It's been about 6 weeks and your OBGYN has given you the thumbs up to resume sex and other activities. You have mixed feelings about having sex again. Your partner has been mostly patient over the last few months, but also dropping hints about wanting to get it on again. Meanwhile, you cannot even fathom how there's anything sexy about you right now (sleepless and covered in spit up), yet there's still a part of you that misses the playful sex of yesteryear.
So what can you do to make your return to sex after baby most enjoyable?
TAKE YOUR TIME: Your body has been through the wringer and is still experiencing all sorts of hormonal fluctuations. Don't expect to pull a "quicky" on your first time back to being sexually intimate. I know, you're thinking, "I don't have time to sleep, how do you want me to find time to have sex?!" Point taken, and I would say, you most certainly first need sleep and self-care. And when you are rested and feel ready to have sex, plan on allowing enough time for you both to get things going again. Get creative to make time for sex -- maybe you have a stretch of time during baby's morning nap or maybe grandparents can watch him/her at their house for a few hours. The point is, if you take the time to become sexual again and those experiences are enjoyable, you are more likely to maintain a satisfying sex-life as new parents.
LUBRICATE: Even though your partner may not have gotten the memo that your nipples don't feel (or look!) the same as they did before baby, breastfeeding creates a menopause-like environment in your body, which translates to vaginal dryness. Diminished lubrication leads to uncomfortable and possibly painful sex. It's essential that you initially rely on using a lubricant to mitigate unpleasant sexual experiences after having a baby. From your most basic lubricant to the ones that create a tingling sensation, don't be shy about getting some extra help.
BROADEN YOUR REPERTOIRE: With a little time carved out and lubricant in hand, returning to being sexual with your partner can also be a great time to broaden your sexual repertoire. If you're like most couples, you probably have/had a linear way of sexually engaging with each other (X leads to Y, which leads to Z. Done!). With the possibility that intercourse may be initially uncomfortable, you have an opportunity to explore other ways to be sexual with each other that still feel incredibly satisfying. Whether it's oral sex, masturbation, or sensual touching, all of those none intercourse focused ways will create curiosity, playfulness, and revive the sexual charge between you.
FOCUS ON INTIMACY, NOT JUST SEX: So this is supposed to be an article about sex after baby, yet ultimately, the overall objective is that you maintain your intimacy (with sex being one of the many ways to express your love for each other). When you fear that sex after baby will be painful, you may also, inadvertently, withhold intimacy from your partner, which only leads to mutual disconnection. Or if your male partner has a decreased libido after the baby (because of stress, exhaustion, or drop in testosterone levels), he may still long for closeness without necessarily being expected to perform. So here it comes... couples therapist drum roll please! Communication is key. Allow each other to share your fears and desires without blaming, criticizing, or shaming your significant other. Talking about sex is a great way to become curious about yourselves and each other again, just like when you first got together.
Sex after baby will be different. Embrace it. If you find that you continue to struggle after a year, seek the help of a couples sex therapist, like myself.
As a certified couples sex therapist, I have helped many couples work through the challenges of reconnecting sexually. To find out more, hop over to my specialty page or schedule your FREE phone consultation with me.
*This article was originally written for The Parent Collective.