Let’s talk about sex, baby

Sex after you’ve had a child can be the last thing on your mind for a long time. For new parents, even the thought of sex after giving birth might be enough to make you wince. It can take months before you feel physically and emotionally ready to have sex again. For many people, sex is a key component of a healthy relationship. Take a look at our tips on getting back to it as comfortably and confidently as possible.

Once you’ve had a baby, the main reason for jumping between the sheets will probably be to grab 40 winks rather than some nooky.

Especially with everything going on at the moment, it may be that you really aren’t in the mood. Every couple will be different so when you’re ready to think about sex again, take a look at our tips.

1. Getting the all clear

After giving birth, and in some cases stitches or surgery, you will need time to recover before having sex again.

You will need time to recover.

Our Director of Impact and Engagement, Dr Sarah McMullen, says many women wait until their six-week postnatal check before having sex again.

“It is important to make sure that your body is healed before you start having sex again. This will help avoid infection or pain.”

2. Practice patience

Just because you have the green light to start having sex again doesn’t mean it will resume immediately.

Emotionally, some women (and partners!) are ready sooner and some will take a little longer.

It’s important to talk about how you feel, follow each other’s lead and don’t pressure or make each other feel guilty about not resuming your pre-baby sex life.

The current situation with the pandemic may be making your partner feel anxious, worried or just not in the mood, so talk about how you’re both feeling.

3. Understand your own libido

New mums aren’t the only ones who may experience a drop in their libido when baby arrives. In many cases, partners can experience a decreased sex drive due to exhaustion and stress – both emotions that go hand-in-hand with a new baby.

If you continue to feel low or anxious, talk to your partner or a close friend.

In other cases, a lack of interest in sex can suggest something more serious, such as postnatal depression (which can affect partners too).

Sarah says: “If you continue to feel disinterested in sex, or feel low or anxious, try talking to your partner or a close friend about it. If this doesn’t help or you’re uncomfortable doing so, it may be time to see your GP.

“It can be hard to talk about these things, but seeking help early can make all the difference.”

4. Play it safe

Chances are adding to your brood is the last thing on your mind as you both navigate the joys and challenges of being new parents.

Even if you and your partner aren’t quite ready to get back to doing the deed, you can be fertile within 21 days after giving birth and before you’ve even had your first period.

There is also a common misconception that breastfeeding is a natural contraception.

Sarah says chatting about contraceptive options before resuming sex is a good idea.

“You might not have used contraception for quite a while, particularly if it took a little time to get pregnant. Different options might suit you now, and some need to have been in use for three or four weeks to be effective.”

5. Boost each other’s confidence

When a new mum feels anxious about her body, the last thing she probably feels like doing is being a sex kitten in the bedroom.

Partners can be supportive by helping them feel positive about their body.

For many new mums, her rounded belly that everyone thought was adorable has transformed into an unfamiliar post-baby figure which can take time to adjust to.

Sarah says: “For women, it can take time to adjust to the way their body has changed. Partners can be supportive by helping them feel positive about their body and slowly building up their sexual confidence.”

And for some partners, it can be difficult to adjust to the new dynamics of family life. A little special attention – whether it’s a nice/sexy text or ordering their favourite takeaway – can help remind them that they are still desirable to you.

6. Getting abreast of things

Breastfeeding changes the hormone balance of a woman’s body and can lead to vaginal dryness. Some water-soluble lube might be a necessary investment during this time.

If you’re breastfeeding, you might prefer not to have your breasts touched, or you might enjoy it.

Take the time to talk to your partner about what you’d prefer and explore what you feel comfortable with.

Breastfeeding could impact your sex life in a more unexpected way. You might find that milk is released in response to the stimulation, which may take your partner by surprise.

7. Life as a zombie

Your new baby has likely reduced both you and your partner to living life in a zombie-like state.

While fatigue is not exactly the ideal state to be in to resurrect your sex life, it can also cause you to behave in all manner of weird and unpredictable ways.

Cut yourself and your partner some slack.

Sarah says, “Be prepared to cut yourself and your partner some slack”. Helping each other with tasks round the house, and accepting any and all offers of help from family and friends will also allow you both time to rest, and perhaps feel sexy again…

8. Keep the spice alive

Just because you or your partner temporarily lacks interest in or cannot partake in a little bedroom romp doesn’t mean the fun is completely off the table. There are plenty of definitions of sex and intimacy and these can be a fun way to ease back into the swing of things if discomfort or anxiety is a concern.

Other things to try include kissing, cuddling, back-rubs, or foot massages – even simply stroking your partner’s hair can jump start the intimacy.

Sarah says the hardest part is often simply setting aside time to do it. “Even taking five minutes a day to make time for each other will help keep your connection alive and make it a little easier to get back to having sex when you’re both ready.”

9. Missionary, doggy, cowgirl … oh my!

When you do get back in the sack, it could help to try different positions, especially during your early foray into having sex again.

In many cases, the physical and hormonal changes from pregnancy and after birth may prompt you or your partner to try different positions or alter your preferences entirely.

Spending a bit more time on foreplay or positions that limit deep penetration may be preferable during the first few times and can help ease you both back into the swing of things.

10. Expect a stronger relationship

While your life won’t ever be the same as it once was, having a baby can actually make the connection you have with your partner better than before.

Our research with new dads found that 44% felt they had a closer relationship with their partner after having a baby, and a further 19% felt they had a bond that couldn’t easily be broken.

Sarah says: “The dynamics of a new family can mean there is less intimacy between partners initially, but over time the relationship is often stronger than before.”