaginal tears, with the majority of vaginal tearing receiving stitches. Jumping into bed too soon can cause stitches to rip out or her tear to worsen, delaying her recovery. If any skin or tissue has been cut or torn, this sensitive part of her body needs a complete recovery before she can attempt penetration.
Closing of the Cervix
The cervix (the opening to the uterus) needs time to close. Having sex before the complete closure of the cervix may introduce infection into your partner’s uterus (Big ol’ ☹️). It can take 6 weeks or more for the cervix to close and only happens that quickly if there have been no cervical tears.
She may have had a Cesarean birth, which is major abdominal surgery. It can take 6 to 8 weeks to recover, and some women need even more time. She will have a major transverse incision across her lower belly with stitches holding things together. She can’t have any pressure on her lower belly and may need support during breastfeeding or bottle feeding, so rushing sex is definitely a no-no. Her uterus needs plenty of time to recover!
Postpartum bleeding, called lochia, ends between 2 and 6 weeks after birth, signaling the recovery of your wife’s uterus. Knowing when her postpartum bleeding is complete will help her determine if she’s ready for intercourse.
If your partner is nursing the baby, it’s fair to say that someone is likely suckling on her breast every two hours… and that’s a lot of mouth-to-breast time. It’s incredible to watch her feed your baby, and you may even find yourself getting aroused while watching. But what is your wife feeling? In the early days of breastfeeding, she probably has cracked, painful nipples, and the only way to stop the pain is to breastfeed frequently. So on the scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a full night’s sleep, how interested do you think she is in offering that part of her body for your pleasure at this moment? Be patient!
Drying Up Her Milk
Even if she’s not breastfeeding, her breasts might still be sensitive. During pregnancy, your partner’s breasts and nipples prepare for sustaining your newborn, and when couples decide to formula feed, she will need to dry up her breast milk supply in order to avoid engorgement (swollen, painful breasts). She may have wanted to breastfeed but decided not to, or she may have not been able to get the baby to latch and decided to stop all together. But formula feeding doesn’t ensure that she will have no pain. Keep this discomfort in mind when thinking about the right time to start your sex life back up.
Visit Kellymom.com for more information about lactation, latching techniques, engorgement, and lactation suppression.
Her Emotional Needs
The Fourth Trimester
“The Fourth Trimester” is a real thing. After giving birth, your wife may feel broken. Her body has produced this beautiful baby, but she has endured things she wasn’t expecting, no matter how her birth went. She needs time to heal emotionally. And if she has any amount of postpartum depression, she has another level of needs that must be addressed before she can feel comfortable to bear all, open up, and see herself as a pleasure-seeking body. Ask yourself: How can I support her during her emotional recovery?
After giving birth, your wife may feel broken.
Listen to her. She may want to talk about her birth and the baby. A lot! It’s hard for her to see herself as being separate from the baby. Think about it: She made the baby with her body. She grew this tiny child inside her, and for about 38 weeks, she shared a body with another little being. To say she is very focused on your baby’s wellbeing and happiness would be a massive understatement.
Your wife is certainly worn out physically and emotionally, even though in the beginning she will feel very excited and energetic. And hospital care can be fabulous when all the mother needs to do is sit in bed and nurse or feed the baby, but coming home opens up expectations that you might not have considered. Like, if you have older children, who will take care of them? Compare the number of hours your wife needs to rest during her postpartum recovery to the number of hours your baby sleeps. Your wife has similar needs.
Exhaustion sets in by day 2 or 3, conveniently around the time that your baby’s needs increase. It’s hard to believe, but mothers are known for ignoring their needs to focus on the needs of their newborns and infants. She just can’t help it. So what can you do? Well, offer to help her. Hold the baby while she showers and naps, or be responsible for helping your baby sleep. Preparing and bringing food to your wife is a loving and necessary action, and this allows her to stay in bed and recover. Or offer a back massage! The desire for your warm hands on her back increases during the postpartum period. But be careful not to touch her erogenous zones, and maintain a firm, nurturing touch.
In the recent past, mothers were cared for by their mothers and grandmothers, allowing them to heal while every need was provided. The mother focused on her baby, getting daily showers and regular naps. These days, family support isn’t common. It’s much harder on your wife than you know.
Hire a postpartum doula to free your time up so you can be with your wife and baby. Your postpartum doula will hold the baby while your partner showers or sleeps, and you can take that time to do the same thing. Your doula will also help with food preparation, do mother’s and baby’s laundry, and run the dishwasher. Need coffee? She will make that, too. She’s an expert at everything baby and can field questions with accurate results. In other words, your doula is indispensable during your wife’s postpartum recovery!
Remember that adorable newborn of yours? Your wife sacrificed her previous body for your new son or daughter. Make sure you let her know how much you appreciate her, and let her know you think her body is amazing. However, your wife’s adjustment to her new body will take time. Just for a moment, think about what happened during her pregnancy.
Her belly grew as baby grew. And her tummy may still be quite large, even after the 6-week postpartum recovery.
Her breasts enlarged to accommodate the growth of milk ducts, possibly growing 1 or 2 cup sizes. Her nipples darkened and grew to three or four times their original size. Her breasts now leak milk, and she might be able to see veins through the skin on her breasts. And let’s be honest here: any changes to her breast were probably unwanted. At the very least, she may not have expected them to grow or change quite so much. As the partner, you may find this fascinating. But make sure you check with her before making comments about her breast changes!
The skin on her belly will forever be changed. This may be one of the biggest worries that postpartum mothers have. When she has completed her postpartum recovery, months later, she will still have the wrinkly tummy to show that she made a human life. It’s a trophy that some moms love, while others worry they will not be as desirable. It’s up to you to let her know you think she is just as beautiful as she was before she was pregnant. This is important, so listen up, men! This is a direct correlation to sex.
Are you ready?
Birth control is a very big deal to postpartum mothers. Believe me when I say it’s all she can do to recover from childbirth, care for your baby (especially if she has gone back to work), and eventually meet your sexual needs; the last thing she needs is to get pregnant again shortly after giving birth. When women have two pregnancies too close together, it’s risky. In fact, you should wait two years between births: most OBs will tell women that it takes this much time to recoup nutritional loss. So make sure you and she are using effective forms of birth control before resuming sex. Visit womenshealth.gov to learn more about women’s birth control options.
Find Out What She Wants
If she’s ready, it’s time to find out what she wants. Things have changed with her, so she may need more warming up than before. Foreplay is your best friend, and it will get you back with your wife sooner than anything else. Foreplay is meant to create sexual arousal, intimacy, and a desire for making love, so if you skip this step, you may not get very far. It’s important to find out what foreplay looks like to her: ask her for her preferences.
And hey, if you both drink, you may want to plan for a glass of wine.
The Right Time
When she is ready to make love, don’t try it at night after a long day of work and caring for the kids. Arrange for the grandparents to spend the night. Reserve a hotel room, and make it very special. If a hotel room is out of the question or your wife doesn’t want to leave the baby, then settle your baby in his or her bed, and arrange your living room or den as a great place to start exploring. Light candles, set some low music, and hope the baby sleeps! It’s good to try some foreplay before the big night.
If your wife is breastfeeding, she will want to nurse right before you both get started.
She has been missing the closeness with you, so let’s talk about it. There are some steps involved with hitting a home run! You’re going to have to start at first base. For your wife, sex is going to be almost brand new to her again, so when she is ready, you have to start slow. Be very mindful of letting her control the process. You can have her melting like putty in your hands without penetration. In fact, you need to avoid penetration until she is begging you!
Remember when you first made love with her? You didn’t rush in and get your needs met. You took your time, making sure she was just as ready. Now, you get to do that again.
What does she want before sex?
Hot sex is always a result of the early attention you pay to your wife, so what does she want?
She wants to dance. Slow or fast, it doesn’t matter. She wants to remember what it was like before she was pregnant.
Put your hand behind her neck, and kiss her on the other side. No pecks on the cheek! Caress her arms and fingers. Touch her scalp; work your fingers through her hair. Slide your fingers out through one tendril.
Look at her. Really look at her. Look at her like she is the most passionate woman in the world.
Touch her hips. Enjoy every part of her. Show her how much you love every curve and every fold (because postpartum moms can have a lot of folds!).
Worship her. She wants you to kiss her, but don’t rush from one kiss to sex. Tantalize her. Lips on her body in every place. If she likes her lower lip nibbled, then nibble. Move in slowly and don’t rush. She will let you know if she thinks you are going too fast.
Let her know how much you love her. Love is very important to women, and if she isn’t sure you are okay with her, there will be serious roadblocks to sex.
Use your tongue. If she likes that, it’s time to move south. Remember that things have changed a lot. Her vaginal area may look different, and that’s OK. If she likes oral sex, give it a try. If she’s moaning, then she probably likes what you are doing. Encourage her to reciprocate.
At some point, she may feel she wants sex, and then she may want to stop. Go with it. It’s going to be very emotional for her.
When she’s ready for penetration, she will pull you close. Check to make sure it’s okay with her if you go ahead. Even if every fiber of your being wants to forge ahead, just ignore that for now. Go with the flow, since the flow is your partner.
She’ll be worried the baby will wake up; she’ll be worried she won’t have an orgasm. She’ll worried that you won’t be satisfied or that she’ll spray breastmilk at you and you’ll hate it. I’m guessing it won’t bother you, but if it does, then she can wear a bra. You can tell her, but also know… She wants you to love all of her.
If you try penetration but she’s uncomfortable or hurting, it’s a good time to go back to foreplay again. Just follow her lead! She doesn’t want to disappoint you, but if she isn’t ready, you can always try again another time. But if you have prepared for this night (or day), and tried all the foreplay you both like, you will likely enjoy sex with your partner.
Afterwards, take time to cuddle with her and talk. Your partner is more at ease after sex and more likely to talk about things important to her, so use this time to your advantage to get inside her head. It’s a great time to listen to each other and grow as a couple.
With any luck, you will get to fall asleep in each other’s arms before the baby wakes for the next feeding. Go get your baby and bring him or her to your wife. She’s just given you a wonderful night, so bask in the joy of family life. This is it, man. Enjoy!