Doctors usually advise waiting anything from two to six weeks before having sex after you’ve given birth, but this all depends on the type of delivery and birth experience you had.
But when you and your partner feel ready to get frisky, these tips can help make sex fun and exciting for both of you.
Take it slow
“Lack of libido is very common after having a baby due to decreased oestrogen levels, chronic exhaustion, and fatigue from feeding during the night,” says gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Veronique Eeckhout. That’s why it’s so important to take things slowly, says Dr Elna Rudolph, medical doctor, sexologist and clinical head of My Sexual Health. “Start by simply holding one another, then try kissing before attempting penetrative sex. Your partner will probably want to get things going quickly, but ask him to focus on being gentle and slow. Your pelvic floor will have changed completely since having your baby and you’ll need to adapt to penetration again. Always use a lubricant for post-baby sex and if you still feel too dry, ask your gynaecologist to prescribe some localised oestrogen for you.”
Focus on cuddles
Most women lose that loving feeling during the postpartum period (and beyond) for a variety of reasons, says psychologist and sexologist Dr Marelize Swart. “If you don’t feel up to having sex, make sure that your partner understands exactly why – try to reassure him and make him feel loved. A new baby brings about enormous changes for both of you, which is why it’s important to slot in ‘we-time’ for intimacy that doesn’t always translate into penetration. Make the time to take a bath together while your baby is sleeping and wash each other’s bodies. Breathe deeply and concentrate on the sensations – smell, warmth, water, the feeling of your partner’s hand gliding over your skin. A sensual after-bath massage will continue the contact before the main course: cuddling!”
Sex right now will not be what it used to be, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says Dr Rudolph. “You just have to be creative and willing to adapt to the changes rather than resent them. Late-night sex is probably a temporary thing of the past as it’s prolonged lovemaking, so try planning for a quickie during your baby’s morning or afternoon nap, or soon after the early evening feed.”
If milk dripping onto your partner is a passion killer for you, have the breast pads ready and keep your bra on. And if you can muster the energy, try having sex in different places in the house and experiment with different positions.
Dr Rudolph says you can also stick to what you know. “If one position in the same spot is all that you can manage, don’t worry. You’re going through a period of massive adjustment and just maintaining a sex life through it all is a huge achievement!”
Keep an open mind
Sex after pregnancy can be very different, says Dr Eeckhout. “Your body has undergone enormous physiological changes and your emotions can still be running high. Remember that it can take six weeks for your body to return to a normal non-pregnant status (except for your breasts) and that you may not want the same sex you had before.”
Breastfeeding and a C-section scar may dictate new positions and Dr Swart suggests discovering some erogenous zones you didn’t know about before by observing each other’s responses to different strokes and touches all over your bodies. “If you’re not ready to resume full intercourse, a great substitute may be a masturbation sleeve (the most popular male sex toy). This is a soft, stretchy sleeve you can hold around your partner’s penis, which creates the feeling of penetration and friction without skin-to-skin contact,” she adds.
Protecting your breasts
Regardless of whether you experience your nursing breasts as pleasurable or painful, you need to protect them at this time, says Dr Swart. “To alleviate any pain, you can decompress the build-up of milk pressure by either taking a hot shower, using a hot pad or applying an ice pack or cabbage leaves. If you find that your nipples become dry, cracked or painful, try using a lanolin cream to soften them until you become accustomed to breastfeeding. In addition, you could try using a warm compress before feeding and a cold compress after feeding to relieve engorgement. You may discover that you like your partner touching your breasts, but if they are too sensitive ask him to move on to other parts of your body.”
Loving your post-baby body is no small task, say Dr Rudolph. “When you are ready, try to get some exercise – it works wonders not only for your body but also for your mind and is a step in the right direction to feeling like your old self again.
“Your partner has seen what your body has been through to give both of you this precious gift of life. He doesn’t expect you to be back to your pre-pregnancy shape at this stage and you should also not have unrealistic expectations. What you’ve done is beautiful and your body has an amazing ability to recover. In the meantime, remember that you don’t need a perfect body to have good sex and to share special experiences with your partner.”
More about the experts:
Dr Veronique Eeckhout qualified as a medical doctor in Belgium in 1989. She came to South Africa in 1990 and after working in Oudtshoorn and Port Elizabeth for 6 years, she specialized in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Cape Town. Her main interests lie in urogynaecologic, prolapse, laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery. Learn more about Dr Veronique Eeckhout here.
Dr Elna Rudolph is a medical doctor and has been working in the field of sexual medicine since 2010. She is the founder and clinical head of My Sexual Health as well as My Sexual Health SHOP. Learn more about Dr Elna Rudolp here.
Dr Marelize Swart is a psychologist and sex therapist with more than 20 years of international experience in individual, couples and sex therapy that she obtained in Canada and the USA. Learn more about Dr Marelize Swart here.