Giving birth is a painful process that leaves women with scars, tears, hemorrhoids, and pain. It also precipitates the arrival of a baby, who wages war on nipples and sleep. No wonder many new mothers don’t feel sexy for a while after bringing a new life into the world. Though most OBGYN’s recommend a roughly six-week sexual hiatus, the post-birth sex drought can stretch on longer if a woman isn’t feeling it or is anxious about letting anyone near her nether regions again.
For new fathers, it’s important to understand that the rekindling of sexual relationships can take a while and require both literal and figurative delicacy. It starts with empathy and understanding. It starts, most of the time, with a conversation. In recognition of that fact, we spoke to five mothers about how and when they got excited again.
Nory B., Mother of One
It was definitely exciting, but I was anxious that I would look totally different and even maybe unappealing. My boobs looked great because I was breastfeeding, but during intercourse I started lactating and that felt pretty unattractive. It definitely took some time to readjust and become comfortable in myself to be able to do it. I wasn’t scared it was going to hurt, I was scared it wasn’t going to feel the same. But I didn’t tear or need stitches or anything. We used to do a shitload of kegels in our birthing class. And it did feel the same.
Tammy S., Mother of One
We waited it out for an extra two weeks, so eight weeks total. I had a 4th-degree episiotomy so we were both pretty nervous. My husband more-so because he saw it happen during delivery. (I wish he had been standing by my head.) Time wasn’t a factor as the newborn was sleeping quite a bit, but we definitely took it slow and I drank some wine to relax. It was not nearly as bad as I thought, the anticipation of the unknown was the scariest.
Beth M., Mother of Two
Not to be too gross, but I had tearing, I had been sewn up. But it wasn’t too bad. It was snug and nice, nothing too painful. I don’t want to say it was anticlimactic — especially in reference to the sex — but the act itself of being like, the time after the baby, wasn’t as big of a deal.
You hear horror stories of women feeling too loose because they just had an enormous noggin come out of them. You worry about sensation loss between you — or your partner, frankly. There are all sorts of things that can happen. I’m not a doctor and I’m certainly not an OBGYN, but I do know that there are women who have some structural changes. In the long run, I definitely don’t see sex as “before kids” or “after kids.” I think that it’s pretty much, if you have a responsive partner, bodies and sensation change over time. You’re going to have to evolve no matter what.
Lisa V., Mother of Two
There was a lot of apprehension, because I just I hadn’t felt normal or the same. I didn’t know if it was going to hurt, I didn’t know if it was going to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I was going to feel different. There was actually a lot of anxiety leading up to it. Anxiety and sex are not a good combination.
It was fine when I got past that hurdle, which I really think was more mental than anything. Once I realized that it wasn’t going to hurt or I wasn’t going to spontaneously start bleeding or something gross, it was fine.
With my second kid, my ex-husband and I never re-connected physically. My body had changed, I had just gone through a divorce. But I had sex with an old partner after I got separated. He and I are still really close friends, so I always joke with him that he was my Stella Got Her Groove Back experience. Being with him really helped me bust through all of that, because even though I had stretch marks and was heavier, he didn’t treat me any differently.
Rachel S., Mother of Two
It wasn’t really significant, but I didn’t have a vaginal birth. So I didn’t have scarring or tearing or all of those experiences that my friends have described. It was just the same. At that point, I was so physically exhausted from not sleeping. It’s like someone said: “In your twenties, it’s all about how you’re going to get laid again. In your thirties, it’s all about when you’re going to get sleep again.” You’re just so tired.
I really found a correlation between nursing and sex drive; it’s supposed to repress your sex drive and I think it truly does. I nursed my first child for a little over a year and I noticed a difference when I fully weaned him. So to me, it was like I was able to have good sex but it wasn’t like I was always looking for it. If my husband wanted to have sex, I was able to enjoy it, but I was probably less of an initiator at that point because I was just exhausted.
With my second kid, I also had a C-section, but the difference was that I also had a toddler, so I had a 2-year-old and an infant. You just don’t have a whole lot of privacy. It’s just not a sexy time. You’re not alone with your partner — there are small creatures who make tremendous physical and emotional demands of you. So I hired an au pair who lived-in with us and that took the edge off.