If you've just given birth (congrats!), the last thing you might be thinking about is when you can have sex again.
Not only did your body go through some drastic (yet amazing) changes and needs time to heal, but you may be wondering when you would even find the time.
Did you also know that your hormones change post-baby, and this too may lower your sex drive?
Let's say you do have an urge to hit the sheets with your partner, but the chronic stress, fatigue and care that goes into parenthood can leave both of you with frustrations and exhaustion. Getting through these obstacles IS possible... you just have to work at it.
What are some tips to help you and your partner remain intimate post-baby?
- Plan when you'll have sex
- Get plenty of sleep
- Know you're not alone
- Let the little things go
Listen in as Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, shares how your sex life might change after you've had a baby, as well as tips for regaining that intimacy.
RadioMD Presents: Melanie Cole's Health Radio | Original Air Date: June 5, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG
It’s time for Health Radio. With Melanie Cole.
MELANIE: If you’ve just given birth, congratulations. Oh, I love new little babies. But the last thing you might be thinking about when you have just had a baby is when you are going to have sex again. I don’t know. Maybe some of us do, maybe some of us don’t. But not only does your body go through some drastic, amazing changes and needs that time to heal, but you may be wondering when you might even find the time, or feel like it. My guest today is Dr. Alyssa Dweck. She is a full-time practicing OB/GYN and is on the health advisor board of Family Circle Magazine. I love that magazine.
Welcome to the show Dr. Dweck. So, you just have a baby. The husband tells the doctor to take an extra stitch down there, right, that’s the old joke. So, do we feel like having sex? What about the time factor? What about our libido? What about the size of our vagina at that point? Kind of hit it all for us here.
DR. DWECK: Sure. Hello, and thank you so much for having me. As far as timing, it is really fairly standard to recommend waiting on sex for at least six weeks after having a baby. This really allows for a couple of things. Number one, you need to heal. If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, of course a baby coming through that area is going to take its toll in some way or another. You may be healing from an episiotomy or from lacerations and that takes a little bit of time. In addition, we have to wait for bleeding to stop and we have to wait for cramping to stop and those are going to take a little bit of time as well. In fact, the bleeding after delivery can sometimes last upwards of six weeks. That’s where that six week time frame typically comes in. After a C-section, it’s reasonable to think that there might be some pain in the incision area of the abdomen which might preclude comfortable relations for a bit. So, of course, we typically have people wait six weeks after that as well.
MELANIE: It hurts at that point. If you’ve had a vaginal delivery as both of mine were, it hurt to poop for the first couple of weeks much less having intercourse. Absolutely the last thing. Hormones aside and the time factor, you feel like now all of the sudden this baby is going to start to cry, is going to need something. You don’t feel good about your body. There is the whole self-esteem issue, Dr. Dweck. So, how can you and your partner, keep that intimacy? My producer who is going to have a baby soon should listen to this. How can you and your partner keep that intimacy while breast feeding, formula feeding, changing poopy diapers, all of it?
DR. DWECK: I often tell my patients that they may have to actually schedule intimate times and they may have to think outside the box in terms of timing. It might be convenient to think of intimacy when your baby is taking a nap or when you can get a family member in to babysit for an hour or two and you take a little time for yourself. But I do want to go back to the self-image issue and a couple of other physical things that you mention which are so incredibly important. Regarding healing after delivery, thankfully, so many women are nursing after delivery and they will really find that the vagina is so dry when they are given the go ahead for sexual relations. Lubricant comes in very, very handy and I would absolutely recommend that that’s available. There are lots of different types of lubricants out there, over the counter that are very helpful. Some women resort to things like coconut oil, although whatever works is really fine. Keep that in mind. Especially with nursing because with low estrogen levels and nursing, the vaginal area will be particularly dry. Regarding fatigue, which is huge, that has a bearing on sexual relations. My obstetrician many, many years back gave me the advice, “Why don’t you try to take a nap when you’re baby naps if you’re home and have the good fortune to be able to do that and you’ll have a little bit of extra energy on your hands when the time comes.” So, that was always a helpful piece of advice. But I would say schedule intimacy times and try to beat the fatigue for sure.
MELANIE: Taking a nap when the baby naps is always really good advice. But then, what if the spouse feels neglected? Even if you nap, Dr. Dweck, you know that with the nighttime feedings and just the worry of SIDS and all of the things we women go through. My, God. We don’t have that much time for our husbands. You can say schedule the intimacy, but what if we are just not feeling it? We’re just like “Eww. Don’t touch me. I just had a baby.” You know, what if that’s what’s going on?
DR. DWECK: Well, thankfully we have the benefit of time because that’s definitely going to help. I think usually the first couple of months are the hardest but after that time, you get your baby on a schedule, you get back on a schedule and, like I said, it may have to be something that you actually plan and prioritize for a bit of time until you get back into an “adult schedule”. Regarding self-image issues, I have women who come into my practice and they are very concerned about intimacy with their partners after having a baby. Their breasts are leaking at the thought of their crying baby and that may be uncomfortable. They do worry about pain because of dryness and the lack of use that their vagina may have been dealing with over the months prior. Also, baby weight and losing that and getting back to your pre-baby body and feeling comfortable with yourself. This just is a matter of discipline and time. Eventually, the amount of milk that you make will accommodate to what your baby needs and you won’t be leaking all the time, every time you think about a baby crying. You can pick up an exercise program as soon as your doctor or health care provider gives you the okay. Doing toning exercises and cardio not only is great for the mind and clears the mind and gets those endorphins flowing for feel good moments, but also will get your weight back in order. I always love to remind people that breast feeding in and of itself burns a whole lot of extra calories. That will be helpful with baby weight loss as well. As far as dryness, we covered that a little bit. But the lack of use and dryness can be taken care of with lubricants in most cases and just getting back in the saddle, if you will.
MELANIE: Dr. Dweck, when do you worry? We talk about post-partum depression on these shows and we talk about things you should be on the lookout for but when do you worry that those hormones may not come back? You’re just too baby-centered. They are one year old and you still haven’t felt like having too much sex. Is there a point at which some women just don’t seem to bounce back?
DR. DWECK: I think that this is so variable based on individuals. A lot of this is also based on whether there is a history of depression in the past, anxiety in the past, and what was your sex life and your sex drive like prior to baby? Some people will report that they really have a diminished sex drive after they deliver because they are so distracted with everything going on with their family and their baby and what not. If this is something distressing to someone, then it’s worth taking the extra step – taking a step back and really prioritizing this and I think that there’s a lot we can do to try to help prioritize including “date night”, including trying to get back into some adult activities so that you are just not centered around baby activities all of the time.
MELANIE: Does breast feeding ever take away from the sensation? Or maybe the husband now doesn’t really find your breasts very attractive because they are used as a feeding system?
DR. DWECK: Oh, I think just the opposite. I mean there may be some men who find it unappealing, but most men are so absolutely blown away by the bond that nursing seems to create between mom and baby. And, you know, it doesn’t just have to be between mom and baby. The partner can certainly take part with pumped breast milk and do their part in terms of overnight feedings and feeling that they are also helping in that way. A lot of men probably find it very arousing or even at least just get some loving feelings when they witness breast feedings.
MELANIE: That would be the best sort of feelings to get. Thank you so much, Dr. Dweck, what a great guest you are. The book is V is for Vagina: Your A to Z Guide to Periods, Piercing, and Pleasures. Good information. Finding out how to be intimate after baby. Wow.
This is Melanie Cole. You’re listening to Health Radio right here on RadioMD. Thanks for listening and stay well.